Arizona Wildcats Football Recruiting: Everything You Should Know for Signing Day
Arizona's 2014 recruiting class took a major hit last week when coveted cornerback Jalen Tabor—the school's first-ever 5-star commit—flipped and planned to enroll this week at Florida.
The loss of Tabor dropped the Wildcats' recruiting rank from the mid-teens to 27th nationally, according to 247sports.com.
But all is not lost for Arizona, which even without Tabor has put together a strong class that should keep the team moving upward heading into Rich Rodriguez's third season in Tucson.
There are still a few weeks left before the Feb. 5 national signing day, and a lot can change. To that end, here's everything you need to know about the Wildcats' recruiting outlook heading into the final stretch.
Top Remaining Targets
Damian Prince, OT, District Heights, Md.
At 6'5" and 295 pounds, Damian Prince is the second-best offensive tackle in the 2014 recruiting class, according to 247sports.com. He's visited Florida, Florida State, Maryland and South Carolina, and ESPN's Gerry Hamilton has reported he's going to announce his destination during the network's national signing day coverage on Feb. 5.
Though all signs point to him heading south, if Arizona were to somehow snatch him away—as it did for a brief while with Tabor before he flipped to Florida—it would go a long way toward improving the school's national recruiting image. Not to mention it would be two Washington, D.C.-area recruits the Wildcats would have beaten out Maryland for, along with Tabor. Again, for a little while.
John Smith, ATH, Long Beach, Calif.
The 5-star wide receiver/safety is rated by 247sports.com's composite ranking as the 13th-best overall athlete in the 2014 class, and he's taking his sweet time choosing his destination. He's got good size for both sides of the ball at 6'1" and 200 pounds, which makes it understandable why he's received offers from 21 different schools.
Arizona is on that list, but far down it. It's more likely John Smith ends up signing with USC, Notre Dame or one of the other programs that usually lands the 5-star guys.
Andrew Mike, OT, Tucson, Ariz.
Arizona has a commitment from the top-rated player in its backyard, Wide receiver/defensive back Cameron Denson, while tight end Matt Bushman ended up choosing BYU. Being able to grab Andrew Mike, a 3-star lineman, would help drive home the notion that other teams shouldn't assume they can automatically swoop into Tucson and take players away from the Wildcats.
Mike, at 6'7" and 270 pounds, has shown quickness and agility in high school but would likely need to beef up to contribute in college. He'd fit well with Arizona's desire for athletic zone-blocking linemen, but upcoming visits to Arkansas and Florida show that he's wanted by many and will be hard to keep home.
Jerod Cody, 6'3", 255 lbs, DE, Glendale (Ariz.) CC
Jonathan Haden, 5'8", 180 lbs, ATH, Washington, D.C.
Kaige Lawrence, 6'4", 290 lbs, OL, Chaffey (Calif.)
Jeff Worthy, 6'3", 285 lbs, DL, Santa Ana (Calif.) College
Patrick Glover, 6'1", 190 lbs, CB, Scottsdale (Ariz.) CC
Jerrard Randall, 6'2", 189 lbs, QB, Northeast Mississippi JC
Antonio Smothers, 6'1", 230 lbs, LB, Scottsdale (Ariz.) CC
Devon Brewer, 5'10", 185 lbs, DB, Fresno, Calif.
Rodney Carr, 6'0", 185 lbs, ATH, Los Angeles, Calif.
Jamardre Cobb, 6'2", 230 lbs, LB, Los Angeles Calif.
Darnell Cloy, 6'3", 220 lbs, TE, Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
Brandon Dawkins, 6'3", 206 lbs, QB, Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Kaelin Deboskie, 5'9", 185 lbs, WR, Tucson, Ariz.
Cameron Denson, 6'1", 170 lbs, ATH, Tucson, Ariz.
Tony Ellison, 5'11", 170 lbs, ATH, Granite Bay, Calif.
Layth Friekh, 6'5", 251 lbs, OL, Peoria, Ariz.
Naijiel Hale, 5'10", 175 lbs, DB, Bellflower, Calif.
JR Hunt, 6'3", 190 lbs, DB, Chandler, Ariz.
Kwesi Mashack, 5'10", 185 lbs, DB, Norco, Calif.
Jordan Morgan, 6'3", 186 lbs, WR, Beaverton, Ore.
Jordan Poland, 6'6", 333 lbs, OT, La Jolla, Calif.
