Cats must recruit all year to keep up with Pac-12 football powers
The staff directory for Arizona’s athletic department lists three new special assistants to the athletic director: Jeff Casteel, Bill Kirelawich and David Lockwood.
Those are three of Rich Rodriguez’s former defensive assistant coaches who were fired in December. They remain on payroll through June 30 for a composite payoff close to $600,000.
That’s one of the reasons RichRod concluded spring drills Friday by telling reporters, “We’ve got to get more (defensive) people, and I’m not convinced right now that we’ve got a lot of people we can win with.”
We won’t know until October or November if RichRod acted soon enough to fix Arizona’s eroding defensive system, which began with ineffective recruiting four years ago and became manifest when the Wildcats yielded 12,397 yards over two seasons, almost 1,000 yards more than any two-year period in school history.
That $600,000 isn’t meant to fix X’s and O’s. It is meant to change the way Arizona recruits. RichRod’s staff was purposely made to be younger and more aggressive.
It costs a lot of money to fix a Power 5 conference football program, and double-dipping at three coaching staff positions is part of it. One transaction that didn’t get much attention was that RichRod was permitted to hire another full-time recruiting guy, Chris Singletary.
That was as important as any of the offseason changes.
Is it working?
By my count, in the last two weeks alone, the following prospects have been at the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility on unofficial recruiting visits: Chris Brooks, Thomas Graham Jr., John Chatman, Kurtis Brown, Jack Spears, Brian Hightower, Zelan Tupuola, Corey Selenski, Shammah Tupua, Rhedi Short, Drew Dixon, Darnay Holmes, Hunter Echols, Brendan Radley-Hiles, Warren Jackson, Joey Ramos, Kylan Wilborn, Cody Shear and Lee Pitts.
I probably missed two or three more. In addition, the UA offered scholarships to at least six other players in those two weeks. It was similar in February, too. Dozens of prospects were in town. More were offered scholarships.
Nothing like this has ever happened in the history of Arizona football. Customarily, February and March is catch-up-on-your-sleep time in the UA football department. That has all changed.
At no time, under any coaching staff, have the Wildcats recruited with such earnestness and in such volume.
That’s what it takes to stay competitive in a league with Oregon, USC and Stanford. The only question is whether it’s too late to affect the 2016, 2017 and 2018 seasons.