The star newcomer of Rich Rodriguez's debut crew will not count as a member of his initial recruiting class.
Brian Wagner, who was third in the nation in tackles last year (147), used an NCAA loophole to transfer out of Akron and on to Tucson, where he will own a single year of eligibility for Arizona. Wagner will likely start immediately and anchor a brand-new unit of linebackers, his presence a godsend for a group that was in shambles at times in 2011.
So what exactly is the NCAA rule that allows Wagner's transfer and immediate eligibility? Because Wagner will be seeking a graduate degree that wasn't offered at his previous school—biostatistics—he's allowed to pick a school that does offer that program.
Via the Arizona Daily Star's Ryan Finley, Wagner said:
It's the degree I want, and not a lot of people have it. I can get a good part of that done during my year here. From a football standpoint, it seems like they have a need for a one-year guy. I'm excited to help.
That is a huge—if brief—addition.
But Wagner's not the only impact player Rodriguez snagged despite his short tenure (just over two months on the job). And most of the new guys (the actual recruits who count towards this class) will be staying four years instead of just one.
Here's a closer look at Arizona's top seven commits for 2012:
An Arizonan-based in Chandler—a middle-class suburb of Phoenix, just 15 minutes from the ASU campus—Zach Hemmila is one of three 4-Star commits in the latest class, according to either Rivals.com or Scout.com.
Based solely on the video above, his status seems legit.
And the beauty of this one is that Hemmila is an Arizona commit through and through, giving his verbal to departed-coach Mike Stoops back in July.
Hemmila stayed true to his word despite the turbulence, a rarity in this game's recruiting world, and could end up a long-term starter for the Wildcats
At 6'3", 275 pounds, Hemmila isn't a monstrosity of a lineman. But his quickness may be a smooth fit for Rich Rod's spread-option
On a side, the last 4-Star the Cats are in the hunt for, Davonte Neal, is also an in-stater. He's coming to Tucson this weekend for an official visit, according to the Arizona Daily Wildcat among others.
Dick Tomey, arguably the most successful coach in the history of Arizona's football program, won with nobodies, taking everyone else's unwanteds and turning them into stars: Dennis Northcutt, Trung Canidate, Marcus Bell and on and on and on.
Meet Clive Georges.
Clive Georges isn't just one of the sleepers of Rich Rod's first class. The 6'1", 160-pound speedster also ranks among the biggest possible sleepers in the entire nation, according to Scout.com.
And the beauty of it is that an "old fishing buddy" was the catalyst to Georges becoming a Wildcat. His friendship with Jerry Hughes, Georges' high school coach in Key West, was crucial to the process, as noted by Anthony Gimino.
Evidenced above, the man is a blur, the owner of an extra level of speed. And his cutback abilities make him a candidate to be a kick returner.
He'll team with another Florida product, the next member listed, to form a dangerous receiving duo in the next few years.
And he's another example of how Rich Rodriguez is unafraid of recruiting in SEC turf.
Trey Griffey isn't the highest-rated member of this class. But he is certainly the highest profile.
As will be repeated ad nauseam, Trey is the son of future MLB Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr.
And he's a relatively unheralded receiver who appears to own a soft-and-sure set of hands, playing the agile possession man to Georges' deep threat.
Via TucsonCitizen.com, here's how Rodriguez described Griffey:
He has good speed and he has outstanding ball skills, and he’s an outstanding competitor.
Griffey was not on the radar of many of the power conferences until his senior season, when he exploded for Dr. Phillips High School, racking up over 900 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns.
There's always the possibility that greatness is simply in his blood, as evidenced by former generations of Griffeys.
Given the dearth of talent at the defensive end and linebacker slots, Kelley's signing was vital.
And he will likely see immediate playing time as a true freshman, at least providing depth to those thin units.
Kelley posted a huge senior year at Woodbridge High School in Irvine, Calif., posting 22 sacks, 87 tackles and five blocked punts last year.
After being exposed as a soft unit last fall, the defensive side of the Arizona football program is in need of an influx of the Kelley prototype: aggressive, talented and physical (standing 6'3", 230 pounds).
In this writer's opinion, a 4-Star commit via Scout.com and a Parade All-American, Kelley will end up the gold standard of Rich Rod's initial class.
Again, Rich Rodriguez reached into his roots to claim a future starter.
Although he was often on edge in his public appearances during games at Michigan, usually screaming at refs or Wolverines for plays gone awry, Rodriguez owns a serious dose of woodsy charm off the field, and he's put it on full display in his early days at Arizona.
Rodriguez is extremely likable, and it's obvious that he was popular during his West Virginia days (at least prior to departing for Ann Arbor) when former teammates of his are sending their kids to play under his guidance thousands of miles away.
Dakota Conwell is the son of Dane Conwell, a teammate of Rodriguez's at WVU. And the younger Conwell is going to be a major player, perhaps right away, in Tucson.
Although the video shows Conwell, another 4-Star commit, largely focused on quarterbacking, at Arizona the 6'1", 205-pounder will be attacking QBs from an outside linebacker slot.
Dylan Cozens is yet another lightly-regarded prospect with heavy potential.
At 6'6" and 245 pounds, Cozens played just one year of high school football, according to the Arizona Daily Star. And when he did finally make it onto the gridiron, he was surrounded by a wealth of other highly-regarded recruits who overshadowed him.
That makes Cozens, along with Georges, the two biggest sleepers of this class
In desperate need of size along the defensive line, Cozens will join his high-school coach, Charlie Ragle, who is now a member of the football organization at Arizona.
Here is what Rodriguez said about Cozens, via TucsonCitizen.com:
We thought he was one of the best defensive ends we saw this year in high school, period. He has a great upside. He’s a tough guy. He’s athletic. He’s the kind of player we can build our program around in the sense that he has a high motor and he loves the game.
Arizona was weak on the line in 2011, producing the worst pass rush in the Pac-12 and one of the worst in the country.
Given the shape his unit is in, Cozens may see time quickly.
Bryan Harper landing at Arizona was the pleasant surprise of national signing day for Rich Rodriguez.
With the likes of Oregon, Washington and UCLA seeking his services, Harper seemed just out of reach of the new staff in Tucson.
But he ultimately chose Arizona, playing time being available sooner a likely factor in his decision.
Rodriguez called him among the premier athletes he saw on film, according to Gimino's blog, and there is an outside chance that Harper—who projects as a receiver or defensive back—could play some quarterback, given the team's lack of depth in that area. Harper played quarterback for his high school team.
Although he's only listed as a 3-Star recruit, the fact that major powers were seeking his services bodes well for his future at Arizona.
Rodriguez beat out the likes of Chip Kelly, Steve Sarkisian and Jim Mora Jr. for Harper, a nice notch for the new guy.