Arizona just joined the ranks of big-boy college football with the commitment of 5-star cornerback Jalen Tabor, who announced on national TV his intention to head to Tucson over Tuscaloosa.
Tabor, from Friendship Academy in Washington, D.C., would be the school's first ever 5-star signee, according to the Arizona Daily Star's Daniel Berk, and joins a recruiting class that already includes 4-star wide receiver/defensive back Cameron Denson, running back Nick Wilson and linebackers Jamardre Cobb and Marquise Ware, not to mention five 3-star junior college players who have already signed letters of intent.
Arizona now sits in 16th place in 247sports.com's rankings for the 2014 recruiting class with 28 commitments or signees, by far the highest ranking the school has ever had since online recruiting services became en vogue.
That also puts the Wildcats ahead of Oregon (17th), Arizona State (21st), Stanford (24th) and USC (28th) with just over a month before national signing day.
Previously just a school that tried to get a few good kids out of its home state and whatever it could grab from the second tier of California or Texas, Arizona has made a hard push to be a national recruiter under Rich Rodriguez. Besides Tabor, Arizona has commits from Jonathan Haden, a 3-star all-purpose back and Tabor's teammate at Friendship Academy, along with 3-star Florida offensive tackle Levi Walton, 3-star Oregon WR Jordan Morgan and 3-star kicker Josh Pollack from Illinois.
Some of those far-away recruits showed their excitement on Twitter at the prospect of playing alongside Tabor:
Just did a back flip off my couch when he pulled out the Arizona hat! #BearDown— Levi Walton (@LeviWalton55) January 2, 2014
And we got him jalen is now part of the fam #beardown— Jordan Morgan (@JMor9an) January 2, 2014
What might be the most telling part of Arizona's landing of Tabor is the process Rich Rodriguez and his assistants went through to get him.
Tabor's official visit came during one of the lowest points of the Wildcats' season, when they lost at home to Washington State (a week before blowing out Oregon at home), but safety Will Parks and receiver Cayleb Jones, a transfer from Texas who sat out this season, must have made a good enough impression for Tabor to tell the Arizona Daily Star they are "like my best friends now."
Rodriguez told reporters he repeatedly checked in on Tabor and Haden to make sure Arizona's interest was still there, the kind of persistence that either reeks of desperation or leads to landing big-time recruits.
For Arizona, it proved to be the latter. And coming off back-to-back 8-5 seasons and consecutive bowl victories, the Wildcats look to be continuing on the rise.