Josh Pollack, 5'11", 165 lbs, K, Highland, Ill.
Levi Walton, 6'4", 280 lbs, OL, Cape Coral, Fla.
Marquis Ware, 6'2", 215 lbs, LB, Los Angeles, Calif.
Jace Whittaker, 5'9", 150 lbs, DB, Oceanside, Calif.
Sharif Williams, 6'2", 300 lbs, DL, Fresno, Calif.
Nick Wilson, 5'1", 196 lbs, RB, Fresno, Calif.
Trevor Wood, 6'6", 238 lbs, TE, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Players Who Could Contribute as Freshmen
The 3-star all-purpose player has already enrolled at Arizona, giving him the leg up on other incoming recruits who might have their eyes on the vacant starting running back slot. The Wildcats will need all they can get from that position with Ka'Deem Carey announcing on Monday his intent to go pro instead of coming back for his senior year, via the team's Twitter account.
Arizona has only one experienced back on the roster, and that's junior-to-be Jared Baker. But he tore his ACL in the regular-season finale and may not be ready until the end of preseason training camp.
The 4-star athlete has shown the skills in high school to get into Arizona's lineup at either wide receiver or in the secondary, both places where the Wildcats' style of play and schemes require lots of warm bodies.
The Wildcats are stacked at receiver, what with young returners, redshirting transfers and an injured star (Austin Hill) who missed 2013 with a knee injury, so he might have his best chance to play right away on defense. With the use of eight defensive backs at times, he'd challenge the likes of Will Parks and Anthony Lopez for one of those nickel-type slots.
The 4-star linebacker has the body, strength and speed to fit right into the middle of Arizona's 3-3-5 defensive alignment. The Wildcats lost two starters from that unit to graduation, meaning Marquis Ware has a chance to start from the outset alongside returner Scooby Wright, who himself was an instant starter as a true freshman in 2013.
Ware's main challengers are holdovers Hank Hobson and Keoni Bush-Loo as well as DeAndre' Miller, who redshirted this past season.
Storylines to Watch
Will One Flipper Lead to Others?
When Tabor backed out of his commitment to Arizona and opted for Florida—a school that didn't appear on his radar prior to him picking the Wildcats—it robbed the school of its first-ever 5-star recruit.
But could it have done even more damage? Namely, might it have served as a red flag for other uncommitted big-time recruits (as well as those already promised to Arizona) that the school wasn't the best place for them?
Have All The Needs Been Addressed?
With early enrollees, junior college signees and high school commitments, Arizona's 2014 recruiting class stands at 28 players. That's one of the largest in the country and features players at every position other than punter.
With Carey leaving early for the NFL, Arizona could probably stand to add another running back prospect to the two already in this class. Additionally, more linebackers and defensive backs could help keep those areas flush with depth.
Arizona is on the radar of a few of the remaining top uncommitted players, including in the areas where the need is greatest. Grabbing one or two more could solidify this class as the best in school history.
Does Jerrard Randall Have a Shot to Play?
Randall, a former LSU recruit who spent two seasons with the Tigers but never got to throw the pass, signed with Arizona after spending this past year at Northeast Mississippi Junior College.
The 6'2" pro-style passer joins a very crowded field fighting to get the Wildcats' open quarterback slot, but he's probably coming in far down a list that includes transfers from other FBS schools: Connor Brewer from Texas and Jesse Scroggins from USC.
Brewer redshirted last year, while Scroggins used up a year of eligibility without ever getting onto the field.
Some things you might not know about Arizona's 2014 commitments:
- Defensive back Naijiel Hale, a 3-star cornerback, is the son of late rapper Nate Dogg. Hale has paid homage to his father with his Twitter handle, @YoungNateDogg.
- Arizona has gone heavy on the high school teammates this year. Receiver Kaelin Deboskie and athlete Cameron Denson prepped together at Tucson's Salpointe Catholic, while running back Nick Wilson, cornerback Devon Brewer and defensive tackle Sharif Williams all played at Central East HS in Fresno. Additionally, cornerback Patrick Glover and linebacker Antonio Smothers were both stars at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College and have already signed their letters of intent.
- The Wildcats nearly had a fourth teammate connection, this one from Friendship Academy in Washington, D.C., but after Tabor de-committed that left running back Jonathan Haden as the only future Wildcat from that school.