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Arizona football notes: Now is the time for Cats’ recruiting to be strong in-state

Cameron Denson

Cameron Denson is part of an elite group of in-state recruits in the 2014 class. Photo by Andy Morales, TucsonCitizen.com

Emptying the football notebook after last week’s Signing Day and looking ahead …

The Arizona Wildcats have one committed player for their 2014 class — Salpointe Catholic receiver/defensive back Cameron Denson. Based on the early rankings, he could be the highest-rated recruit of the still-young Rich Rodriguez era.

The major recruiting websites have checked in with their 2014 lists, so let’s have a look.

Denson is:

–41st nationally by 247Sports

–51st by Scout.com

–64th by Rivals.com

Denson is a great start for Arizona as it tries to build its brand in-state. Arizona State, with its third-year coach, Todd Graham, is trying to do the same.

Each coach talks about owning the state in recruiting — “we don’t want just a couple of them; we want them all,” Rodriguez said of the best prospects — but neither program has secured the borders in recent years.

Arizona and Arizona State each signed just one of the state’s top 10 recruits, as ranked by Rivals.com. Linebacker Chans Cox (No. 3) is a Sun Devil; linebacker DeAndre Miller is a Wildcat.

UCLA signed three of the state’s top 10 recruits.

While Arizona and ASU have had key in-state recruiting wins recently — Ka’Deem Carey to Arizona; D.J. Foster to ASU; Marquis Flowers to Arizona; Jaxon Hood to ASU — but there hasn’t been enough of them.

In the past four recruiting classes, the Wildcats and Sun Devils have each signed just five top 10 players in the state. So, 75 percent of the top talent in Arizona has gone elsewhere in the past four years.

Now is the time for Arizona and/or Arizona State to make a move. The state is brimming with elite talent this season, with Rivals.com ranking five players in the national 100 — and seven in the top 150.

* * *

The number of recruits rated a three-star prospect by a particular recruiting service is usually between 1,300 and 1,400. From that pack, Scout.com picked 15 “who could star at the next level.”

One of those was Arizona signee Zachary Green, a running back from Ventura, Calif.

Wrote Brandon Huffman for Scout: “The most productive college running back in the country this year was Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, once a three-star recruit. Green can be that same type of back for head coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense, and if Carey leaves after his 2013 season, Green may have a chance to do it even earlier than expected.”

Green and Pierre Cormier — a four-star recruit by Scout.com — are a nice combination. Either could push for playing time in 2013. Backup Daniel Jenkins transferred to Washington State as a graduate student.

There’s little experience behind Carey: Senior Kylan Butler, sophomore Jared Baker and redshirt freshman J.T. Washington.

“Zach is kind of a workhorse type, a big guy,” Rodriguez said.

“He runs hard. He has great short-area quickness; good feet. Very strong. Pierre is maybe more of a home-run guy. He has outstanding speed.

“I think tailback depth is an issue for us. Ka’Deem had a lot of carries, but we like to play more than just two guys. I would like to have three or four guys in a rotation because we do play two at the same time a lot.”

Signees T.J. Johnson and Mauriece Lee can also play running back, but are projected as receivers. Rodriguez said Johnson might be the fastest player in this class.

* * *

Two Arizona players, both interior defensive linemen, are in the middle of their Mormon mission — Aiulua Fanene and Saneilia Fuimaono — and could return for the 2014 spring semester.

Will they be back? Hard to say right now. Rodriguez is a new coach to them.

“There has been communication and I’m happy to welcome them back to the program,” said Rodriguez, adding he gets an e-mail from them perhaps once a week.

Fanene and Fuimaono each played as freshmen in 2011, combining for 11 tackles and three starts. Each played at about 300 pounds, and their size is something Arizona could use in 2014.

* * *

Arizona’s 2012 recruiting class was mostly done before the start of last season. The Wildcats received only five commitments after mid-August, and a couple of those were needed only after UA lost a couple of committed recruits.

The early commitments weren’t necessarily a blueprint for future classes; it just worked out that way.

“I think it’s an anomaly, personally,” said Matt Dudek, the program’s director of on-campus recruiting and player personnel.

“Would we love to have it done early? Absolutely. I think this year was just one of those years that was done early, and every class will be different.”

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