Arizona signed 22 commitments in its 2010 recruiting class on Wednesday. Marquis Flowers, the No. 1 ranked player in the state of Arizona, highlighted a class that also features some mammoth offensive lineman. Arizona also added some much needed depth to its linebacking corp and defensive backfield.
Here's a look at some of the new faces of the Arizona Wildcats.
All quotes are from articles written at goazcats.com.
After the decommitment of Matt Brown, the Wildcats found themselves without a Quarterback commitment for their 2010 class.
Cameron Allerheiligen suddenly found himself on the short list of prospects to fill the position of need for the University of Arizona. Coach Stoops wasted no time in getting Allerheiligen on campus and once there the District 5-5A Offensive MVP quickly made the decision to commit.
The 6'3", 190-pound quarterback from Keller High School in Keller, TX is also a highly touted baseball prospect and those abilities have transferred well to the gridiron.
Keller is a dual-threat quarterback and his ability to run the ball is amplified by his great ability to slide after the run. Hopefully, Allerheiligen can show Nick Foles a thing or two about how to get down and avoid the hit, so ‘Cats fans everywhere can stop cringing every time he steps out of the pocket.
Allerheiligen threw for 2, 535 yards and 24 touchdowns during his senior campaign and rushed for two more on his own.
Despite better than average stats and accolades, and great size, Allerheiligen was not highly recruited and Coach Stoops is hoping he found an unpolished diamond buried in the competitive North Texas High School football league.
The addition of an offensive coordinator with QB coaching experience could really help develop Allerheiligen into a solid QB.
Cameron chose the University of Arizona over an offer from Toledo.
Mickey Baucus was one of the first prospects to give his verbal to the University of Arizona last April, and understandably so, as brother Jack is already a member of the Wildcat football squad.
At 6'8" and almost 270 pounds, Baucus’ size stands out as one of the major upsides for this future offensive tackle. His frame should allow him to add on some significant weight during his redshirt year and Baucus could be ready to contribute early in his college career.
Baucus anchored an offensive line that led Carmel Catholic to a 7-3 record this season and displays great blocking talent in his highlight videos.
Baucus tends to develop a mean streak, pushing his opponents around as he pleases, as his added strength is already starting to show.
All reports indicate that Baucus is thrilled to be a Wildcat and is willing to come in and work hard to improve his game. Some major schools started to show Mickey a lot of interest late into his senior season, but his mind had already been made up.
"It was pretty much a no-brainer because I had made up my mind about two months ago before I went out there for the spring game," he said. "I told the coaching staff that if they had an offer, I was ready to commit and that it was a no-brainer for me.”
Kyle Benson making the decision to stay close to home and take his abilities to Tucson gives the Wildcats a great prospect at linebacker.
Benson measures a little undersized at 6'2" and 212 pounds, but his 4.48 40-time gives him great speed off the edge and an ability to fly all over the field.
Benson was a tackling machine throughout his high school career, totaling 106 during his senior year. Despite an impressive year, Benson was left off of the All-Arizona team and will be coming to Tucson with a chip on his shoulder. A tackling machine looking to prove himself spells good things for the Wildcats in the future.
Benson had surgery to repair a torn ACL and likely will redshirt his freshman year in order to recover, gain strength and an understanding of the defense.
Benson neglected to receive an offer from Arizona State despite being in the universities back yard and the Tempe Corona del Sol plans to prove that they made a mistake every year he is at UofA.
"Definitely beat ASU every year," Benson said, when asked what his goals were for his time at Arizona.
Benson chose Arizona over offers from BYU, Colorado, Oregon, and Utah.
UofA had four senior linebackers depart after the 2009 season and naturally needed to bring in some players to contribute immediately. They got a major contributor when North Dakota State College of Science linebacker Derek Earls committed to play for the Wildcats in 2010.
At 6'4" and 225 pounds, Earls definitely passes the eye test and is the ideal size to play linebacker in the Pac-10. Linebacker coach and new Co-Defensive Coordinator Tim Kish handpicked Earls to step in and fill a great position of need.
Earls should see significant playing time immediately and as a December graduate has already enrolled on campus to begin spring workouts.
The extra practice time and head start on acclimating himself to the defensive schemes should give Derek a tremendous advantage to compete for the starting job when Fall Camp arrives.
"It's great," Earls said of having the chance to play right away. "It's something I wanted to do because I can step in and start right away. I want to go in there and try to help the team right away."
Earls turned down offers from Colorado, Illinois, and Oklahoma State amongst others to play for the Wildcats.
When Bill Bedenbaugh signed on to be the UofA’s offensive line coach several years ago he brought many attributes to the table. Among them was the ability to recruit big lineman and to recruit the state of Illinois.
Bedenbaugh combined the two by recruiting Fabbians Ebbele, a 6'8" and 300 pound tackle from Chicago Simeon.
Boasting an 89-inch wingspan, Ebbele has the potential to develop into a monster-sized tackle on the offensive line. Especially after he starts working with strength and conditioning coach Corey Edmond. Ebbele stated the opportunity to work with Coach add as one of his reasons for choosing Arizona.
Fabbians Ebbele is relatively new to football and because of his lack of experience was not highly recruited, and he took it personally.
"I just took it as a chip on my shoulder to play well, to play hard, work out well in the off-season and get an offer," Ebbele said.
Ebbele’s hard work saw him receive offers from Arizona, Kansas, and Illinois, with the Wildcats eventually winning his services.
All successful recruiting classes need to have that marquee player that really makes the class shine. The Wildcats got that player when Marquis Flowers chose to attend the University of Arizona on national television at the Army All-American game.
Flowers was highly recruited throughout the country and is the number one ranked prospect from the state of Arizona and No. 78 on the Rivals Top 100 list.
Flowers has the ability to play on either side of the ball, but was recruited to play defense for the Wildcats. Flowers has ideal size to play the safety position, and at 6’4” even has the frame to add weight and play linebacker.
Flowers’ commitment to the Wildcats sends a message to future top state recruits that the Wildcats are on the rise and all in-state prospects should take notice. With his hard-hitting ability and great speed and agility it would come as no surprise to see Marquis making an impact and receiving playing time as a true freshman.
Arizona State, USC, and the rest of the Pac-10, along with Notre Dame and Michigan all missed out on Flowers’ services.
Defensive Tackle Sani Fuimaono waited a long time to announce his college choice, even though he had known for quite some time where he had wanted to go.
"I just like everything about Arizona," he said. "The place is great."
The 6'2", 255 pound Punahou High School standout chose Arizona over offers from Hawaii and Washington.
One of the biggest reasons for Fuimaono’s decision to choose the University of Arizona was the coaches flexibility to honor his mission. Fuimaono will attend UofA for a year and then leave to take a three-year Mormon mission, returning his services to the ‘Cats for the 2013 season.
Fuimaono also brings a wrestler’s skill set and mentality to the football field for the Wildcats as he is also a very good wrestler for Punahou.
As mentioned, Fuimaono has known he was going to be a Wildcat for some time and many believe he was a silent commit to Arizona for some time, possibly filling up Dominique Jones’s scholarship spot, who decommited and signed with Baylor.
In past recruiting classes, Coach Stoops and his staff have neglected to see the position of long snapper as a need worthy of a scholarship. That all changed when they extended an offer to Chase Gorham from Scottsdale Chapparel.
Gorham worked his way into a scholarship offer after winning the Chris Sailor National Kicking and Snapping Event. His victory in the event shot him up the rankings and he is now considered to be one of the best long snapping prospects in the country.
Gorham works out with North Canyon coach, Ben Bernard, who has already helped send several long snappers to Division One programs.
Gorham’s commitment should give the Wildcats a stable and reliable snapper for the next four years.
Avondale Westview’s defensive back Jourdon Grandon committed to the Wildcats, giving the ‘Cats a great victory in the state of Arizona’s recruiting battles. Grandon has solid athleticism and will be a great fit in the defensive system at the UofA.
Standing at 6'1", Grandon will play in the defensive backfield and is excited about the opportunity to play close to home and stay near his family. Grandon’s commitment remained strong despite defensive coordinator Mark Stoops taking a job at Florida State.
"I was looking at staying in state because I would be close to my family and I want them to be able to see me live," he said. "Also, going to Oregon State and Colorado State, the weather just does not compare. I don't have to worry about rain or snow or any of that."
Grandon missed out on a lot of playing time this season with a broken bone in his foot, but was able to heal and play in the playoffs for Westview. Broken bone aside, Grandon has very good footwork and fluid hips. He is very capable of coming in and competing for a spot in the cornerback rotation.
When you run a spread offense, it is important to recruit wide receivers who will work well in the system. The Wildcats got a good one in 6'3" wide receiver Austin Hill.
The Eleanor Roosevelt High prospect is confident in his abilities to add depth to the Wildcats receiving core.
"I'm a really smart receiver," he said. "I'm a hard worker, I'll always get better; I'll never get worse. I'm big, tall, I can go after the ball as good as anyone else. I believe I run excellent routes and I think I'm a complete receiver and I'm going to help Arizona out a lot."
Hill briefly wavered in his commitment to Arizona when Sonny Dykes left for the Louisiana Tech head coaching position. After thinking about his options, Hill reaffirmed his commitment to the University of Arizona.
Hill is a versatile athlete and gives the Wildcats a tall receiver that has great jumping ability to go up and get the football. He also displays great speed and excellent route running ability, often leaving defensive backs in the dust on the way to the end zone.
Carter Lees is exactly the type of offensive lineman that can excel in coach Bill Bedenbaugh’s system. Lees is big and physical at 6'5" and 325 pounds, but more importantly he is a workhorse.
"I went and saw Carter Lees practice for an hour and it is 100 degrees and humid and he has taken every rep and did not take any plays off,” said Bedenbaugh.
Lees is the only offensive guard commit in the 2010 class, and as such should be able to compete for early playing time soon, provided he develops his pass blocking skills.
Lees comes from a very competitive Texas High School football league and he anchored a line that rushed its way to a state championship appearance. Lees chose to bring that winning mentally and run blocking ability with him to Arizona over Texas Tech.
Jonathan McKnight was a Signing Day surprise for the Wildcats. Jonathan is the younger brother of former USC tailback Joe McKnight and brings that football pedigree to the table.
As a cornerback for John Curtis High in River Ridge, Louisiana, McKnight recorded 31 tackles and 4 interceptions on his way to a near undefeated season, with the sole loss coming in the state championship game.
At 6'0", McKnight brings good size with him to the cornerback position and it could help him see the field sooner rather than later.
McKnight didn’t visit the UofA campus until late in the recruiting process, but the visit obviously left an impression.
"It was a good visit," McKnight said, “I liked the atmosphere at Arizona.”
McKnight received offers from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Nebraska, amongst others, but in the end the Wildcats won his services.
Willie Mobley’s college football career has been a roller-coaster ride that’s seen him move from Minnesota to Ohio and to California. That ride has come to a stop now and the destination is Tucson, AZ.
Mobley was a highly recruited defensive end out of high school and received scholarship offers from around the country, including Arizona. Mobley eventually decided to attend The Ohio State University and switched to defensive tackle.
Things didn’t work out for Mobley as a Buckeye and he transferred to Orange Coast College in California after his freshman year with the intention of going to UCLA.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, Mobley was unable to attend UCLA due to transcript issues and Mobley was able to commit to play his football for Arizona.
At 6'3" and 275 pounds, Mobley should be able to come in a compete for playing time right away, especially with the departures of seniors Earl Mitchell and Donald Horton.
Mobley’s unique story does have a downside, as all that moving around hasn’t allowed him to play in any competitive football games since his senior year of high school. Mobley has used his time away from the field to gain some perspective and is zealous about moving on.
"The whole situation with UCLA and what happened to me and not getting in was more humbling than anything," Mobley said. "I really figured out how much I love football and how much it meant to me and how hard I really have to work to accomplish my goals and I am just excited for a new beginning."
Every Wildcat recruiting class seems to have one or two guys that fly under everyone’s radar. Coach Stoops and his staff have had the knack for turning unknowns like Bug Wright and Greg Nwoko into major contributors on the field.
This years’ class is no different as 6'4", 235 pound defensive end Dan Pettinato chose to accept a scholarship offer to the University of Arizona.
Pettinato comes from Grass Valley, CA, a town with less than 15,000 people in its population. Small town players usually have difficulty getting noticed, and Pettinato’s odds were even smaller, as he was home schooled until his junior year.
Pettinato’s size made it hard, however, for the UofA coaches not to notice him.
"I was watching some offensive line tape and saw a big, tall kid that was running around and we ended up researching him. He is 6-foot-5, 230-something and just an athletic kid that played defensive end, tight end, and was split out at wide receiver. He is a broad shouldered kid that plays hard is from a good winning tradition high school,” said recruiting coach Jeff Hammerschmidt
Pettinato comes from a family of big UofA fans and although he received some recruiting attention late maintained his pledge to play for Arizona.
Dan is the only high school commitment Arizona received at the position of defensive end and as such may be relied upon to develop quickly and compete for playing time.
Before a knee injury sidelined Dexter Ransom and cost him his season at Blinn Community College he was the top rated junior college player in the country.
Many schools backed off his recruitment at that point, but Arizona remained solid in its conviction to land the talented wide receiver
"They supported me," Ransom said. "They said they've always been committed to me. The injury didn't change anything with them; they've been with me since day one, and that was a big thing for me."
Ransom is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation from ACL surgery and should be ready to participate in summer practice. His addition to the Wildcat receiving corps gives the Wildcats another tall receiving threat with great leaping ability.
Ransom is 6'4" and utilizes a 36" vertical leap to give himself an advantage at getting the ball out of the air. Ransom used his receiving abilities to put Blinn CC in a position to eventually win the National Championship game.
Ransom chose Arizona over offers from Auburn, California, and Oklahoma amongst others and continues the Blinn Community College pipeline that has now sent five players to Arizona in the last three classes.
Former Arizona great Randy Robbins, an All Pac-10 cornerback in the early 1980s, graduated from the University of Arizona in 1984 and played nine seasons for the Denver Broncos. Robbins retired in 1992, right around the time his son Josh was born.
Seventeen years later, that son is looking to continue in his father’s footsteps, as Josh Robbins committed to play safety for the Arizona Wildcats. Robbins also received scholarship offers from Utah, Oregon State, and Colorado, but in the end the family connection was too much to overcome.
"A lot of my family was at (Arizona) other than my dad," Robbins said. "Like my sisters, and even my mom went to UA. So I mean, UA has always been a part of the family, but the decision was all up to me. The family said to pick the best decision for me, and that's what I thought it was.”
Robbins is going to have to come to UofA ready to work, as he knows nothing will be handed to him just because of his father’s legacy.
At 6'3", Robbins has great size to play in the defensive backfield as is evident by his contribution to Canyon Del Oro’s state championship team.
Austin Hill wasn’t the only Eleanor Roosevelt High wide receiver to sign with the Wildcats on Wednesday. Teammate Tyler Slavin, and fellow wide receiver, also made a pledge to join the receiving corps down in Tucson.
Slavin brings a different skill set to the Wildcats with his great ability to catch the ball on the screen pass and out of the backfield. Slavin shows fluid hips and great speed burst to turn up-field and make defenders miss, stretching short pass into long gains.
‘Cats fans will be reminded of Terrel Turner as they watch Slavin break tackles and extend plays.
Many wide receivers would have started looking elsewhere if their future offensive coordinator left the program, but after the departure of Sonny Dykes, Slavin’s commitment to UofA never wavered.
Slavin and Hill led the Roosevelt Mustangs to an 8-3 record and a state playoff appearance and look to continue their winning ways in Tucson.
Slavin chose UofA over offers from Arizona State, Nebraska, UCLA, and others.
Trent Spurgeon added his 6'8", 270 pound body to an already huge Arizona offensive line recruiting class when he signed his paperwork to play football for the Wildcats.
A highly recruited tackle, Spurgeon turned down offers from Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Stanford amongst others to play for Coach Stoops and Bill Bedenbaugh.
Spurgeon is the Wildcats highest rated offensive player in the 2010 class, as he cracked the Rivals.com Top 250 list and also was the fifth highest rated prospect from the state of Oklahoma.
Spurgeon broke his leg early in his senior season and saw some recruitment and rankings drop after the injury, but he was able to make it back to play for his Owasso High team late in the season.
Spurgeon has tremendous athletic ability evidenced by the fact that he also plays basketball for Owasso. Spurgeon will most likely redshirt his freshman year due to the current depth at his position on the Wildcat roster.
With the graduation of Adam Grant and Phillip Garcia next year, however, the battle for the two tackle positions will be wide open. Spurgeon has every intention of throwing his name into the hat for one of those spots and, if he gets it, don’t expect him to relinquish it.
"Hopefully I'll start four years and be the best player I can be," Spurgeon said.
Kirifi Taula’s recruitment was one of the more interesting recruitments Arizona had this year. Taula committed to the Wildcats in December, without having visited the campus.
Taula decided to take a visit to Washington in early January and rumors started to swirl that he gave a verbal pledge to play his college ball for the Huskies.
The 6'3", 270 pound defensive tackle finally made his way down to Tucson to check out the university for himself and liked what he saw.
"It was great," Taula said. "We met a lot of the players and they are really cool. I met the coaches and it was the place I felt most comfortable at."
Taula remained undecided until Signing Day making many fans wonder if Coach Sarkisian had pulled a recruit out of Arizona’s pocket.
Taula put all those worries to rest, however, and signed with Arizona.
Taula is explosive off the line and violent, adding great athleticism despite his bigger stature. Taula helped lead his Anaheim Servite team to a CIF Divison II state championship this year and looks to bring his winning tradition to Tucson.
6'2", 240-pound Corsicana (Texas) Navarro Junior College defensive end Mohammed Usman chose to transfer to the University of Arizona this year over offers from Arkansas and San Diego State.
Usman fills a position of need for the Wildcats, who will see three seniors graduate after the 2010 season. The lack of depth should allow for Usman to compete for playing time, perhaps after using the 2010 season to get stronger and adjust to the speed of college football.
"They want me to come in right away and make an impact," Usman said. "I'm gonna be rushing from both sides, dropping off the line, and also be a linebacker type. I'm just going to be an athlete all around on defense.
Usman plans on using his skill set to get to the quarterback and help the Wildcats compete on the defensive side of the ball for the next three years. His speed off the line and athleticism should help create some interesting matchups against offensive lineman.
Paul Vassallo committed to the Wildcats in early August and kept his commitment despite an increase in attention from other schools. Vassallo was a December graduate of Sierra Community College and enrolled at Arizona in January.
Vassallo is already taking classes and participating in spring workouts and should look to compete for significant playing time at a thin linebacker position next fall.
At 6'3" and 230 pounds, Vassallo has the ideal size foe a college linebacker. His sideline to sideline speed is better than average and he possesses great run-stopping ability.
Vassallo was able to take a trip to see Arizona play against NAU and the trip really solidified his decision.
"On this trip the game atmosphere really stuck out," he said. "I got to see everything when I was in there in August as far as facilities go, but to be able experience what a game would be like and be in the locker room was really cool."
Coach Mike Stoops felt that there was a significant need for the 2010 class.
A need for speed.
Garic Wharton, a 5'11" wide receiver from Valley High in Las Vegas gave Coach Stoops exactly the time of speed receiver he was looking for.
"He is probably the fastest football player in the country out of high school," Stoops said. "He's a guy that can go the distance at any time. Garic does some unique things, and he has crazy speed when you watch him run."
Wharton’s speed is evident in his highlight reels as he blurs over the field making the defenders look like they are running through quicksand to catch him.
Wharton is motivated to do well at the wide receiver position because many schools felt he projected better on the defensive side of the ball.
Arizona gave Wharton the chance he was looking for at receiver and he chose to play for them over offers from Nebraska, UNLV, and Utah.