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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Late surge gives UA solid 2011 class

The 48 hours leading up to Wednesday’s National Signing Day were full of anticipation and drama for head coach Mike Stoops and the Wildcats.

Arizona ultimately let out a collective sigh of relief in the wee hours of the morning as it made a late push, signing a handful of top-notch recruits in crunch time to round out its 2011 class made up of 22 high school and junior college signees.

“”Things were starting to unravel a bit, and we were able to pull it together and close with a flurry of players here in the last weekend, and then obviously the last 24 hours,”” Stoops said. “”I’m really impressed with the way this came together at the end.””

No player made Arizona hold its breath more than Canyon Del Oro star running back Ka’Deem Carey. The 5-foot-10, 180-pound elusive back verbally committed to the Wildcats in early June but recently visited ASU and was torn between the rival schools leading up to Wednesday.

Carey held a press conference at Canyon Del Oro on Wednesday afternoon and announced he would choose cardinal and navy over maroon and gold, giving Arizona a much-needed big-play threat with potential to play — maybe start — as early as next season.

“”Ka’Deem Carey certainly is one of the highlights of this recruiting class,”” Stoops said. “”He’s built a strong resume here in Tucson, and I look for him to continue that.””

Carey finished his high school career with 5,702 yards and 82 rushing touchdowns, highlighted by a junior season where he racked up 2,741 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns.

When asked if Carey could possibly start in 2011, Stoops said, “”Sure, I don’t think there’s any question. We have to improve our run game and our ability to make plays. He certainly brings big-play ability.””

Although his decision delivered the most drama, Carey wasn’t the only late-signing that elevated Arizona’s 2011 class. The Wildcats also snagged Inglewood, Calif., wide receiver Patrick Onwuasor — who was mulling offers from ASU, Miami (Fla.) and Nebraska, among other schools — and Samoan offensive lineman Lene Maiava.

“”Patrick (Onwuasor) was another big get this morning,”” Stoops said of the 6-foot-2, 190-pound receiver. “”He’s a great talent, very explosive player.””

Needs addressed

While Arizona snatched up key players with the clock winding down, the Wildcats also filled their biggest needs — offensive line, defensive ends and kicker. The Wildcats lost the majority of their offensive line to graduation, but Arizona added four hogmollies to help plug the holes.

Maiava, fellow Samoan Faitele Faafoi, Salpointe “”raw talent”” Jacob Arzouman and junior college lineman Addison Bachman will be the key cogs in the offensive line rebuilding project.

“”Getting stronger and bigger on the offensive line, we were able to do that,”” Stoops said. “”The two Polynesian kids from Samoa here at the end, they were just outstanding players. They’re kind of unknown players, I think, but when you see them you’ll understand how important they are to our offensive line and retooling our offensive line.””

Stoops also spoke highly of Arzouman, saying he’s “”coming into his own,”” while citing his upside, attitude and intelligence.

Next the Wildcats took their first step in replacing Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, adding four defensive linemen, all of which have the potential to play defensive end.

Stoops called junior college defensive lineman Auwae DeRego “”paramount for us defensively,”” comparing him to Reed in his potential to produce. He also raved about the potential of defensive end Dame Ndiaye saying “”he’ll be a dominant pass rusher,”” with more experience.

No position was more inconsistent than the kicker last season, but that may change with Jaimie Salazar competing with Alex Zendejas for the starting job. Salazar was a second team Junior College All-American out of Trinity Valley Community College.

“”The percentages that we saw from him were good,”” said Stoops, who said Salazar made 46 of 48 field goals last year. “”We have to be more accurate from inside the 50, that’s for sure.””

The Wildcats also snagged their new starting tight end in 6-foot-4, 230-pound Michael Cooper and “”hit a home run”” with linebackers Rob Hankins, Hank Hobson and Domonique Petties.

Defensive back Cortez Johnson is Arizona’s key acquisition in the secondary. Johnson was the “”best DB we recruited,”” according to Stoops, and will add another dynamic to a young and exciting secondary.

Overall, Stoops hit a homerun landing Carey and addressed a handful of needs in a recruiting class that he said ranks somewhere in the middle of the Pac-10. He said his squad is “”90 to 95 percent set,”” which is a lot of progress for a team reeling from another ugly bowl loss.

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