Ka'Deem Carey led the nation in rushing yards last season
When Mike Stoops was fired midway through the 2011 season, he didn't leave the cupboard full with talent. Yet, a credible nucleus of his recruits are impacting Arizona's fortunes in Rich Rodriguez's second year with the Wildcats.
Stoops and his staff targeted the state of Texas—given his background as Oklahoma's defensive coordinator, a position he has retained since leaving Tucson. That recruiting philosophy may have affected their ability to recruit from California and the West Coast sufficiently and expansively.
Stoops' last two recruiting classes in 2010 and 2011 were rated No. 39 and 70 nationally, respectively, by Scout.com.
The most significant gift from the previous staff to Rodriguez's crew is All-American running back Ka'Deem Carey, who led the nation in rushing yards (1,929) last season.
In Rodriguez's first season last year, he and his staff welcomed holdover quarterback Matt Scott, who intentionally redshirted in 2011 because Nick Foles was a senior starter. Rodriguez was very appreciative of Stoops' staff convincing Scott to wait another year to complete his collegiate career.
"We are very thankful," Rodriguez said at the time. "We knew we had a guy we thought was pretty special."
Rodriguez no longer has the luxury of having Scott, who is a now practice-squad player with the Jacksonville Jaguars. This will likely be the last year Rodriguez and his staff will enjoy having Carey because the junior is expected to forsake his last year and enter the NFL draft.
Carey highlights this list of the top five Stoops recruits who are impacting the Rich Rod era up to this point at Arizona.
Mickey Baucus (68) was recruited out of Big Ten country
Baucus, from Mundelein, Ill., and his brother Jack were recruited by Mike Stoops' offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh (who is now with Stoops at Oklahoma coaching the same position).
Jack Baucus was forced to retire from football before the 2012 season because of a series of knee injuries. Mickey Baucus has held steady, leading the Wildcats with 29 career starts. He has started every game that he has been active for since redshirting his freshman year in 2010.
Baucus, 6'8", 350 pounds, has developed under three different offensive line coaches—Bedenbaugh, Robert Anae and now Jim Michalczik. Anae, BYU's offensive coordinator, was the only Stoops assistant retained by Rich Rodriguez. He was hired by BYU in January.
Baucus is considered an NFL prospect with some scouts projecting him as a potential third-round draft pick (via Sports Illustrated).
Tra'Mayne Bondurant has three interceptions, two returned for touchdowns
Bondurant, of Fairfield, Calif., came to Tucson to play for Stoops in 2010 as only a 2-star talent out of high school, as rated by Rivals.com.
He has matured into one of the top safeties in the Pac-12, leading the Wildcats with three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Bondurant, 5'10", 198 pounds, plays the "spur" safety position in defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 defense. The "spur" position is a hybrid linebacker-safety position. Bondurant has shown he has the speed and athleticism to handle that role.
He ranks third on the team with 23 tackles and is tied for second with three tackles for loss, including one sack. He is the team leader in both interceptions and passes broken up (three).
In his career, Bondurant has six interceptions for 170 yards and three touchdowns.
Marquis Flowers was one of Mike Stoops' highest profile recruits
Flowers, of Goodyear, Ariz., was one of Mike Stoops' most heralded recruits, rejecting scholarship offers from USC, UCLA and Notre Dame to stay close to home and play for the Wildcats.
Rich Rodriguez tried to recruit Flowers to Michigan, but Flowers never visited Ann Arbor.
Flowers, 6'3", 233 pounds, has started at linebacker in the last two seasons after switching from safety. He is a three-year starter and one of the captains of an improved defense under Rodriguez.
One of his best games was last season against a school that recruited him intensely—USC. He intercepted a pair of Matt Barkley passes and forced a fumble in Arizona's 39-36 upset victory. Flowers has one last opportunity to beat the Trojans Thursday night in Los Angeles.
He is one of Arizona's best defenders, tallying three tackles for lost yardage and recovering a fumble.
Jake Fischer has persevered through injuries to have a fine career
Fischer is another local kid who signed with Mike Stoops. He considered Pac-12 schools Utah and Colorado, but decided to stay close to home in 2009.
The Oro Valley, Ariz., native played in all 26 games as a freshman and sophomore but was forced to redshirt Stoops' last season of 2011 because of a knee injury.
He came back strong in Rich Rodriguez's first season, starting all 13 games at middle linebacker and leading the Wildcats in tackles with 119. He was an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention selection.
Fischer has started his senior season effectively with an interception return for a touchdown against UNLV. He also has recovered a fumble.
Fischer is listed as questionable to play against USC because of an ankle injury he suffered at Washington on Sept. 28.
Ka'Deem Carey continues to be one of the nation's top running backs
Carey was recruited heavily by Oregon's Chip Kelly before his senior season at Canyon del Oro in Tucson. He also had scholarship offers from USC and Colorado, but he wanted to stay close to his family in Arizona.
He even gave ASU a look, but ultimately agreed to stay in town and play for Mike Stoops. Carey is obviously the most successful recruit in the Stoops era with his consensus All-American season last year.
The former Arizona coach and his staff recruited the likes of cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Robert Golden, tight end Rob Gronkowski and quarterback Nick Foles (as a transfer from Michigan State). But not one came close to the type of All-American career Carey has experienced.
Rich Rodriguez is the benefactor of Stoops' recruiting effort to keep Carey home, despite a late surge by former ASU coach Dennis Erickson.
Rodriguez is also a good fit for Carey with his spread offense. Rodriguez's offenses, dating to his West Virginia days, rely heavily on the run. The Mountaineers ranked No. 2 nationally in rushing in 2006 and No. 3 in 2007.
Rodriguez was also a positive force for Carey when the running back endured personal tribulations during the offseason. Rodriguez suspended Carey in Arizona's season opener against Northern Arizona, and Carey remained upbeat, a sign that his relationship with the coaching staff is a healthy one.