Arizona’s players are off on Mondays, but Chris Singletary is not. Arizona’s recruiting coordinator rarely rests — and certainly not now.
The Wildcats are the talk of Tucson — and the Pac-12 — thanks to star quarterback Khalil Tate.
Sitting in his office at Arizona’s Lowell-Stevens Football Facility last week, Singletary begins to talk about Tate’s performance and how it will help the Wildcats’ recruiting efforts. As he speaks, his phone buzzes. It will buzz again and again over the course of a 30-minute conversation.
If Arizona’s phones weren’t ringing before, they certainly are now — the No. 23 Wildcats are 6-2, ranked in the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in two years. With a win over No. 17 USC this weekend in Los Angeles, Arizona can take the lead in the Pac-12 South division.
“Kids that we’ve evaluated have always been receptive throughout this year,” Singletary said. “That train is continuing. But winning helps. Winning keeps that fire burning, the momentum; it keeps Arizona on everyone’s mind and that’s a good thing.”
Recently, UA coach Rich Rodriguez indicated the Wildcats would likely only sign 18 players in the 2018 recruiting cycle, seven fewer than the 25 allowed per NCAA rules. The reason: Arizona’s 2017 class was large, and Michigan State transfer Thiyo Lukusa joined the team in training camp.
Rodriguez changed his tune slightly on Monday.
“There has been a little uptick as far as guys answering phones quicker, texting us,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know how many we are going to sign, but we’re having a lot more interest now all of a sudden.”
Arizona had 12 verbal commitments on Oct. 7, when Tate came off the bench to set an FBS quarterback rushing record with 327 yards in a win over Colorado.
The Wildcats have since added five commitments — four players for the class of 2018 and one for 2019. (A sixth commit, Pima College safety Haki Woods, has since reopened his recruitment.)
Of those five, four — running back Martell Irby, receiver Thomas Marcus, offensive lineman Donovan Laie and athlete Casey Kline — come from Southern California, Arizona’s main recruiting area. Before this wave of commitments, the Wildcats had just five players from Southern California committed for 2018.
“Certainly there’s guys in Southern California that know about Khalil Tate; that’s helped a little bit,” Rodriguez said.
Added Singletary: “It’s always a benefit to have a player that can bring some notoriety to your program — not just in your region where the school is located, but nationally. That’s been beneficial.”
Arizona’s 16-person recruiting class is still only ranked 63rd nationally (and ninth in the Pac-12) by Scout.com. The UA’s highest-rated recruit is a Mykee Irving, a three-star defensive tackle, though that could change with continued on-field success.
This 2018 class will be Singletary’s second as the head of Arizona’s recruiting department. During Arizona’s successful 2017 recruiting cycle, he split some duties with Matt Dudek, who has since departed for Michigan.
Ironically, Singletary is a Michigan alumnus who spent years working in Ann Arbor under Rodriguez, Lloyd Carr, Brady Hoke and Jim Harbaugh before relocating to Tucson last year.
“I got here the Monday after Valentine’s Day, and I love it,” Singletary said. “I like it a lot. I was already excited, and now I’ve been here a full year and I enjoy it. I enjoy the town, I enjoy the culture of the department and the people. There’s definitely no second-guessing.”
The 2018 recruiting class will be Singletary’s baby. There’s still a lot of work to be done to make the class nationally relevant, or respected, but the combination of winning, Khalil Tate and buzz-building, it seems, is helping.
“There’s a lot of good players out there, a lot of guys interested in wearing that Block A and getting their Arizona degree,” Singletary said. “Recruiting never stops. It’s fun.”