The most common terms of modern college football are “poach,” “flip” and “decommit.”
They have surpassed “arms race” and “give me a raise.”
Coaches and fans react with a sense of violation when a 17-year-old quarterback pledges to play for Your School only to choose Their School a few weeks later.
That’s life. I call it the Dixie Rule.
When I began my first year in high school, my only claim to being anything more than a scrub-team tailback was that my girlfriend, Dixie, made the Logan Grizzlies’ cheerleading squad.
I was too naïve to understand what it meant.
A few weeks after classes began, I noticed Dixie chatting in the hallway with our star quarterback, Craig Smith. A few days later, I was dismayed to see her sitting in the lunchroom with senior linebacker Doug Eyre.
That night, Dixie phoned.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Can we just be friends?”
At least I didn’t have to read about it on my Twitter feed.
By my count, Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has gotten seven phone calls from Dixie this winter.
“Sorry coach, I’ve changed my mind and I’m going to be a Duck.”
Or, “I appreciate your interest, but I’m going to be a Cornhusker.”
Nothing in college sports is as inexact and fallible as the recruiting and retention of football prospects.
At Arizona, as elsewhere, there are more busts (five-star defensive lineman Louis Holmes) and wonderful surprises (two-star linebacker Scooby Wright III) than in any other college sport.
Ten years ago this week, the recruiting analysts ranked Arizona’s class of 2007 near No. 35 in the country. It turned out to be closer to No. 135.
As much as anything else, the class of ’07 is the reason Mike Stoops was fired in the middle of the 2011 season.
So whatever is said this week about RichRod’s class of 2017, don’t buy it. It’s too early. Dick Tomey once told me football is the hardest sport to correctly evaluate because “no one practices blocking and tackling the way they practice hitting a golf ball or shooting 3-pointers.”
Here’s how the doomed 19-player class of 2007 turned out:
- Quarterback Bryson Beirne. He completed 16 career passes for two touchdowns. He has thrived since leaving Arizona as a lecturer (finance) at the Eller College of Management and now an investment counselor in Vancouver, Wash.
- Defensive end Ron Jackson. Transferred to Texas State before ever suiting up at Arizona.
- Defensive lineman Hans Philipp. Two career tackles.
- Receiver Caleb Charlow. Left school in his first training camp and played at Mount San Antonio Junior College. He told the San Diego Union-Tribune: “If I had known it was going to go down like it did in Tucson, I wouldn’t have committed in the first place. What I was told and then what happened were completely different things. No disrespect to the program, it’s just, some things don’t work out for certain people.”
- Defensive lineman Kaniela Tuipulotu. He made 13 tackles at Arizona and transferred to Hawaii, where he was a two-time All-Mountain West Conference standout.
- Cornerback Trevin Wade. A two-star prospect, Wade made 182 tackles, returned two for touchdowns and was a second-team All-Pac-10 player in 2009 and 2011. He has played in 47 games for the Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and New York Giants.
- Running back Joseph Reese. Lettered on special teams in 2008 and left school.
- Receiver Derick Barkum.
- Made three career tackles and caught two passes.
- Defensive back Joseph Perkins. As a first-time senior starter, was second on the team with 70 tackles (and two interceptions) in 2010.
- Receiver Devin Veal. He lettered on special teams in 2008 but had no statistics. He is a science teacher at Sahuaro High School.
- Running back Nic Grigsby. Had a breakout season in 2008, rushing for 1,153 yards and 13 touchdowns, but was limited by injuries and finished his UA career with 2,957 yards. He has played with four Canadian football league teams.
- Defensive back Marquis Hundley. Intercepted four passes in 2008 and made 59 tackles in his one season as a starter.
- Linebacker Apaiata Tuihalamaka. After seven career tackles, quit the team for injury-related issues.
- Linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka. In his two UA seasons, made 95 tackles.
- Defensive end Levar Brown. Did not play at Arizona. Later enrolled at Arkansas-Monticello.
- Receiver David Roberts. Useful complementary player who caught 128 career passes for five touchdowns.
- Kicker Alex Zendejas. You don’t want to know. OK, he had two potential game-winning kicks blocked at the end of a painful 30-29 Territorial Cup loss to Arizona State in 2010, before losing his job to John Bonano as a 2011 senior.
- Receiver Bug Wright. Was dismissed from the squad for a team rules violation after lettering for three seasons and catching 25 passes.
- Tight end Rob Gronkowski. First-team All-Pac-10 player as a 2008 sophomore, catching 47 passes for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns. He missed his junior season with a back injury and entered the NFL draft. Arizona got the minimum out of his vast ability.
Gronkowski was the only all-conference (first-team) player from the class of 2007. By 2011, when class of ’07 players ideally would’ve been fifth-year seniors, the core of any college football team, Trevin Wade was the only starter from the original group of 19. Only three others remained. Zendejas, Beirne and Roberts.
After a 1-10 streak, Stoops was fired in mid-season and now RichRod is singing “Dixie.”