Zone Read: Catching Big Fisch

Arizona Sports News online

A warm welcome to each and every one of you as the calendar hits the middle of July and we reach closer to the start of a much-anticipated 2021 season around the state of Arizona.

This week “Zone Read” hits central Phoenix, the west Valley and the amazing football facelift, program transformation we’re seeing in the Old Pueblo.

Cat Tracks

As an ugly, dark cloud of uncertainly hovers over Herm Edwards and his staff at ASU following a handful of ugly recruiting violations, the summer seems to be going quite well for Arizona first-year head coach Jedd Fisch in Tucson.

In Fisch’s introductory press conference back in late December, he made his recruiting intentions quite clear.

“We want to swarm the state of Arizona,” he explained. “We need to own the state of Arizona.”

Now, to be clear, this sort of “coach speak” isn’t uncommon and, while some may have considered it simply a work salad with extra dressing at the time, Fisch and his aggressive staff have turned into a high-end steak dinner, locking down commitments from some of State 48’s finest.

“What the Arizona staff has been able to with in-state recruiting in a very short amount of time is impressive,” ArizonaVarsity.com Lead Analyst Cody Cameron noted to the “Zone Read.” “Not only have they offered a lot of Arizona kids, they’ve done a tremendous job of actively recruiting the in-state players by getting them on-campus for unofficial and official visits.”

Cameron continued.

“Arizona high school football players want to be loved by the in-state colleges and the UA staff is showing and proving that they want them in Tucson…it should come as no surprise when they land a few more in-state commitments during this 2022 recruiting cycle.”

Luck of the Irish

This summer we’ve seen a number of high-level AZ ballers make their commitments to the next level and Thursday morning was no different when one of the state’s most complete prospects opted for this national power.

“I prayed and prayed and talked it over with my family,” Morrison said to the “Zone Read.” “I think everything I want and need is at Notre Dame. I’m super pumped and excited because this is the best place for me.”

Morrison, a four-star prospect, has football in his genes. Ben’s dad Darryl played safety at Arizona and then four seasons with the then Washington Redskins from 1993-96.

The younger Morrison tallied 25 offers from power programs like Alabama, Oregon, Auburn, LSU, Penn State, Oklahoma, Michigan, and Washington.

“Ben is a complete corner,” Brophy head coach Jason Jewell said to the “Zone Read.” “He has great cover and ball skills but is also a willing and excellent tackler in the run game. He has the length that everyone covets and plenty of speed. On top of that he is just a fantastic kid that is well-liked and respected on our campus.”

Jordan Hamm has more here.

Another feather in our AZHS football cap.

Go get ’em, Ben.

Rally the Valley

No one is going to confuse Valley Vista for a “premiere program” in Arizona but the Monsoon have also been far from a football pushover.

Last year’s 2-6 campaign marked the first below .500 season in a decade.

Now, Vista first-year head coach, and long-time west Valley staple Derek Wahlstrom, is looking tto make monsoon season more than just a summer thing in Surprise.

“We have worked hard to build some trust and relationships that will hopefully catapult our program to the levels it should be, which we believe are with the upper echelon teams in 6A,” Walhstrom explained to the “Zone Read.” “I believe our strengths going into the 2021 season will be our overall team speed. We’ve got a lot of guys who are athletic and demonstrate a hunger and ability to get to the ball and then do something with it when given the chance.”

A few players to watch this fall are junior wide receiver Blaise Nelson, defensive end Jaelin McCullen, and defensive back Carter Price.

Nelson, a junior, led Vista in catches (51) and yards (574), while reeling in five touchdowns in 2020.

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound McCullen registered 8.5 sacks and 50 tackles last year as a junior.

Price was named MVP at a BYU camp earlier this summer and is a smart, athletic player with a nose for the ball according to Walhstrom. 

“I am really enjoying my time here at Valley Vista,” Walhstrom continued. “The student-athletes that I have been able to get to know are hard-working, coachable, and just all-around fantastic young people.”

The veteran leader has had success building programs so don’t be surprised to see the same thing happen sooner than later at Valley Vista.

A Valley native, Eric has had a passion for the Arizona sports scene since an early age. He has covered some of the biggest events including Super Bowls, national championships and the NBA and MLB playoffs in his near 20 years in local media.