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Arizona football: RichRod, Cats putting together top-25 class

2013-02-03T00:00:00Z Arizona football: RichRod, Cats putting together top-25 classDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
February 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Six weeks after Rich Rodriguez was hired by the Arizona Wildcats, he got his first verbal commitment.

Temecula, Calif., linebacker C.J. Dozier made an impact right away, playing in nine of 13 games as a true freshman and posting a team-high 15 tackles in Arizona's New Mexico Bowl victory.

If it always worked like that, recruiting would be easy.

But, it doesn't.

For every Dozier, there's a Leo Thomas. The safety committed to the Wildcats a week before signing day in 2012. He left the team after four days of practice.

Recruiting can be a fickle process.

But in his 14-plus months on the job, Rodriguez and his staff has made a mark on the recruiting trail.

"They have had a big impact on the Pac-12 and West Coast recruiting in general," said Brandon Huffman, a national analyst for the Scout.com recruiting service. "Mike Stoops did not give California the attention it deserved, and Rodriguez has rectified that."

National signing day is Wednesday, and the Wildcats currently have 26 commitments. Scout ranks their class 24th in the country and sixth in the Pac-12.

Here's a closer look at the class and Rodriguez's strong recruiting start:

Who's coming in

Quarterback Anu Solomon is the headliner. A four-star recruit out of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School, Solomon is the prototypical dual-threat quarterback that Rodriguez likes to have in his system.

The 6-foot-1-inch, 205-pound signal-caller is rated as the No. 2 dual-threat QB in the 2013 class by Rivals.com and was recently labeled as the true freshman quarterback expected to have the biggest impact in 2013 by Sports Illustrated.

"He's a guy who can make plays with his legs and arms," Huffman said. "He's similar to (former UA quarterback) Matt Scott in that he can do both well. And the biggest thing about him is that he's a winner. He has all the intangibles."

Solomon is one of three four-star recruits in the UA's 2013 class. The other two, running back Pierre Cormier and cornerback Derek Babiash, come from the San Diego area.

"The work they've done in San Diego is really impressive," Huffman said. "That's a place that has always been untapped, and now you see Arizona working to get in there."

The success in not only San Diego, but all of California, is a bit of a surprise considering Rodriguez's staff had previously done almost all of their recruiting on the East Coast.

Who they are

Rodriguez has mostly stayed away from junior college recruits in his second recruiting cycle. Only five UA commits come from junior colleges. (On the flip side, Arizona State and coach Todd Graham have nine.)

Rodriguez has focused on recruiting high school talent that his staff can develop during their time in Tucson.

Running back has been an early focus for the Wildcats. In addition to Cormier, the UA has a commitment from three-star back Zach Green and is hoping to hold on to junior college transfer Mario Alford, who, despite being committed to the UA, recently visited West Virginia.

Wide receiver has also been a hot spot: Five have committed to this class.

Arizona's incoming players are speedy, if sometimes undersized. Rodriguez prized speed during previous stops at Michigan and West Virginia.

"He's gotten his conventional undersized type of slot receivers and also has his smaller, shiftier guys at running back," Huffman said.

What's next

On Jan. 12, the Wildcats got their first commitment for 2014 when Salpointe Catholic High School's Cameron Denson pledged to the UA.

It's a good start.

Denson is a four-star recruit who is ranked as the eighth-best wide receiver prospect in the country by Scout.

So, how did Rodriguez and the Wildcats get him?

"Coach Rod is a very personable guy who connects well with his players," Salpointe coach Dennis Bene said. "Cam felt completely comfortable with him. I think that stood out to (Denson) the most - that he was able to develop such a strong relationship with all of the coaches in such a short time."

Bene has had his fair share of college head coaches come through Salpointe. The coach said he always looks for two things - that the coach really knows the athlete he's talking to and that he's honest in his assessment of the player.

"He does both of those things very well, and so does his entire staff," Bene said. "They are honest and up front and in recruiting, that's all you can ask for."

A Scouting Sample Size

Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez has received 40 verbal commitments since he was hired in Nov. 2011. Here's a closer look at the group.

Where they're from: California (14), Arizona (8), Florida (4), Pennsylvania and Georgia (3), Oregon and Texas (2), Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico and Hawaii (1).

Who he's recruiting: Linebackers (9), wide receivers (8), cornerbacks (7), running backs (4), defensive linemen (4), quarterbacks (3), offensive linemen/tight ends (3), safeties (2)

The average Rich Rod recruit in height and weight: QB: 6-1, 207; RB: 5-10, 184; WR: 5-11, 176; OL: 6-4 1/2, 305; TE: 6-3, 238; DL: 6-4 1/2, 244; LB: 6-2, 213; CB: 6-0, 191; S: 6-3 1/2, 180.

By the numbers

How Rich Rodriguez's 40 verbal commitments since 2012 are ranked by Scout.com:

4

Four stars

27

Three stars

9

Two stars

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