SATURDAY: IDAHO AT UA, 7 P.M.; NO TV; RADIO: 1290-AM
Arizona football created a buzz last signing day for all the wrong reasons.
UA coach Mike Stoops made an impolite comment about Arizona State’s supposed lower admission standards, throwing another log onto the rivalry fire and sparking all kinds of headlines.
Arizona’s recruiting class didn’t seem to be any great shakes anyway, a downgrade from Stoops’ top 25 efforts from previous seasons. No five-star recruits to get jazzed about. Ho-hum.
Rivals.com ranked Arizona’s class 39th nationally.
While anybody would like their chances better with a higher-ranked recruiting class, the thing about the rankings is that they are just a snapshot of what happens on the first Wednesday in February.
They don’t take into account guys who never make it to school. And they certainly never account for a guy such as safety Anthony Wilcox, who agreed to become a Wildcat in May, when all the recruiting gurus had moved on to the Class of 2009.
Wilcox wasn’t on any recruiting boards last season because he had a year of eligibility left at Compton (Calif.) College. Then he decided to fast track his career at UA.
Consider this: Wilcox, a sophomore at Arizona, was visiting his old junior college recently. Some college scouts were there.
“They thought I was coming back to play JC ball,” Wilcox said. “A couple of guys were like, ‘Oh, man, you’re going to be a four-star recruit. Talk to me first . . .’
“It was just crazy. Florida talked to me. But I told them I was already here. They were like, ‘For real?’ and that was the end of that. That was pretty cool, but I would rather be here with these coaches and these players.
“There are a lot of unselfish guys here, trying to help me learn.”
Wilcox might not play much in the secondary this season – “safety is one of the most difficult positions to learn,” Stoops said – but he is a promising player who should help on various special teams.
And he’s just an example of how recruiting rankings don’t always reflect the talent that shows up.
At the beginning of fall camp, Stoops said this recruiting class was better than people thought. Looks like he is right.
As the Wildcats prepare to open the season Saturday night against Idaho, newcomers are dotted throughout the two-deep chart on offense and defense.
True, that happens at most every school in the country, but fall camp showed that the new guys aren’t just filler material and that they are part of the improved depth that is one of Stoops’ success stories as he enters his fifth season.
Let’s take stock of the newcomers:
• Cornerback Robert Golden and quarterback Matt Scott, the two freshmen who generated the most UA excitement, have been as promising as advertised.
Golden, who initially will see time as a backup cornerback and nickel back, has earned comparisons to former UA All-American Antoine Cason.
“He’s still learning techniques and understanding the complexities of playing at this type of level, but he’s had an awfully good camp,” Stoops said. “He’s a very mature kid who had a chance to be a special player, just like Antoine.”
Scott is second-string to Willie Tuitama, but the coaches want to get him some game-time snaps. Not only will that build experience, but Scott’s running skills will test defenses in new and exciting ways.
• Freshman running back Keola Antolin, whose feet scat all over the field, will play as a backup. Nick Booth, a late junior college addition like Wilcox, is a bigger-back option.
“Keola will see a decent amount of time,” Stoops said.
• Junior college linebackers Vuna Tuihalamaka (big and physical) and Sterling Lewis (fast and rangy) had impressive camps and are listed as second-stringers.
• Freshman wideouts Juron Criner and David Douglas are expected to see playing time in one of the Wildcats’ deepest position groups.
“For us, we have to have a lot of guys,” said offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. “We’re going to get them out there and let them go play. That way we can invest reps in them and let them improve every day.”
• Offensive lineman Vaughn Dotsy and defensive lineman Jowyn Ward aren’t on this week’s depth chart, but Stoops says they are potential contributors. JC transfer Mike Diaz, at right guard or right tackle, is going to help, too.
This recruiting class, which looked like nothing special in February, apparently is going to offer a dozen or so contributors, including some down-the-line stars, this season.
“I don’t know where we ranked,” Stoops said of those February ratings, “but I think this might be one of the best groups we brought in.”