Arizona Football: Wildcats' 2016 Recruiting Heating Up at Right Time

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistJuly 23, 2015

Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez walks the field before the start of an NCAA college football game against UCLA, Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)
Gus Ruelas/Associated Press

Arizona's strong three-year run under Rich Rodriguez has been fueled by moderate success on the recruiting trail, leaning more toward discovering hidden gems and developing strong mid-range prospects than landing high-profile targets.

The Wildcats have also concentrated most of their efforts on filling up a class early and then keeping it intact rather than chasing after big names right up until signing day.

The 2016 recruiting performance had been lagging in that respect until the calendar turned to July, when suddenly Arizona went from one of the least active teams in terms of commitments to maybe the hottest.

Nine of its 15 commitments have come this month, including seven since a recruiting event the school held on July 18.

Arizona's Recruiting Classes Under Rich Rodriguez
YearRank5-Star Players4-Star Players3-Star Players
2016 (through July 23)33rd0113
Source: 247Sports

The 2016 "OKG Day" saw Arizona host dozens of potential targets, the school's first big push this year after a relatively quiet spring and early summer. Five players committed during the event, including 4-star junior college defensive end Josh Allen, and others pledged on Monday and Tuesday.

The commitment binge shot the Wildcats far up 247Sports' composite rankings, going from 57th to 33rd in the nation as of Thursday.

Allen and JUCO safety London Iakopo are probably the most noteworthy prospects to come on board, both because of their rankings and likelihood to make an immediate impact in 2016.

The Long Beach City College teammates are considered the 10th- and 58th-best JUCO recruits in their class, respectively, with the 6'4", 260-pound Allen ranked as the nation's second-best JUCO strong-side defensive end and the best non-high school prospect in California.

Each plays a position where Arizona will need to fill a significant hole next year. Allen could be tasked with replacing both senior end Reggie Gilbert and junior linebacker Scooby Wright, who is very likely to turn pro after the 2015 season, while Iakopo could be the successor to senior Will Parks.

"I know I have a good chance to play as soon as I come in," Allen, who also had offers from Arizona State, Boise State and Louisville, told Zack Rosenblatt of the Arizona Daily Star.

Most of the rest of Arizona's recent pickups fit the mold of the kind of offensive players that Rodriguez has preferred throughout his career, first at West Virginia and Michigan, and now with the Wildcats.

Referred to by the coaching staff as "Our Kinda Guys," which is what OKG stands for, those would be speedy, versatile prospects who could be used in a variety of ways in order to keep Arizona's uptempo attack moving as quickly as possible.

4-star DE commit Josh Allen
4-star DE commit Josh Allen247Sports

Similar players are among the top targets that Arizona remains in the hunt for, such as 4-star Phoenix-area athlete Chase Lucas. The 5'11", 166-pound running back/receiver/cornerback from Chandler High School is ranked 186th overall and has the Wildcats among his final seven choices along with ASU, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Texas and UCLA.

The rankings themselves don't matter much to the Wildcats, especially considering Wright—who led the FBS in tackles, tackles for loss and forced fumbles in 2014 en route to winning three national awards—was a 2-star prospect whom 247Sports rated as the No. 2,078 player in the 2013 class.

One place you won't see Arizona's name mentioned this recruiting season is among the contenders for uncommitted 5-star players.

The Wildcats have never signed a 5-star prospect, and the last two they had commitments from (safety Jalen Tabor for 2014 and quarterback Shea Patterson for 2016) ended up flipping shortly thereafter to Florida and Ole Miss, respectively.

Recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports, unless otherwise noted.

Follow Brian J. Pedersen on Twitter at @realBJP.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.