Just two days before South Alabama coach Joey Jones was set to fly to Tucson for the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl — and on Christmas Eve, no less — the Jaguars received some recruiting-related news that adds a little intrigue to USA’s trip to Tucson.

On Dec. 12, South Alabama added a key piece to its 2017 recruiting class when linebacker Joey Ramirez verbally committed to the Jaguars, the eighth player to do so for next season.

Then, one week later, the Arizona Wildcats offered Ramirez a scholarship, and on Christmas Eve, Ramirez announced he was flipping to be the 24th member of Arizona’s recruiting class, with plans to enroll at UA in January.

About South Alabama, Ramirez said “it’s just, a place I knew I can play and have an impact on the team my freshman year. They showed a lot of love … at the end of the day I had to make a decision that’s best for me because at the end of the day it’s a business for everybody.

“I had to make the best decision for me and my family. I felt like it was the right move.”

Ramirez had settled on South Alabama after dealing with a lack of interest from Power Five conference schools for the entirety of his senior season at Auburndale (Fla.) Senior, in which he averaged 10.4 tackles per game and managed 6.5 total tackles for loss.

When Ramirez committed to South Alabama, his only other FBS offers were from Bowling Green, Old Dominion and Northern Illinois.

As of Ramirez’s Saturday commitment to Arizona, he didn’t even have a profile on the Scout.com recruiting service, and was unranked at Rivals.com and 247sports.com. He’s since been rated a 2-star recruit by Scout.

Ramirez doesn’t take any of that personally.

“I felt like I was a no-star playing like a five-star, that’s how I looked at it,” Ramirez said. “I felt like those stars don’t mean nothing. It just made me work harder for what I got.

“Arizona, I guess they saw something in me. I’m just showing other teams why they should’ve offered me.”

That’s exactly what Arizona safeties coach Jahmile Addae, who recruits Florida, did last week, providing Ramirez with his first major scholarship offer, making the decision easy, even though he didn’t know much about Arizona beforehand other than the basics, including their berth in the Fiesta Bowl two years ago.

Ramirez committed to Arizona sight unseen, and will only see campus for the first time as he flies to Tucson to sign his letter of intent in a few weeks.

“Coach Addae just knew how to talk to me,” Ramirez said. “He was just like, me coming in the spring, that’s a better opportunity so that I can play, that this is their best recruiting class and he just wanted me to know that I’m their guy.”

The Wildcats badly need linebackers with the departures of seniors Michael Barton, Jake Matthews, Cody Ippolito and Paul Magloire.

Ramirez, listed at 6 feet 3 and 209 pounds, joins linebacker Tony Fields, from Desert Pines in Las Vegas, as Arizona’s early enrollees at the linebacker position.

Arizona is also set to add Joshua Brown and Kylan Wilborn at the linebacker position in its 2017 class. The Wildcats are also frontrunners for three-star middle linebacker Colin Schooler from Mission Viejo in California.

Addae “said since I’m coming in early knowing they lost linebackers. it makes it better chance for me to play,” Ramirez said.

Ramirez described him as an “athletic” linebacker and a good fit for the pass-heavy Pac-12.

“As a linebacker I just think I’m quick, fast,” Ramirez said. “I can play outside the box, I’m an athletic linebacker so if I have to guard somebody I can do that for you. I know there’s a lot of passing in the Pac-12 so you need diverse linebackers and I just feel like I fit the system. I can guard people and I can stop the run too.”

Notice how Ramirez has already flipped his mindset from South Alabama to the Pac-12. Jones’ loss, it seems, is Rich Rodriguez’s gain.

“It feels great, man,” Ramirez said. “I had the opportunity and I had to take it.”

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Contact:zrosenblatt@tucson.com or 573-4145. On Twitter: @ZackBlatt

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