In Las Vegas for a golf tournament, Rich Rodriguez was enjoying the music of Toby Keith and the comedy of Larry the Cable Guy on Monday night.
Consider it multitasking.
While Rodriguez was jamming out to “I Love This Bar” in Sin City, the Arizona football coach was gambling on two running backs, one of whom played for UNLV.
Rodriguez and the Wildcats received a verbal commitment from former Rebels back Adonis Smith for 2014 on Tuesday, a day after ex-Illinois back Dami Ayoola pledged to Arizona for 2015.
Smith, who started his career at Northwestern, will arrive on campus this summer and has one year of eligibility left. The senior will be able to play right away.
“I just felt the offense is a great offense,” Smith said. “I think Coach Rodriguez is a great coach, and I’ve been watching him for years. It was just a good fit for me.”
There isn’t a scholarship available for Smith, but that could change with a player departure or two before fall camp in August.
Smith, a native of Northern California, prepped at San Mateo Serra High School, where he was a three-star recruit. He initially signed with Northwestern over offers from Utah, San Diego State, Washington State and others.
He spent two seasons with Northwestern before transferring to UNLV after the 2011 season. Smith sat out 2012 per NCAA rules, then played in 12 games last season. He gained 70 yards and scored two touchdowns on 28 carries.
Smith had 9 yards on four carries against the UA in September.
The UA is hopeful that Smith will provide competition at an unproven position.
The Wildcats will have five other running backs on scholarship — Jared Baker, Pierre Cormier, Zach Green, Terris Jones-Grigsby and Nick Wilson — when camp opens in August.
Cormier and Green redshirted last year, Wilson is an incoming freshman, Jones-Grigsby played mostly on special teams a season ago, and Baker had 27 carries as the Cats’ third-string back.
If nothing else, Smith is an extra body with some experience on his résumé.
He also has company.
About 16 hours before Smith committed to the UA, Rodriguez took perhaps an even bigger risk when he landed Ayoola for the 2015 class.
Ayoola, originally from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., played as a true freshman at Illinois in 2012. He rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries but then was suspended for his sophomore season after violating team rules.
He rejoined the team in January but decided to transfer in early March.
He has enrolled at Arizona Western and will play the upcoming season there. After the fall semester, he will enroll at the UA and factor into the equation for 2015.
Ayoola is the only running back committed to the UA for 2015. The Wildcats had another back on the board in Mesa Desert Edge’s Taren Morrison, but he decommitted last week.
As for Ayoola, he’s less worried about who else is on Arizona’s roster and more concerned with getting back on track himself.
“For me it’s not righting a wrong, it’s just getting somewhere where the love is real,” Ayoola said. “Once you get in trouble, people look at you different, and that’s how it was at Illinois. It just wasn’t the same after I made some mistakes before the season.
“I’m looking for a clean slate to be the person I know I can be, and I think Arizona gives me the best chance for that.”
Ayoola spent the fall semester last year at Illinois, focusing on academics after he was booted from the Illini. Even though he didn’t enjoy being away from the game for a season, he said it was the best thing for him.
“I needed some time as a student and not a student-athlete,” Ayoola said. “It was a very weird time in my life. But I think I grew up and can take a lot of positives with me from it to Arizona.”
Ayoola will have two seasons of eligibility left, beginning in 2015.