Citizen Staff Writer
Arizona coaches are on the recruiting trail the next few days, trying to take advantage of their Las Vegas Bowl invitation.
They no longer have to hide that the last time the Wildcats went to a bowl game was 10 years ago.
Instead, a bowl game is just 10 days away.
“The timing of the game definitely cuts into recruiting, but winning helps with recruiting,” UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said.
Arizona, with 15 oral commitments for next year’s class, heads to Las Vegas on Dec. 20 to play BYU at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The full reward from a recruiting standpoint may not be fully realized when this year’s high school seniors sign in February.
Instead, it may take awhile.
“The way recruiting happens, you see more of a jump next year,” UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes said. “I think this year’s recruiting class is really good, but we’ll see more of a jump later.”
UA coaches have more to sell recruits after the Wildcats’ 31-10 victory over Arizona State completed a 7-5 regular season.
“I think it will help,” UA coach Mike Stoops said of the bowl appearance. “It will help not (having) recruits read all those articles (about past failures). Until you do it people are going to wonder, and rightfully so.”
UA can also point to the win over ASU when trying to get the attention of in-state recruits.
The most important aspect might be that Stoops and his staff aren’t going to be fired. Stoops has been on the hot seat several times in recent years.
“It hopefully gives us some stability,” Dykes said. “That is the thing we have been battling for a couple of years. A lot of people have been negative recruiting and saying we are not going to be there.
“This gives us some stability. That is critical in recruiting; just ask the basketball guys. It is important the players know the coach is going to be there and the program is heading in the right direction.”
Arizona interim basketball coach Russ Pennell is trying to recruit, but until a permanent replacement for Lute Olson is announced, UA will struggle to draw the attention of top players.
Stoops plans to keep recruiting the way he has in recent years in rebuilding the program.
“I believe you get the people you are supposed to get,” he said. “We recruit players that we feel make us better and fit our needs. We have done well recruiting so I don’t see changing.”
The Wildcats are in the bowl game largely because coaches have evaluated well and gotten players such as offensive tackle Eben Britton, receiver Mike Thomas, tailback Keola Antolin, and defensive tackle Earl Mitchell that the major football powers didn’t notice.
“Recruiting is so statistical. Look how people pan out,” Stoops said. “(Receiver Juron) Criner was not recruited as highly as other guys, but he could play anywhere in the country. Keola the same thing. Quarterback Matt Scott, the same thing.”
Criner made the key block to free Mike Thomas for his 52-yard punt return against ASU.
Antolin has been a key force for the Wildcats with 10 touchdowns.
Arizona has seen action from 10 players from a 2008 class that was ranked 39th nationally by Rivals.
Rivals rates the Wildcats’ current class as No. 52.
“People get caught up in recruiting,” Stoops said. “It has become a season of its own. It’s become a feeding frenzy for fans and the Internet. You need to take two or three years down the road to see how it pans out.
“Some players don’t even end up going to college, do they? It is a matter of where people fit. We got kids who want to be here and that is important.”
The Las Vegas Bowl will open ever more doors, however.
LAS VEGAS BOWL
Arizona (7-5) vs. No. 17 BYU (10-2)
When: 6 p.m. Dec. 20
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
Series: UA leads 11-9-1
Line: Arizona by 3.5
UA’s current oral commitments, 3C
Arizona’s 2009 recruiting class
Pos. Player Ht. Wt. High school
OL Jake Baratz 6-4 275 Naperville (Calif.) North
TE Jack Baucus 6-6 235 Mundelein (Ill.) Carmel
CB Marcus Benjamin 6-1 200 Arizona Western JC
TB Kylan Butler 5-6 180 Concord (Calif.) De La Salle
WR Travis Cobb 6-0 180 Blinn (Texas) JC
LB Trevor Erno 6-0 225 Lakewood (Calif.) High
LB Jake Fischer 5-11 225 Ironwood Ridge
LB Cordarius Golston 6-1 220 Lancaster (Texas) High
TB Daniel Jenkins 5-9 170 Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde
LB Taniela Maka 6-1 220 Long Beach (Calif.) Jordan
TE Terrence Miller 6-4 215 Moreno Valley (Calif.) Rancho Verde
CB Ryan Milus 5-10 155 Chandler Hamilton
QB Richard Morrison 6-0 170 Royse City (Texas) High
DE Jackson Powell 6-5 235 Newbury Park (Calif.) High
OT Chris Putton 6-4 275 Glendale Cactus