Rich Rodriguez has has now been a part of four signing days as a the Head Coach of the University of Arizona football program. On Wednesday he addressed the media about his new class as well as their recruitment over the past year. Here are five things we learned.
Honoring scholarships: There is a very interesting dynamic with a couple of the recruits that the Wildcats bring into the program with the 2015 class. Two defensive tackles in this class did not play one snap of football during their the fall/winter of 2014. Campo Verde defensive tackle Finton Connelly who was the first commit of the Wildcats 2015 class back in November of 2013. He tore his ACL before the start of his senior year and missed the whole season. Another defensive tackle Sherif Williams, out of California, graduated in the spring of 2014 and took a grey shirt last season as he was recovering from a severe knee injury. “I tell them and even if you are a player here is if you lose a scholarship, it’s not because of ability or injury, it’s because you do something stupid,” Rodriguez mentioned. “On or off the field or in the classroom. And we try to stay true to that.”
Immediate impacts: The Wildcats have brought in some transfers or “mid-year” guys that Coach Rodriguez hopes to be able to plug in right away. Safety Paul Magloire, Tight End Matt Morin and defensive tackle Anthony Fotu are all players coming in that could fill needs whether it be in terms of depth or to plug in to the starting line-up to replace a graduating senior. “Those are three that are guys that can come in right away and make an impact at their positions,’ he explained. “But they have to put the work in. He went on to mention one position that he did not bring in a player at was Quarterback which for Rodriguez is “maybe for the first time ever.”
Brought from the Bayou: There is some great, great high school football players in the state of Louisiana. What is good for the rest of the country is not all of them are going to play for LSU or in the SEC. Rodriguez knows the state having coached there as well as his staff. One member of his staff in particular, Associate Head Coach and Co-Offensive Coordinator Calvin Magee was born and raised in New Orleans and knows the state well. The Wildcats were able to land five in this class who are all rated as a three-star according to Scout.com. The SEC coming into Pac-12 territory and scooping up players isn’t new but Pac-12 teams doing so in SEC country, especially a program like Arizona, is. A big part of this being able to happen for the Wildcats landing players outside their main recruiting hubs, is taking advantage of unofficial visits. Rodriguez calls them “way more important now than official visits.” Magee and the Wildcats were able to get all five of these Louisiana natives in for unofficial and the result, they were able to land commitments. What a big boost for the future of the program this could be if they can create a pipeline from the state of Louisiana to Tucson.
Simba the future king: “One of the best offensive lineman in the state not just last year but the last couple of years,” Rich Rodriguez said of four-star offensive tackle out of Chaparral High School, Keenan Walker. Walker, who goes by Simba on Twitter, is known for his great strength and athleticism at that position and has a nasty streak to him which landed him in the Under Armor All-American game this past December. Unfortunately while competing in it, he tore his ACL during the week of practices and now Coach Rod confirmed that he will not be making an immediate impact this fall. But that doesn’t mean he won’t in the future. “At some point, he is going to be a really good player for Arizona,” Rodriguez said with a smile. “I think he can be a dominant player in the future.
World-class walk-ons: “I can’t announce it today but maybe in about two or three weeks, I think we have collected the greatest, best group of invited walk-ons in the country,” Rodriguez made sure to mention. “It’s a passion of mine, it’s a passion of the staff…I think we will have a dozen or so when it is all said and done and I wouldn’t be shocked that of those dozen, three or four will get significant playing time within the next two years and four or five wind up getting scholarships.” We have already seen walk-ons like line backer Jake Matthews or once walk-on then turned scholarship player Jared Tevis become huge difference makers for the team. We do know that three local players in Apollo’s Mohamed Mohamed, Queen Creek’s Weston Barlow and Hamilton’s Morris Kroma are among the 12 that will be on this list. All were fantastic high school players and could be among those that could make a big impact going forward.
Check out Coach Rodriguez’s full Signing Day Press Conference below: