Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez says his 25 new players address “a lot of needs; not all of them,” which is about the best you can hope for on a team that had depth problems last season.
The Wildcats signed 23 players on Wednesday, with two others — Akron transfer linebacker Brian Wagner and high school linebacker C.J. Dozier — already enrolled.
Wagner counts toward last year’s scholarship limit of 25, while Rodriguez said he wasn’t sure how Dozier will count right now.
If Dozier counts in the 2012 class, Arizona has one scholarship left — and that is being held for the possibility that Scottsdale Chaparral star receiver Davonte’ Neal wants to come to Arizona.
Another spot could open if linebacker Cody Ippolito, who signed Wednesday, delays his full-time enrollment until January. Ippolito underwent knee surgery after the high school season, Rodriguez said, and might not be ready to practice in the fall. If not, Ippolito likely will “grayshirt” and go on scholarship next year, freeing up a ride for this season.
Overall, this is a nicely balanced class in terms of position breakdown, with several players having flexibility to play on either side of the ball.
You can check out their UA bios here … and let’s take a position-by-position look, with comments from Rodriguez sprinkled in.
Javelle Allen, Prosper, Texas; Josh Kern, San Antonio
Rodriguez failed to add a mid-year junior college transfer, as he said he wanted to do, and he didn’t get the recruiting centerpiece that Devin Fuller would have been. The national top 100 recruit from New Jersey opted for UCLA.
Rodriguez called his quarterback situation “scary.” He will have one scholarship quarterback in the spring — senior Matt Scott — plus walk-on Tyler D’Amore, an Ironwood Ridge grad who joined the team this semester after a year in junior college.
Slot receiver Richard Morrison, a high school quarterback, will get some reps at the position in the spring.
The Cats figure to need Allen and Kern to be ready-to-play backups. Allen has the prototypical run-pass skills needed in the read-option offense. Kern (6-foot-5) is known more as a pro-style passer but ran plenty as a senior.
Rodriguez on Allen: “He was more of a late developer. But you watch him on film, and this guy was productive. He can run; he throws. And he’s really, really competitive. His coach did an outstanding job.
“His coach talked glowing about how he was the guy who would take the team out there on his own in the summer for seven-on-seven, would lead the team during the season and just had everything you would want in a quarterback. …
“You want to recruit guys who have the ‘it’ factor.”
Rodriguez on Kern, who committed last summer to the former staff: “Thank God he was (committed). We really like Josh. He can throw the football and he can run — and he’s a willing runner. I mean, he likes to mix it up in there. He’s a very competitive guy and an intelligent guy. A tough individual.”
RUNNING BACK (1)
J.T. Washington, Indiatlantic Beach, Fla.
Washington was a late addition to the class, switching his commitment from West Virginia (just another reason for Mountaineer fans to love Rodriguez after taking three defensive assistants).
Washington is a scat-back kind of runner whose make-you-miss skills should fit an offense designed to create defensive space.
“We had been looking for another guy who would fit our offense,” Rodriguez said. “He’s very, very explosive.”
WIDE RECEIVERS (3)
Jarrall Bennett, New Orleans; Clive Georges, Key West, Fla.; Trey Griffey, Orlando, Fla.
Bennett and Georges are noted speedsters, while everyone knows about Griffey’s excellent bloodlines and overall athleticism. Georges and Griffey didn’t really emerge until their senior seasons, which likely hurt their standing among the recruiting services but bodes well for their upside.
Rodriguez called Bennett, a slot receiver, “one of the fastest guys we signed.” He chuckled, though, when he saw Bennett was listed at 5-10, 160.
“He’s probably closer to 5-8, 5-9, and 160 would be if he had all his gear on and if somebody was jumping on his back,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez on Griffey: “He has good speed and he has outstanding ball skills, and he’s an outstanding competitor.”
TIGHT END (1)
Keoni Bush-Loo, Honolulu
Bush-Loo could also play defensive end, but tight end is a position of need for the Cats. It’s a spot sometimes not associated with a Rich Rodriguez offense, but think how effective Oregon has been using tight ends in the read-option offense. We’ll see if Bush-Loo can be a stretch-the-defense kind of threat.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (4)
Beau Boyster, Bellflower, Calif.; Cayman Bundage, Oklahoma City; T.D. Gross, Santee, Calif.; Zach Hemmila, Chandler
Kudos to the former coaching staff, who secured commitments from each — and the re-hiring of line coach Robert Anae sure helped keep them all on board. With good depth here, these guys can be groomed for 2013.
Rodriguez said Gross is most likely to be a tackle among this quartet, although he added Bundage could probably play anywhere.
“He may be the most athletic lineman that we signed,” Rodriguez said. “Very strong, very quick feet.”
Hemmila is the only UA signee who was a four-star recruit from more than one recruiting service. He likely will begin at guard, but could be a center, Rodriguez said.
“Tough guy. Plays hard,” Rodriguez said. “You can see he loves football.”
Boyster should get extra notice in this recruiting class because he took a lead role in trying to keep the committed players together after coach Mike Stoops was fired at midseason.
“He really did a nice job in the interim, when there was no permanent head coach,” Rodriguez said.
“When I took the job, he was one of the first guys I called, because I heard he was kind of acting like de-facto recruiting coordinator. Beau did a nice job. He has a great personality.”
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (3)
Dylan Cozens, Scottsdale; Kyle Kelley, Irvine, Calif.; Dwight Melvin, Laveen
Cozens and Kelley, especially, seem to have the pass-rushing skills that all coaches covet — and that Arizona needs badly. Only one team in the country (UAB) had fewer sacks per game last season than the Cats, who had 10.
Cozens had 7.5 sacks in his only season of organized football. Kelley, a Parade All-American, posted an amazing 41 sacks in his final two years of high school ball.
Rodriguez on Cozens: “We thought he was one of the best defensive ends we saw this year in high school, period. He has a great upside. He’s a tough guy. He’s athletic. He’s the kind of player we can build our program around in the sense that he has a high motor and he loves the game. We’re really excited about Dylan because he’s a guy who can rush the passer and still learn the game.”
Rodriguez used many of the same descriptions for Kelley: High-motor. Tough. Outstanding athlete.
Melvin could play inside or outside. Read more about his recruitment from his chat in the Arizona Republic.
Dakota Conwell, Pittsburgh; C.J. Dozier, Temecula, Calif.; Cody Ippolito, Scottsdale; Brian Wagner, Dayton, Ohio
This is a huge area of need for the Wildcats, and Wagner — a graduate transfer from Akron who is the nation’s leading returning tackler — is likely the biggest impact newcomer on the roster.
Rodriguez was a teammate of Conwell’s father at West Virginia. Dane Conwell was a fullback.
“Dane was an outstanding player, a tough guy, and Dakota is the same way,” Rodriguez said.
Conwell, a four-star recruit by Scout.com, de-committed from Pitt before picking Arizona. He also was a standout quarterback in high school, but projects as an outside linebacker with the Cats.
Arizona moved quickly to land Dozier and get him into school after he de-committed from ASU.
“He’s in the middle of workouts now and doing a nice job,” Rodriguez said.
DEFENSIVE BACKS (4)
Jamar Allah, Phoenix; William Parks, Philadelphia; Yamen Sanders, Culver City, Calif.; Leo Thomas, San Antonio
Rodriguez identified this position group as one of the team’s biggest needs, certainly in terms of depth because the Cats will be using five defensive backs at all time. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel loved to have rangy defensive backs for his 3-3-5 scheme at West Virginia, and note that all four of these guys are at least 6-feet tall.
Allah, who switched late from Arizona State, is a cornerback. Parks is athletic enough to play cornerback but could also grow into a safety, Rodriguez said. Thomas might be able to play both spots, too. Time will tell.
Sanders is 6-4 and projects as a safety; his father, Yamen Sanders Sr., was a 6-9 center for USC in the early 1990s after transferring from Central Michigan. Sanders Sr. was part of USC teams that upset sixth-ranked Arizona in 1991 and second-ranked UA in 1992.
“He comes from pretty good genes,” Rodriguez said of Sanders.
Wayne Capers, Bridgeville, Pa.; Bryan Harper, Ontario, Calif., Anthony Lopez, Gilbert
Capers is interesting because his name came out of the blue on Signing Day, but not for a lack of athleticism.
His father, Wayne Capers Sr., was a receiver at Kansas and was a second-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1983. He played four seasons in the NFL, two with the Steelers, two with Indianapolis.
Capers Jr. could never catch a break in high school. A foot injury cut short his sophomore year. He tore an ACL in the first game of his junior year. A mid-season leg injury limited him as a senior. At one point, he held offers from Penn State, Pitt and West Virginia, among others.
He played a lot of quarterback in high school because his team needed him, but receiver or safety are his more natural spots. Look for him to be tried first on defense. Capers held several mid-major basketball scholarship offers (one story said Duquesne wanted him for both sports).
“He’s 6-1, and you can get on YouTube and watch him dunk a basketball pretty easily,” Rodriguez said. “He’s very explosive.”
Rodriguez is right. A video of Capers dunking is at the bottom of this post.
Harper was a nice way for Arizona to cap Signing Day, as he picked the Cats over Oregon and UCLA. Sounds like receiver or safety could be his starting point, but he can also play quarterback, so it will be interesting to see if he gets in that mix in the fall.
“One of the best athletes we thought we saw on film,” Rodriguez said of Harper. “Just a great young man. You can watch his film, talk to him and see how competitive he is.”
Lopez was a running back in high school but might end up as a slot receiver or at safety, Rodriguez said.
Arizona’s 2012 recruiting class
|Jamar Allah||DB||6-1||190||North Canyon HS (Phoenix)||2 stars||2||2|
|Javelle Allen||QB||6-2||204||Prosper (Texas) HS||2 stars||3||3|
|Jarrell Bennett||WR||5-10||160||Edna Karr (New Orleans)||3 stars||3||2|
|Beau Boyster||OT||6-4||275||St. John Bosco HS (Bellflower, Calif.)||3 stars||3||3|
|Cayman Bundage||OL||6-2||285||Douglass HS (Oklahoma City)||3 stars||3||3|
|Keoni Bush-Loo||TE||6-4||240||Kamehama School (Honolulu)||2 stars||2||3|
|Wayne Capers||ATH||6-1||205||Chartiers Valley HS (Bridgeville, Pa.)||3 stars||3||3|
|Dakota Conwell||LB||6-2||205||Upper Saint Clair HS (Pittsburgh)||3 stars||3||4|
|Dylan Cozens||DE||6-5||245||Chaparral HS (Scottsdale)||3 stars||3||3|
|C.J. Dozier*||LB||6-2||210||Chaparral HS (Temecula, Calif.)||3 stars||3||3|
|Clive Georges||WR||6-1||160||Key West (Fla.) HS||2 stars||3||3|
|Trey Griffey||WR||6-2||190||Dr. Phillips HS (Orlando, Fla.)||3 stars||3||2|
|T.D. Gross||OL||6-6||255||Santana HS (Santee, Calif.)||2 stars||2||3|
|Bryan Harper||ATH||6-0||180||Colony HS (Ontario, Calif.)||3 stars||3||3|
|Zach Hemmila||OL||6-3||275||Chandler HS||4 stars||4||3|
|Cody Ippolito||LB||6-0||210||Chaparral HS (Scottsdale)||2 stars||2||2|
|Kyle Kelley||DE||6-3||230||Woodbridge HS (Irvine, Calif.)||3 stars||4||3|
|Josh Kern||QB||6-5||190||Clark HS (San Antonio)||3 stars||3||2|
|Anthony Lopez||RB||5-10||185||Mesquite HS (Gilbert)||2 stars||3||3|
|Dwight Melvin||DE||6-1||265||Betty H. Fairfax HS (Laveen)||3 stars||3||2|
|William Parks||DB||6-0||175||Germantown Friends School (Philadelphia)||3 stars||3||2|
|Yamen Sanders||S||6-4||190||Culver City (Calif.) HS||2 stars||2||3|
|Leo Thomas||DB||6-3||180||Sam Houston HS (San Antonio)||3 stars||3||3|
|Bryan Wagner*||LB||6-2||235||University of Akron||NA||NA||NA|
|J.T. Washington||RB||5-7||165||Satellite Beach (Fla.) HS||2 stars||2||3|