Much of thee Pac-12 is kicking off its season on Saturday, and Arizona’s former prep stars is well-represented throughout the conference.
I caught up with quite a few coaches back at Pac-12 media day to get caught up on some of the playmakers representing the state.
A quick note: Time was limited with each coach, so we were not able to ask about every player that came from the Grand Canyon State. We tried our best to cover as much ground as we could with each coach in the time permitted. For a program like Cal, we could have sat down for 30 minutes with Justin Wilcox and maybe that wouldn’t have been enough.
With that said, let’s take a look:
The Trojans have recruited Arizona consistently, and Lincoln Riley wasted no time bringing in two impact transfers from Valley standouts in Brenden Rice and Jacobe Covington.
Rice will look to be a big weapon in the Trojan passing attack after spending a few years in Colorado:
Covington just got his name in the portal in time to be eligible for this season. Riley’s Oklahoma staff targeted the defensive back when he was a playmaker at Saguaro, and that relationship paid dividends years later:
Chip Kelly’s staff has hammered the state the past few classes.
“We’ve got a few guys who have come from there that have been really well-coached.” Kelly said. “I think the high school coaching that’s gone on, especially in the Greater Phoenix area, has been tremendous.”
Saguaro has been a frequent destination for UCLA coaches when they visit the state. Quintin Somerville flipped to the Bruins on signing day 2021. Jaylan Jeffers transferred from Oregon to UCLA this offseason. Damian Sellers has been a part of the defense the past two years but was recently deemed “unavailable” by Kelly about a month ago.
Casteel’s Isaiah Newcombe was one of the most dominant wide receivers to come through the state in recent years, and he is getting ready to see time in the secondary for the Bruins, joining Kenny Churchwell as former Arizona standouts in the secondary.
“(Isaiah) can run, has great change of direction and really good ball skills,” Kelly said. “He was a great offensive football player at the high school level and that translated to him playing in the secondary for us. He’s done a really good job of just always being around the ball.”
Bruno Fina had such a fast and furious recruitment out of Salpointe Catholic in the class of 2020 and has continued to transform his body to gear up for a Pac-12 season.
“He kind of opitimizes what we want a Bruin football player to be,” Kelly said.
Whether it was Mario Cristobal or now Dan Lanning, Oregon is taking advantage of the fertile recruiting grounds in Arizona. Ty Thompson, Brandon Buckner, Bram Walden and newly re-classified Kyler Kasper are on the Oregon roster. The Ducks already have three commits this class in Cole Martin, A’Mauri Washigton and My’Keil Gardner.
The Oregon staff also has former Chaparral Firebird Kenny Dillingham as offensive coordinator, and Corona del Sol Aztec Jordan Sommerville is also on the coaching staff.
Like Oregon, Cal has been incredible recruiting Arizona the past few cycles. In its initial depth chart for 2022, six Arizona players were listed as starters and four more players were on the second team. Star defensive tackle Brett Johnson also would have been in that first team if he was not injured. The top two quarterbacks on the depth chart, Jack Plummer and Kai Millner, are both from Gilbert. From Brayden Rohme to Tommy Christakos to Braxten Croteau to Slater Zellers and Odua Isibor, the first team has Arizona all over it.
Assistant coach Charlie Ragle, who is now the head coach at Idaho State, helped spearhead the recruiting effort after a decorated career as Chaparral’s head coach. Even with Ragle moving on from Berkley, Justin Wilcox will continue to prioritize the state.
The Huskies have two staples from Arizona on their roster in defensive back Dominique Hampton and offensive lineman Matteo Mele. Their special teams room features three players from the state in Jaden Green, Kevin Ryan and Grady Gross. Bralen Trice will look to make noise in the front seven as well. Head coach Kalen DeBoer was hired right before early signing day and prioritized Lance Holtzclaw (Desert Ridge) and Parker Brailsford (Saguaro) to keep them a part of the recruiting class.
Needless to say, there is not only a high quantity of players from Arizona in the Pac-12, but the quality is through the roof as well.