Rich Rodriguez views recruiting like a romantic relationship.
When Arizona gets a verbal commitment from a player, he’s looking for a permanent partnership, not a temporary one.
“If a guy is committed and he’s visiting somewhere else, he’s not committed — he’s just interested,” Rodriguez said Wednesday during his national signing day news conference. “He’s not marrying you; he’s just dating you. When they’re committed, they’re married.
“There have been guys that have been committed and wanted to go visit somewhere else, and we say, ‘Go ahead; you’re no longer committed to us.’ It’s our scholarship that we hand out, it’s not theirs.”
Thus explains the 11th-hour departure of four-star cornerback Naijiel Hale. Hale committed to the UA in July and remained committed until last weekend. At that point, Hale informed the UA coaches he was planning on visiting Washington, so they took back his offer.
Hale was dating. Rodriguez was looking to get married.
It’s a philosophy that the coach has employed for years, and he’s not changing it anytime soon. There are, of course, exceptions. But Hale, who signed with Washington on Wednesday, wasn’t one.
“If it was Herschel Walker and he said, ‘Coach, I’m committed, but I still want to visit. Will you be interested?’ Yeah, I will be, Herschel,’ ” Rodriguez said. “But if it’s Sally Walker, ‘Go ahead, Sally, and make that trip, but your scholarship may not be there.’ It’s not a dead-set rule, but we normally say, ‘You can do that, but your scholarship may be in jeopardy.’”
Between Hale’s decision to visit the Huskies and five-star corner Jalen Tabor’s decision to commit to the UA, then flip seven days later to Florida last month, two players — Rodney Carr and Kwesi Mashack — who signed with Arizona on Wednesday suddenly became a lot more important.
Carr and Mashack were the only two high school corners to sign with Arizona, joining junior college transfer Patrick Glover. With the Wildcats already slim at cornerback on their active roster, it’s possible one of the three ends up starting opposite Jonathan McKnight this upcoming season.
“They’re bigger guys; they’re physical,” Rodriguez said of Carr and Mashack. “We needed to get size and some depth there and bang some people around a little bit, and that’s what we think we got in this class.”
Both Carr and Mashack are rated as three-star recruits and, thanks to Hale and Tabor, will have a chance at immediate playing time when they arrive in June. Carr is listed at 6 feet and 183 pounds and Mashack at 5-10, 185.
Four players who committed to the UA early in the recruiting process didn’t sign with the Wildcats.
Wide receiver Jordan Morgan, defensive tackle Sharif Williams and safety J.R. Hunt will all grayshirt this upcoming season. As grayshirts, they will all remain committed to the UA, but will train and work out on their own before joining the team in 2015.
Williams, a three-star defensive tackle out of Fresno, Calif., suffered a leg injury during his senior season and needs more time to recover. Morgan and Hunt are healthy, but made a joint decision with the UA coaching staff to wait a year.
Another player, kicker Josh Pollack, had the option to grayshirt. Instead, Pollack will walk on in August, then be awarded a scholarship in January.
Rodriguez the tweeter
Rodriguez said Wednesday that he will be more active on Twitter from his account @CoachRodAZ.
The coach joked about it, but added it’s important to be active on social media to interact with recruits.
“I’ve got to learn to tweet more,” Rodriguez said. “If you want to chase guys on social media, you have to go to Twitter.”
Before Wednesday, Rodriguez hadn’t tweeted since Aug. 28, 2012. He was a man of his word, though, tweeting three times after his news conference.
- “As promised Now tweeting great day for Arizona football #cant promise this will last.”
- “We tell our signees- this is just the beginning of their OKG (Our Kinda Guys) days!! #backtobacktweets.”
- “Looking forward to talking to some Wildcat fans tonight at signing day party at stadium!!! #tweetingmachine.”
Rodriguez has 9,641 followers on the social-media site.
The Wildcats unveiled a change to their jerseys on Wednesday during their signing-day Internet live stream.
Instead of having gradient numbering on the jerseys, the Wildcats will have solid, colored numbers. On the blue jerseys, the numbers will be red, and on the red jerseys, blue.
The reason for the change is because of an NCAA rule that prevents multicolored numbers. The UA unveiled the gradient numbering last season, and the NCAA instituted the rule soon after.
Arizona appealed the rule for a season, but had to make the change in time for 2014.