Now that the horribly overpriced Super Bowl commercials are behind us we can move onto something truly important, college football’s National Signing Day. Follow live tweets and breaking news all day at Wildcat Sports Report, Arizona Football Google+ and on Twitter. Trending is hashtags #NSD and #SigningDay. Also, for Arizona Athletics, be sure to follow #AZOKGDay for tweets direct from the University of Arizona football offices, media and fans.
Anu Solomon, Arizona 2013 commit expected to submit his LOI this morning around 8 a.m. MST.
Signing Day is always one of the more exciting days in our business. This year Arizona added a twist with live streaming direct from the football offices, making life easier for everyone involved. I remember when Greg Byrne was first named Arizona’s Athletics Director. He promised to dive directly into social networking and he’s delivered on that promise. Similarly, when Rich Rodriguez was named Arizona’s football coach, immediately we experienced a newfound transparency from the football offices. Personally, I’ve been thrilled with the new football staff, top to bottom, and today is evidence of how Wildcat football is dramatically different from yesteryear.
As for Arizona’s 2013 recruiting class, it’s always difficult for the casual fan to understand exactly what the Wildcats are getting in the form of high school prospects. So, let me break it down for you. If there’s one thing to take away from this year’s class it’s the fact that the Wildcats are adding speed, speed and more speed.
The Wildcats have already enrolled dual-threat quarterback Jesse Scroggins, who is on campus and in classes as of Jan. 7. The other quarterback recruit expected to sign today is 3-star Anu Solomon from national powerhouse Bishop Gorman (Nev.). Solomon, like Scroggins, has a canon for an arm and the wheels to get outside the pocket and effectively run the read option. Each will immediately compete for playing time and add serious depth to the position. While the QB position is an obvious focus, throughout the entire class Rodriguez and his staff have recruited multi-sport athletes who have excelled on the gridiron as well as in track and field such as T.J. Johnson (FL), Nate Philips (AZ), Devin Holiday (CA), Zachary Green (CA), Lee Walker (CA), Prince Holloway (KS), Mauriece Lee (AZ), and Derek Babiash (CA).
The other thing to take away is speed with size, a rare combination at Arizona in years past. By way of example, take a guy like 2-star recruit Jack Banda from Grayson High School in Loganville, GA). Banda, who was the first 2013 recruit to officially submit his Letter of Intent this morning, is an absolute animal on the defensive side of the ball. Lining up at weak-side defensive end, the Arizona coaching staff said of Banda the first time they viewed his highlight tape, “We turned it on and he’s jumping over blockers and just making a mess of things for the offense.” I remember watching one of Grayson’s first games of Banda’s senior campaign and saw Banda block a punt attempt, not by blocking the ball off the foot but straight up tackling the punter before he could even get into his kicking stride. That’s speed, folks, and that’s speed from a young man checking it at 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if a player of Banda’s caliber (and character) becomes Arizona’s next Brooks Reed three seasons from now.
I also like the straight size of this year’s class. Offensive tackle Jacob Alsadek, a 3-star recruit, is 6-foot-7, 332 pounds and mobile. At the high school level, Alsadek was known for his quick feet, stable lower base, and good handwork in fending off pass rushers. Alsadek is the type of player that could anchor an offensive line by his junior season, but could play as early as 2014. Similarly, Arizona received a verbal commit on Feb. 4, 2013 from offensive guard David Maka. Maka, from Tustin High School (CA), was being recruited by multiple Pac-12 schools including UCLA, USC and Oregon. He too is a vastly underrated player, standing at 6-foot-5, and weighing over 300 pounds. Like Alsadek, Maka is a physical lineman that can also pass protect. In some of his video highlights, you can see Maka pulling from his guard position and getting a body on linebackers outside the hash marks. That’s some good stuff. Interestingly, Maka is likely to play along Arizona’s defensive line, but in typical Rich Rod fashion, he’s found a young man capable of operating at multiple positions and can flip-flop from defense to offense or vice versa once the best-fit is determined through voluntary workouts and fall practices.
Defensively, Arizona is expected to sign big defensive tackle Luca Bruno from Southern California powerhouse Oak Park High School. Bruno, who committed to Arizona on Aug. 11, 2012, is 6-foot-4, 280 pounds of pure nastiness. When I interviewed Bruno after he verbally committed, he said he loved the Arizona campus, but really loved the way the Wildcat coaching staff broke down game film and gave him a clear vision of what role he would be called upon to fill in an Arizona uniform. Bruno had a great senior season, and proved unblockable at times playing in one of the toughest leagues in California. Calvin Allen is another impressive player that can’t be judged simply by reading the stat sheet. Allen, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound strong-side defensive end, is big, strong and fast for his position. He could be an early key in adding depth along the defensive line next season depending on how well he adapts to college life when he arrives on campus in late June.
At linebacker, forget about it. This might be my favorite position recruited by the coaching staff this off season. As discussed, Rich Rod & Co. are looking for guys capable of filling multiple roles and just working their way into the best position for them and the team. This is the same recruiting philosophy that made Chip Kelley’s Oregon teams the most dynamic in the country in recent seasons. The approach also helped the staff land this crop of current back seven types:
Add the following players that could slide into a linebacker position in future seasons much like current Wildcat Marquis Flowers did this past season:
*R.J. Morgan 6-2, 200 Safety (committed on 6/24/12)
*Potential signee following this weekend’s visit David Price 6-2, 210 (visiting this weekend)
The skill positions will surprise Wildcat fans. Sadly, some look at a recruiting board and see 3-star or even 2-star next to a recruit’s name and turn their heads. Here are a few things to consider. First and foremost, rarely does Arizona have a class 85% full by October. This year, and even in Rich Rod’s inaugural Arizona class (2012), the Wildcats have accomplished exactly that. The point is once a recruit has verbally committed, most schools back off and stop calling and specifically stop offering. As a result, national attention moves in a different direction and someone who might be listed as a 3-star has a 4-star senior campaign that goes unnoticed. A great example of this neglect is wide receiver Paul Elvira from Marcos De Niza High School in the valley of the sun (AZ). Elvira is a proven, reliable pass catcher that plays tough. He’s currently listed as a 2-star recruit, but is more than capable of excelling in the Pac-12 Conference for the Wildcats in future seasons. Similarly, spark-plug receivers and playmakers like Mauriece Lee (3-star all-purpose back) and Nate Phillips (3-star receiver from Basha High School in Chandler, Ariz.) could fill immediate roles by adding speed to special teams, or even getting into the 3-deep within the receiver corps.
There are so many more “talents” within Arizona’s recruiting class and the Wildcat Sports Report football staff will breakdown their skills and value to the program throughout the day and the remainder of this week so stay tuned and visit the website, regularly.
As usual, Bear Down, Everyone!
And Bear Down, Arizona!
Follow me on Twitter @GaryRandazzo and the website @WSRArizona. Use hashtags #NSD, #SigningDay, and #AZOKGDay for the latest breaking news regarding Arizona football and National Signing Day coverage.