Rich Rod's kind of guys - Tucson News Now

Rich Rod's kind of guys

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By Anthony Gimino - Special for Tucson News Now

The nation's top-rated cornerback announced his decision to attend USC at the end of a music video. A recruit picked Oklahoma over Arizona earlier this week via Snapchat.

Snoop Dogg was on ESPN on Wednesday, renouncing his USC allegiance while standing with his son, four-star receiver Cordell Broadus, who committed to UCLA.

"We Bruins now," Snoop said.

Signing Day is bigger, crazy and more ego-driven than ever but the party bus didn't swing by Tucson this season.

Coach Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats compiled the bulk of their 2015 recruiting class well before kicking off the season and didn't have much last-second, late-night fretting over the whims of a 17-year-old.

"A lot of these guys have been committed for quite some time and there was really no drama today," Rodriguez said at an afternoon press conference to announce 25 players, including nine already enrolled. "It was probably the least amount of drama I've ever experienced as a head coach on national signing day. It was a good day all the way around."

Good. Perhaps not great.

The no-drama angle is nice, but not sexy. Arizona's quietly-put-together class inched lower to No. 42 nationally Wednesday evening, with the Wildcats signing just one high school player in the national 400 -- offensive tackle Keenan Walker from Scottsdale Chaparral High. And he tore his ACL in late December and isn't likely to contribute in 2015.

Arizona signed only four players who committed after the start of the season, so any benefits from its 10-win season, Pac-12 South title and appearance in the Fiesta Bowl isn't going to show up until kids from the class of 2016 start making decisions.

"I remember after last year, I told the staff we didn't have enough room at the end for guys who developed late or showed more interest late, and we wanted to save some spots this year. Well, that didn't happen," Rodriguez said. "In the future, we're going to have to do that. We're going to have to make a conscious effort to save two or three spots for seniors who develop late or guys who show an interest maybe later.

"But as we look back, every one of those guys who committed and stayed with us, we'd take all over again. It was a good situation to be in, but, boy, I would like to be able to sign five or six more because I think we would added five or six really talented guys to the class."

As always, no one will know how good this class for another three or four years. Who knows if there is another Scooby Wright hiding among a solid class brimming with three-star recruits? Rodriguez and his staff have been at this a long time and should get the benefit of the doubt for being able to spot talent that fits their schemes on both sides of the ball.

Let's break down the class:

IMPACT PLAYERS

For me, it's all about the junior college players on defense. RichRod's record in recruiting junior college transfers has been mixed. Steven Gurrola two years ago was a big hit at center, but only one of six JC guys brought in for last season made any sort of an impact (defensive lineman Jeff Worthy).

But put your 2015 hopes into safety Paul Magloire, defensive lineman Anthony Fotu, defensive end Timmy Hamilton and defensive back Dane Cruikshank.

Magloire can play the spur or bandit safety positions, and Arizona indentified him as a target last spring long before other schools noticed while Magloire was putting together an All-American season at Arizona Western in his first full year on defense. He is a former quarterback and running back.

"You can tell he's an athlete," Rodriguez said.

"And then after you visit with him, you go, 'This guy has a certain personality and a love for football that you want everybody to have.' ... He's a guy who is going to enhance your locker room, too, as a let-me-learn-whatever-you-want-me-to-learn kind of guy."

Fotu is a four-star junior college prospect who boosts Arizona's size up front, while Hamilton's reputation is of a high-motor pass-rushing defensive end, the kind of player that has been in short supply since Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore left after the 2010 season.

Cruikshank has nice size (6-2, 195) for cornerback or safety, which is to be determined. Cornerback could be a more pressing need, although Rodriguez said that slot receiver DaVonte' Neal requested Wednesday to be moved to corner. That will be worth watching in the spring.

In any case, immediate help on defense is what Arizona needs, and what the Cats were clearly going after in recruiting.

HIGH SCHOOL INTRIGUE

Somewhat random here, but let's go with these three guys:

1. Safety Anthony Mariscal, from Liberty High in Bakersfield, Calif., is a three-star recruit, so it's not like he's completely under the radar, but it sounds like Rodriguez figures he's underrated. Mariscal is ranked as the 100th-best player in California by Rivals.com.

"I'd take a class of all five-stars, but I'd also like to have a class of all Anthony Mariscals, too," Rodriguez said.

"A really good football player who is a winner who can play several different positions and is going to help our program from the day he walks on campus. He's an athletic tough guy from a great program. I mean, what's not to like?"

2. WR Darick Holmes, from Newbury Park High, could be the guy Arizona fans thought they might be getting when Neal transferred from Notre Dame. The coaches can line up Holmes in the slot or at running back, basically just moving him wherever he can get into space, one-on-one with a defender.

Holmes, listed at 5-9, 175, is often compared in style to Tavon Austin, the former multi-purpose threat for West Virginia who currently plays for the St. Louis Rams. Newbury Park High, whose offensive coordinator is former UA quarterback Keith Smith, runs a nearly identical spread offense to what Rich Rodriguez uses at Arizona.

"He's lightning in a bottle," Smith told TucsonNewsNow.com during last season. "I don't know how else to describe him. He's a complete football player, offensively and defensively. I have never seen a kid that size who absolutely dominates a football game. Never seen it. You can't tackle him. One guy never brings him down."

3. Orlando Bradford, a running back from Calvary Baptist Academy in Shreveport, La., shrugged off late recruiting interest from new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who flirted with a bunch of committed prospects as Signing Day approached. No thanks, Bradford said. See, no drama. With no clear-cut No. 2 behind running back Nick Wilson -- Jared Baker, perhaps? -- Bradford can come in and a make a serious run at playing time.

SIGNING DAY NOTES

-- Rodriguez said that the team will announce the names of about a dozen invited walk-ons in a few weeks. He said that group will be "the greatest group of invited walk-ons in the entire country. It's a passion for me. It's a passion of the entire staff. I wouldn't be shocked that three or four wind up getting playing time within the next two or three years, and four or five will end up getting scholarships."

-- Walker is likely to sit out 2015 because of his ACL tear, but it's not like having an offensive linemen redshirt as a freshman is a bad thing. "I think Keenan was one of the best offensive lineman in the state, not just this year but the last couple of years," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if his availability will be there for the fall, but at some point, he's going to be a really good player for Arizona. He can be a dominant player in the future."

-- This has a chance to be a nice group of offensive linemen, led by Walker. Cody Creason, Nathan Eldridge, Harper Sherman (from British Columbia, Canada) and already-enrolled Alex Kosinski help form a promising group that doesn't have to be rushed into action right away.

-- Demetrius Flannigan, a lanky defensive back who was ruled ineligible this season after transferring from Tucson High to Mountain View, is likely to be added to the class at a later time.

<i>Anthony Gimino has covered University of Arizona athletics for more than two decades, including as the football beat writer for the Arizona Daily Star and the columnist for the Tucson Citizen.</I>


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