Matt Dudek punched out his first Twitter message Wednesday at 3:54 a.m., was in the office by 4:20, and had in his possession Arizona’s first football letter of intent at 5:42.
It was too dark to golf and too early to order coffee at the corner store.
In mid-afternoon, Dudek told a joke about sleeping during recruiting season and correlated it to dying.
As with all in Rich Rodriguez’s employ, Dudek will be given Friday and Monday off, a rare four-day weekend, and by early next week will launch deeply into the 2015 recruiting campaign.
Dudek’s title is relatively new to college football: director of on-campus recruiting and player personnel. His job description is less complicated: 24/7.
If you don’t have someone as personable, energetic and capable as Matt Dudek in your college football operation, if your system isn’t engineered by a demanding, CEO-type like RichRod, you are doomed. The game spins on recruiters as much as it does those they recruit.
Do you understand why it became necessary for Arizona to hire RichRod?
Because Mike Stoops couldn’t retain men like Dudek.
Stoops hit it out of the park in his third Arizona recruiting class in February 2006, assembling such a deep and capable group that the Wildcats would ultimately climb into the Top 10 and get within a game of the Rose Bowl.
Earl Mitchell and Brooks Reed would get to the NFL. Ricky Elmore would be a force. Cam Nelson, Devin Ross, Colin Baxter, Conan Amituanai, Lolomana Mikaele and Nate Ness would be the backbone of teams that went to the Holiday and Alamo bowls.
It wasn’t recruiting that cost Stoops his job and Arizona its place as an on-the-rise football power. It was losing those who recruited those kids.
Joe Robinson left for a job at LSU. Eric Wolford jumped at a similar position at Illinois. Dana Dimel went to Kansas State and Charlie Williams to North Carolina.
Even Stoops’ recruiting guy, the Matt Dudek of 2006, Dan Berezowitz, accepted a position at Minnesota. Yes, Minnesota.
“When you lose two or three coaches at a time, you lose recruiting continuity, and I think it hurt the program,” RichRod said Wednesday. “You want continuity because of schemes, but more than anything, you want it for recruiting.
“We all understand what we are looking for when we are recruiting. Everybody is on the same page of what young athlete we are looking for.”
If a coach is going to be successful in college football, his third recruiting class must be a home run. He’s had enough time to establish some footing, get to know the neighborhood, and create an identity, no matter what he inherited.
“We met a lot of our needs and some of our wants,” RichRod said Wednesday. He couldn’t fully say that in 2012 or 2013.
RichRod’s third recruiting class, clearly his best (on paper) at Arizona, was put into place not only by him and by Dudek, but by five coaches who have been together since RichRod’s West Virginia days: Jeff Casteel, Rod Smith, Calvin Magee, Bill Kirelawich and Tony Dews.
There were few surprises in a game driven by surprise.
Indeed, one of the UA’s top signees, La Jolla, Calif., offensive tackle Jordan Poland, who had committed to USC, indicated that the reason he flipped to Arizona was related to the Trojans’ communication breakdown in the switch from coach Lane Kiffin to Steve Sarkisian.
Dick Tomey’s third recruiting class, in 1989, was hugely successful, including future regulars Jimmy Hopkins, Billy Johnson, Anthony Smith, Rod Lewis, Michael Bates and Rick Warren.
That’s because Tomey had seven assistant coaches in their third seasons at UA.
And Larry Smith’s third UA recruiting class, in 1982, might’ve been as good or better than any in school history: David Adams, Byron Evans, Brent Wood, Allan Durden, John Kaiser, Jon Horton, Alfred Jenkins, Max Zendejas and Jay Dobyns.
Eight of Smith’s assistants were in Year 3 at Arizona. The Wildcats would use that group to reach No. 3 in the nation after the first month of the 1983 season.
RichRod’s third recruiting class has a lot to like, and much of it connects to his resourceful nature. He has already enrolled nine transfers, from coveted junior-college linebacker Antonio Smothers to former LSU quarterback Jerrard Randall.
Those nine transfers are designed to fill the gaps still left by Stoops’ last recruiting class, from 2011.
“Our recruiting has gotten better and better every year,” RichRod said. His roster is now stocked with players who are older, faster and more athletic.
The vast reconstruction of Arizona’s football program is not yet complete, but the wiring is done and cement has been poured.
Now it’s a matter of identifying a new quarterback and finding a way to beat the Sun Devils.