When Rich Rodriguez was hired at Arizona, safety Tra'Mayne Bondurant kept asking himself two questions.
"Who is going to be my new position coach, and am I still going to play?" Bondurant recalled.
The Fairfield, Calif., native, excelled in Mike Stoops' system as a true freshman in 2011. He started the final six games of the season, was named all-freshman second-team nationally by Phil Steele and was Arizona's newcomer of the year.
The idea of learning a completely new defense - Arizona runs a 3-3-5 "odd stack" scheme - was daunting. He was comfortable in Stoops' system and was flourishing.
But when Jeff Casteel was announced as the team's new defensive coordinator, Bondurant kept an open mind. He studied the new scheme every night and was determined to succeed in it.
It turns out, he was even better under the new regime. Bondurant started 12 games last season (before missing the bowl game with an injury) and was fourth on the team with 74 total tackles and second with 11 1/2 tackles for loss.
"Tra'Mayne is one of those kids who just has a knack for being around the football," safeties coach Matt Caponi said. "He's not the biggest or the fastest or the strongest, but he has great instincts and makes plays."
The Star chatted with Bondurant more about the adjustment.
On the difference in his position under the two schemes: "In the old scheme, I was more of a linebacker, kind of a freelance position. I did whatever I had to do to get to the ball. Whoever has it, go get it. Now, it's more of a playmaker position. I'm more in space. It puts me in good spots to make plays and help my team on defense."
On how he views the change now: "It helped me grow up and get a little more mature. I'm happy it happened. I love the new position. It's a position for me to make plays. Who wouldn't love that?"
On what it was like missing the New Mexico Bowl: "It was devastating for me. But we got the victory at the end of the day. I know I could have made some plays if I was out there. But, I was talking to the guys throughout the whole game. And then there was nothing better than getting that victory (49-48 over Nevada)."
On the hardest part about switching positions: "It's just the system. There are so many things to know. The hardest part of having a new coach is having to meet his needs and do things right when you're used to being in a different system. But, we all come to college for change. So it's just another life experience to take with me."
On the difference between his freshman and sophomore seasons: "My freshman year was wild. The first six games, I got no time when I felt like I should have. But I couldn't control that. When the change happened, I got a chance and I had more confidence in myself. I wanted to go out there and show the coaches what I could do. I'm thankful they are here."
On the challenges of Year Two: "I think we're starting to relax. Last year we had so much pressure on us with a new coach and trying to learn so much. This year, we're comfortable and we're relaxing too much. We have to bring that pressure back."
The Bondurant file
• Height/weight: 5-10, 188
• Position: Spur, also known as safety.
• In high school: Was quarterback and linebacker at Vallejo (Calif.) Fairfield. As a junior, threw for 2,334 yards and 30 TDs. Also ran for 925 yards and 12 scores.
• Freshman highlight: Bondurant returned an interception 29 yards for a TD against Colorado in 2011.
• Sophomore highlight: Picked off two more passes and also forced two fumbles. His longest interception return was 43 yards vs. Washington.
• What he's working on: Safeties coach Matt Caponi said he's trying to get Bondurant to speak up more and be the leader of the position.
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk