Marquis Flowers was on the cover of the Arizona edition of ESPN Rise magazine in October.
As of late Wednesday night, with all but a trickle of signees still to come across the country, Arizona’s recruiting class was ranked close to the bottom of the Pac-10.
Rivals.com ranked the Wildcats eighth in the Pac-10 and 36th in the nation. Scout.com pegged Arizona ninth in the league and 40th nationally, even below Washington State.
That’s not quite the ratings that were expected after two bowl seasons and plenty of positive momentum in the past two years, but I’m a big fan of taking the rankings as a good dose of entertainment, not gospel.
Arizona signed a total of 23 players, including Texas transfer receiver Dan Buckner (who has to sit out this season under transfer rules) and two mid-year junior college transfers.
Coach Mike Stoops doesn’t need a lot of immediate help on offense, needing mostly depth on the offensive line, which he got. Defense is a different story, with pressing concerns at defensive tackle, linebacker and safety. Stoops and his staff seemed to address that just fine.
So, no, the class rankings aren’t exactly going to send the fan message boards into a buzz, but it appears as if the impact players come at all the right spots … and, at this point, Stoops has earned a bit of trust in the kind of players he identifies and signs.
Here are five players we’re most looking forward to seeing in action right away. Call them the top five impact players:
1. S Marquis Flowers, Goodyear Millennium High School
He’s the headliner of the class, the top-rated recruit in the state, which is a rare get for the Wildcats. “Marquis Flowers is a very unique individual,” Stoops said. “A big safety who can run. A very athletic safety. One of the best I have seen all year.” At 6-3, 200, Flowers gives Arizona two young, big, athletic safeties, joining one of the top recruits from the 2009 class — Adam Hall.
2. DT Willie Mobley, Orange Coast CC
Arizona tried to recruit him out of high school, but Mobley signed at Ohio State, where he redshirted in 2008. He tried to transfer to UCLA (where the Bruins thought he was the answer to their decimated defensive tackle position), but he didn’t qualify, and his recruiting relationship with UA assistant Mike Tuiasosopo led him to Tucson. He didn’t play in junior college and has three seasons of eligibility remaining. Stoops said Mobley, combined with Saneilia Fuimaono and Kirifi Leuta-Taula, are the “best three interior defensive linemen we have recruited in some time.”
3. LB Derek Earls, North Dakota State College
Arizona has to replace all three of its starting linebackers, which meant it was critical to get immediate help. Finding a couple of talented mid-year transfers was critical and Earls (6-3, 230) fits the bill as a NJCAA first-team All-American. Stoops said he saw Earls and the other JC transfer linebacker, Paul Vassallo, work out Wednesday for the first time. “They did some things athletically that I thought we were getting from them, but it’s nice to see it with your own eyes,” Stoops said.
4. LB Paul Vassallo, Sierra College
Stoops said he didn’t know yet where Earls and Vassallo (6-3, 240) might fit into the linebacker group — inside or outside — but that will be sorted out in spring ball. “They’re big; they’re long. These guys are pretty athletic for their size and they give us a lot of different options,” Stoops said. Vassallo redshirted at Nevada for a season before transferring to junior college, where he has 14.5 sacks in 2008. He missed seven games last season because of a concussion.
5. WR Garic Wharton, Las Vegas Valley High
Arizona has dependable possession-type receivers, but is looking for a bit more pizzazz from the position, such as what Mike Thomas brought to the team in 2008. The Wildcats have moved quarterback Richard Morrison to the position and have added Wharton, whom Stoops called “probably the fastest football player in the country coming out of high school.” Wharton (5-11, 168) is a sprinting star who was an all-around skill player in high school, including returning three kicks for touchdown last season. “He has unique size to him and he is a guy who can the distance at any time,” Stoops said. “He has crazy speed.” (JC transfer Dexter Ransom is a 6-4 receiver who could make a quick impact on the outside for the Wildcats.)