April 18, 2006
Tucson, AZ (CSTV U-WIRE) -- Of all the things Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot do well, there is one thing they have no idea how to do: Tap their helmets for a breather.
The duo of sophomore cornerbacks, who haunt the dreams of quarterbacks up and down the Pacific 10 Conference, have yet - in their two years with the program - to miss a snap.
"It's something you can tell your kids about when you get older," Fontenot said of playing every defensive down of every game since his arrival. "'Hey, Dad played every snap.'"
Said Cason: "I've never thought about that really, but now that it's happened, I feel like I'm expected to do that.
"I don't want to miss anything, so now it's going to be hard to try and get me out of there," he added. "I'm playing."
Not that head coach Mike Stoops would want to take them out - over the past two seasons, the duo has combined for 11 interceptions and 217 tackles (10.5 of which have gone for losses), broken up 21 passes and forced four fumbles and recovered three - returning one of them for a touchdown.
An answer for their success?
Fontenot's was simple: "At any major university at a D-I level, you got to come in and contribute - especially at cornerback and on special teams."
Fatigue isn't the only reward of playing all those downs, as both corners have gained valuable experience.
"I think they've learned a great deal, they're much more mature players than they were," Stoops said. "There's nothing that they haven't seen."
Cason agreed. "I understand what the teams are doing to us, I understand the routes," he said. "I'm a lot smarter in what I'm doing as a cornerback."
Said Fontenot: "It gives you a lot of confidence when you know you can go out there and make plays. You're not hesitant, you can react to plays."
The two have developed a relationship that has had a hand in terrorizing opposing quarterbacks.
"It's helping out each other in the fact that we've both been out there a lot," Fontenot said. "But it also helps in the fact that we push each other, we challenge each other.
"We're competitive people, so that's competitive nature, and the person's going to push you to try and do better than the other person."
The duo has built off one another, making each other better in their time with Arizona.
"We always try to tell each other what we thought went wrong, or in film, we show each other things," Cason said. "But on the field, we just keep talking about what each side is doing, and what each side is trying to accomplish on our weakness.
"It helps a lot, because some things he sees, I don't see, and some things I see, he doesn't."
One could argue that statistically, Cason wasn't as good last season as his freshman year, but there's a good reason for that. The word got out: Don't throw to No. 5's side. (Not that No. 3's was any easier.)
"I take a lot of pride in that," Cason said when asked about teams shying away from his side of the field. "But then again, I always want the plays to come to me so I can make even more (big plays)."
This spring, Cason and Fontenot - who returned an interception 85 yards for a score in the first scrimmage - have continued their success, leading their secondary and the defense to two wins over the offense during scrimmages.
"I'm really happy with Wilrey in particular," Stoops said. "I think this is the best spring he's had since he's been here, without question.
"He's finally starting to be the player that I think he's capable of being," he added. "I think he can dominate a game, it's just a matter of getting confident and getting the toughness that you need to play out there."
Next season, it's unlikely that fans will see either on the sidelines - at least not when the opposition has the ball - as it's not a place they plan to be. Just ask them.
"It's just always going to be, 'No man, I'm all right. I'm all right,'" Cason said of taking a breather.
But moments later he conceded that he might think about it once in while.
"Sometimes you got to think about the best for your team, and if I do need a breather, then, you know, whatever," he said, trailing off before quickly changing his train of thought. "But these past two years, I haven't. And when I have needed a breather, I've had to suck it up. So I'm used to sucking it up now.
"But seriously," he added, smiling. "I'm not going to need a breather."
(C) 2006 Arizona Daily Wildcat via CSTV U-WIRE