UA football: RichRod getting recruits in hurry

2012-01-29T00:00:00Z 2012-01-29T06:49:35Z UA football: RichRod getting recruits in hurryRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 29, 2012 12:00 am  • 

At a party in his New Jersey hometown today, Devin Fuller - a four-star quarterback and one of the top undecided recruits in the nation - will choose between two colleges.

One is in the early stages of a rebuilding process with a new coach, armed mostly with promises of playing time and better days ahead.

That's Rutgers. The other is Arizona.

Perhaps no program in the country has done a better job of razing and rebuilding a reputation in such a short period of time. New coach Rich Rodriguez has stacked his staff with longtime aides, including a defensive coordinator - former West Virginia staffer Jeff Casteel - thought to be among the best in the nation. He has kept nearly all of the Wildcats' impact players from transferring.

And, perhaps most importantly, Rodriguez has made Arizona a national player in recruiting again. Eighteen players from seven states have verbally committed to the UA with three days left before Wednesday's national-letter-of-intent ceremony.

The Scout.com recruiting service lists Arizona's class 59th nationally and 11th among Pac-12 schools, but that will likely improve. The Wildcats plan to add another six or seven players in the coming days, most of whom will boost the UA's team rankings.

A strong finish will put Rodriguez and his staff ahead of schedule, said Brandon Huffman, Scout.com's West Coast recruiting editor.

"The biggest thing with the coaching staff that's hired in November, December or January is the bump they'll get in the following year's class," he said. "If you're are effective and you're good as a recruiter, you don't look at it like, 'Hey, there's five or six weeks left until signing day.' You don't mail it in.

"Rich Rodriguez is hitting the ground running right now, and that's a good sign."

Rodriguez has always been known as a charismatic and charming recruiter. UA commits say he's low-key, a welcome change from those who pressure recruits to make decisions. He's also organized and businesslike, they said.

Kyle Kelley, a Parade All-American and arguably the Wildcats' most accomplished recruit, said Rodriguez "has a good plan for Arizona." The three-star defensive end from Irvine's Woodbridge High School initially committed to former coach Mike Stoops, but he liked Rodriguez so much that he stayed.

"He was a great guy, fun to talk to and he connects with you well," Kelley said.

San Antonio safety Leo Thomas agreed. He verbally committed to Stoops only to decommit - and then recommit to the UA last week. Thomas is hesitant to compare Rodriguez and Stoops, but said the Cats' new coach was "more real" on the recruiting trail.

The next week will prove just how real Rodriguez is.

Fuller, an Old Tappan High School star and the top dual-threat quarterback in the country, is one of Arizona's top two remaining targets. He threw for 2,247 yards and 20 touchdowns and rushed for 1,326 yards and 17 touchdowns as a senior last fall, and was named a U.S. Army All-American. Scout.com lists Fuller as the nation's third-ranked quarterback; he's expected to choose between Arizona and Rutgers.

He is "absolutely key" for Arizona for a number of reasons, Huffman said.

"Not only does he have the talent to bolster a team, but perception-wise, it's big," he said. "If Rodriguez can go to the East Coast and Big East Country and grab him, it'd be huge. Fuller is a big-time national prospect, the kind of guy that can make or break a recruiting class."

A Fuller commitment could start a chain reaction. UA coaches are courting some of Phoenix's best remaining talent, and have convinced Scottsdale Chaparral wideout Devonte Neal, the state's best player, to visit Tucson on Feb. 10.

With a few commitments and a little luck, the Wildcats will be more than back. They'll be players again.

"For a class that looked like it was growing stagnant, for them to rally like that is going to do a huge boost," Huffman said. "If RichRod and his staff can do this in six weeks or two months, what can they do in 52 weeks?"

Arizona's 2012 recruiting class

QB Javelle Allen 6-0 205 Prosper, Texas (Prosper HS)

WR Jarrell Bennett 5-9 155 New Orleans, La. (Edna Karr HS)

DT Gerron Borne 6-2 270 Reserve, La. (East Saint John HS)

C Beau Boyster 6-4 275 Bellflower, Calif. (St. John Bosco HS)

OG Cayman Bundage 6-2 280 Oklahoma City (Douglass HS)

TE Keoni Bush-Loo 6-3 238 Honolulu (Kamehameha School)

LB Dakota Conwell 6-2 205 Pittsburgh (Upper Saint Clair HS)

LB C.J. Dozier 6-2 210 Temecula, Calif. (Chaparral HS)

OT T.D. Gross 6-6 250 Santee, Calif. (Santana HS)

OG Zach Hemmila 6-3 275 Chandler (Chandler HS)

DE Kyle Kelley 6-3 230 Irvine, Calif. (Woodbridge HS)

QB Josh Kern 6-5 185 San Antonio, Texas (Tom Clark HS)

RB Anthony Lopez 5-10 185 Gilbert (Mesquite HS)

DT Dwight Melvin 6-1 265 Laveen (Betty H. Fairfax HS)

CB William Parks 6-1 175 Philadelphia (Germantown HS)

S Yamen Sanders 6-4 185 Culver City, Calif. (Culver City HS)

S Leo Thomas 6-3 175 San Antonio, Texas (Houston HS)

Arizona's top remaining targets

QB Devin Fuller 6-0 185 Old Tappan, N.J. (Old Tappan HS)

DE Dylan Cozens 6-5 235 Scottsdale (Chaparral HS)

WR Davonte Neal 5-9 185 Scottsdale (Chaparral HS)

WR Javon Williams 6-5 186 Chandler (Chandler HS)

Signing day

• What: National letter-of- intent day

• When: Wednesday

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