College Football Recruiting: Grading Arizona

By James Gomez

As we draw ever closer to the 2012 college football season, let us look beyond to the recruiting classes being built by Pac-12 programs for 2013.  Today our journey begins in the American Southwest where a new head coach is attempting to return a once proud program to national recognition.  Rich Rodriguez has been handed the headset to the University of Arizona football team.

As a college football fan in general, it is hard not to be interested in what is set to transpire in Tuscon.  The coaching philosophy of Rodriguez signifies the stark difference between the college and pro game.  Rodriguez employs a quirky spread option shotgun offense with a rarely seen 3-3-5 defensive formation.

Turning a program around isn’t an easy task even when there is little change in strategic philosophy.  If anyone knows the difficulty of installing a brand new playbook it is Rodriguez.  Michigan hired Rodriguez to take their new habit of mediocrity to the top of the Big Ten.  The first year under Rodriguez was historically bad, finishing with a mere three wins.  However, Rodriguez’s bunch won five and seven games in his second and third season.  Improvement was clearly shown but it was not nearly fast enough for the faithful in Ann Arbor.

Hiring Rodriguez isn’t a quick fix philosophy.  His offensive and defensive systems require specific player skill sets that take time to recruit and mature.  If Rodriguez has one thing going in his favor, it is Arizona should have more patience than Michigan.  Former Wildcat coach Mike Stoops inherited a disaster.  It took Stoops three seasons to get the snowball moving down the mountain, but once he did, three bowl appearances ensued in a row from 2008-10.  In 2010 season Arizona reached as high as 9 in the AP Poll before falling outside of the top 25 at seasons end.

Stoops overstayed his welcome last season when Arizona digressed to a 4-8 season and was even dismissed during the campaign.

After Stoops dismal, he was more than happy to criticize Arizona’s facilities or lack thereof, rating the Wildcats below Mountain West programs.  Arizona administrators must improve the cosmetic look to the program, and it would appear they are doing just that.  According to university regents, a new upgrade to the north end-zone is expected to be in place for this season providing a better experience for both players and fans.

The class of 2013 is promising.  For Rodriguez’s offense to score points it needs a quarterback that has the ability to run and pass keeping the opposing defense on their heels.  Las Vegas quarterback Anu Solomon meets the criteria.  At 6’1″ 202 lbs Solomon looks like a Tim Tebow light on film.  Where Solomon lacks in Tebow’s size, he is equally adept at making plays in the passing game.

Logan Stott of St. George, Utah is another solid verbal commitment for 2013.  The offensive lineman is considered be a physical run blocker with FBS size.  On tape, Stott dominates defensive lineman consistently in the run game.

Both Stott and Solomon are four star recruits as rated by Rivals.  Rodriguez has a bevy of three star commits for 2013 as well, totaling 10 in all.  In fact, no Pac-12 school has as many verbal commitments, 22, as Arizona.  Rivals ranks Arizona as the third best class in the Pac-12 as of today.

While  Michigan proved to be a bad fit for Rodriguez, his alma mater in West Virginia was perfect.  Rodriguez’s last three years in Morgantown were 11 win seasons.  Each squad finished in the AP top 10.  The 2007 team knocked on the door of a possible national championship appearance before being upset by Pittsburgh.

There is reason for Wildcat fans to be hopeful.  Judging Rodriguez on his 2012 class would be unfair because of the coaching change.  If the class of 2013 is any indication, quality players are attracted to Rodriguez’s style.  Overnight success depends on how one defines the word.  If returning a bowl game is the goal, the Wildcats have a decent shot right away.

Arizona is attracting talent.  Rodriguez has chance to build a consistent winner, as no other Pac-12 South school looks truly threatening outside of USC.  The time to buy stock in Arizona is now.  Bear Down for a bright future.

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