Five losses in a row, including one against arch rival Arizona State and a 26-point thrashing in the Alamo Bowl against Oklahoma State was not the way the Arizona Wildcats wanted to finish their 2010 season. Arizona’s 4-5 conference record was their worst since 2007, coming as a surprise to many after finishing second in the Pac-10 in 2009.
On top of the mediocre season, a handful of impact players on the offensive line, backfield, and defensive line graduated leaving holes in the 2011 roster.
Just as it seemed Arizona Football was on the rise and would become a consistent contender for the now Pac-12, the tent collapsed and left everyone struggling to figure out what happened.
In order for the Wildcats to return to their 2009 form, key areas of both sides of the ball must be rebuilt. These five 2011 recruits could be precisely what the team in Tucson needs.
DE/6’3” 230lbs/Fairfax HS (Laveen, AZ)
Losing defensive ends Ricky Elmore, Brooks Reed and D’Aundre Reed will certainly impact the Wildcats this coming season. In lieu of their departures, Arizona picked up four defensive ends which included commit Reggie Gilbert.
Don’t expect to see him until 2012 when he has a full year of college ball under his belt for multiple reasons. For starters, he is still new to football, having only two years of experience and to compete in the collegiate ranks, he will need to add on some bulk. He sizes up as 6’3”, 230 pounds, and with his very lanky frame, he will see significant growth with a year of D-I weight lifting.
Also being so new to the gridiron, he will need to work on his technique. While his great pursuit, play recognition and athleticism were able to make him elite in high school, the competition will be completely different at the next level. In high school, he used to his above-average speed to beat linemen off the ball, but that will not translate very well in the Pac-12. He will have to learn how to use is strength and technique to beat opposing linemen.
Gilbert has tremendous upside, and his development will depend on the Arizona football coaches.
RB/5’10” 190lbs/Canyon Del Oro HS (Tucson, AZ)
Some running backs are all about power. Some are all about speed. KeDeem Carey is a whole lot of both.
Widely viewed as the top running back in the state, KeDeem Carey decided to stay in state despite drawing offers from Colorado State and Southern California. After watching film on Carey, I can confidently say this is a special football player.
He has it all.
Speed? Check. Power? Check. Vision, acceleration, balance? Check, check and check.
Of the top commits to Arizona, Carey has a great chance of making an impact his inaugural season. There may be a couple experienced running backs in front of him with Keola Antolin and Greg Nwoko, but when you think back to 2007, that didn’t stop Nic Grigsby from rushing for over 700 yards.
It’s only a matter of time before KeDeem becomes a household name in Tucson.
OL/6’4” 270/Salpointe Catholic HS (Tucson, AZ)
Part of an extremely strong set of offensive line prospects from the state of Arizona, Jacob Arzouman could make an impact in the trenches for the Wildcats. With senior center Colin Baxter graduating, the coaching staff will be looking for a replacement, and Arzouman may fit in perfectly.
Arzouman played left tackle for Salpointe High School located in Tucson but may find a better fit as an interior lineman when he becomes a Wildcat. Listed at 270, he will have to put on more weight to stay at tackle, but with only one start between the 10 projected first and second string offensive linemen this year, he could easily move into a significant role at any position on the line.
Drawing Arzouman is a good sign for Arizona football fans, as he was also given an offer from Boise State. It seems despite a disappointing 2010 season, Arizona has been able to compete with some of college football heavy hitters.
LB/6’1” 220lbs/Parish Episcopal HS (Dallas, TX)
Undoubtedly the most talented player signed on the defensive side of the ball, Hankins brings a brute mentality to the linebacker position for the Wildcats. His play recognition, pursuit and speed are off the charts for his level and will be able to step into Arizona without many hiccups. As rare as that is for freshman linebackers, he has all the tools to do it.
With the inexperience at the linebacker position for the Wildcats and how versatile Hankins is at the linebacker positions, don’t be surprised if he sees some playing time this upcoming season.
Hankins also drew offers from Baylor, California, Miami (FL), Nebraska, and Notre Dame, just to name a few. Arizona lucked out here, with former coach Scott X. Nady endorsing him saying, “Having placed six linebackers in major college football D-1 programs, I can honestly say Rob is the most explosive linebacker I have ever coached.”
Expect to see a lot of him in 2012, as there are four senior linebackers leaving after this upcoming season.
LB/6’1” 210/Duncan HS (Duncan, OK)
Much like Gilbert, Petties is new to the gridiron with only three years of experience under his belt. And also like Gilbert, Petties used his pure athleticism to get through high school football. In high school, he was used all over the field, primarily as a safety and outside linebacker. With great closing speed and a love for physical play, the Arizona football staff has decided to keep him at linebacker, a move which could set up Petties and Hankins as the linebackers of the future for the Wildcats.
One aspect of Petties’s game which sticks out is how well he wraps up on tackles. Normally, at the high school level, a player of his caliber loves to go for the big hit and sacrifices good form tackling. While the big hit is not a stranger to Petties, it appears as though he would rather have the sure tackle than a second of glory.
With a young football mind, look for Petties in 2012 as he will have to learn coverage assignments, something that was troublesome in high school. He will also have to learn to shed the large offensive linemen of the Pac-12 and work on making better reads.