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Arizona football recruiting notebook: Class receives tepid reviews

Arizona's finish near Signing Day helped Mike Stoops appear to have a brighter future.
Photo by Chris Morrison, US-PRESSWIRE

Signing Day has come and gone, and while some teams still have some pending business, the recruiting rankings are pretty much set.

As of Thursday morning:

–Rivals.com ranked Arizona’s 22-player recruiting class eighth in the Pac-12.

–Scout.com ranked Arizona last in the Pac-12 and 68th in the country.

–ESPN.com ranked the Wildcats seventh in the league.

Arizona’s Mike Stoops delivered from the coaches’ playbook on Wednesday — saying this class filled some needs and that “you get the people you’re supposed to get” — but he also acknowledged that this group of recruits wouldn’t light up the recruiting services’ rankings.

“Star” rankings aren’t the end-all in the recruiting world. In most cases, you would like to sign a five-star kid over a four-star kid, a four-star player over a three-star player … and so forth.

But beyond identifying a handful of can’t-miss prospects — who do miss about half of the time — there isn’t much difference between a player who just ekes into four-star status and one that just misses being a three-star recruit.

Or have you forgotten that Arizona receiver Juron Criner was a two-star prospect?

The Wildcats are sending four players to the NFL Combine this year — offensive lineman Adam Grant, and defensive ends Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore and D’Aundre Reed. None was a four-star recruit.

That said, “winning the offseason” means rallying the fans around at least some high-powered talent, which Arizona got with the Signing Day announcements of running back Ka’Deem Carey and receiver Patrick Onwuasor, both members of the Tacoma News-Tribune’s Western 100 list.

Also down the stretch, Arizona landed linebacker Domonique Petties and cornerback Cortez Johnson, who appear to be two of the better athletes in this class.

“I’m really pleased with the way it finished for us,” Stoops said. “Things were starting to unravel a little bit, and we were able to pull it together and close with a flurry. I think we closed with some of our best players in the last 48 hours. That’s a good way to end.”

Welcome to the middle

Stoops said Arizona will try offensive lineman Jacob Arzouman from Salpointe Catholic High School at center.

“Certainly, Jacob is a guy who is coming into his own as a player,” Stoops said. “I think he’s a little bit raw, but we were impressed with him ever since we had him in camp. I love his upside. I love his attitude. I love his intelligence.”

Kicking competition

Arizona signed kicker Jaimie Salazer from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas to provide competition to embattled incumbent Alex Zendejas. Salazar will arrive in the summer.

“The kicking game is something that cost us a great deal and that contributed to some of our problems at the end of the season. That is certainly something we addressed,” Stoops said.

“All positions are open. We understand that. Certainly, Alex understands that.”

Stoops said the staff wanted to bring in a junior college kicker because of that player has experience kicking off the ground in games, as opposed to high school players who use a tee.

“I think it takes a year for a high school kicker to adjust to kicking everything off different surfaces,” Stoops said.

He said it

“If they’re single-covered and they don’t get the ball, then somebody will get fired.” — Stoops, imagining the possibilities of receivers Juron Criner and Dan Buckner on opposite sides of the field.

He said it, Part II

“Pushing our program from good to great is a very hard step to take. It is one that we have struggled with continually.” — Stoops

Playing early

Among the freshman, it’s easy to see running backs Ka’Deem Carey or Jared Baker making a contribution early because they both appear to have the speed and big-play ability that Arizona could use.

Stoops identified 6-foot-2 cornerback Cortez Johnson, from New Orleans, as another possibility.

“Cortez will be a guy who will compete right off the bat for playing time,” Stoops said.

About 20 years ago, secondary coach Duane Akina helped turn another New Orleans defensive back — Tony Bouie — into an All-American.

More recruiting coverage from the TucsonCitizen.com Sports Network:

Stoops: New assistants will help Arizona ‘own’ Polynesian recruiting

Rutgers transfer quarterback Tom Savage sets recruiting visit to Arizona

Ka’Deem Carey on signing with Arizona: ‘I felt it’ (plus video)

Carey’s signing shows rare loyalty within the state

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