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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Coaching changes should help 2007 class

    Coaching changes should help 2007 class

    Arizona’s ongoing staff shuffling should result in a vastly different product when the Wildcats hit the field for their Sept. 1 season opener.

    But what effect will it have on Arizona’s ongoing battle to produce a quality recruiting class by national signing day, Feb. 7?

    “”It does have a big impact,”” said Allen Wallace, national recruiting editor for recruiting Web site scout.com and publisher of SuperPrep magazine. “”Sometimes it’s negative, and sometimes it’s positive. It’s all about the quality of the recruiting of who’s leaving and who’s coming aboard.””

    Five assistant coaches have come or gone since the Wildcats finished a 6-6 season Nov. 25, and its longtime liaison for scheduling recruits’ on-campus visits left the program for Minnesota a week ago.

    The shake-up is the team’s deepest in one offseason since Arizona head coach Mike Stoops established his original staff in 2004.

    But the consensus so far among recruiting experts is that the moves should inevitably help Arizona’s quest for a third-straight national top-20 haul.

    The Wildcats ranked No. 40 as of yesterday, according to rivals.com, a recruiting site. Their 14-member class already features quality commitments in tight end Ron Gronkowski, running back Joseph Reese and linebackers Apaiata and Vuna Tuihalamaka, said Greg Biggins, a Pacific 10 Conference analyst for rivals.com.

    “”They have commitments from some very good players,”” he said. “”It’s not about how high you rank, it’s about filling your needs, and they’ve done a good job of that.””

    Co-offensive coordinator Mike Canales resigned on Nov. 27, two days after Arizona dropped its season finale to ASU.

    Running backs coach Kasey Dunn and wide receivers coach Charlie Williams followed him out the door over the next month, accepting new positions at Baylor and North Carolina, respectively.

    In December, Arizona replaced Canales with Texas Tech co-offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes, who was reunited Friday with Red Raiders offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh. The latter two oversaw one of the nation’s most prolific passing and scoring offenses from 2004-2006.

    With the on-field promise behind the newcomers, however, comes the loss of Dunn and Williams’ strong recruiting pull in California.

    They and UA defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo have been the program’s three best recruiters in the state during head coach Mike Stoops’ tenure, said Rick Kimbrel, the West coast regional recruiting analyst for rivals.com.

    Yet Dunn and Williams contributed little to the Wildcats’ 2007 class before departing, suggesting the team wasn’t counting on them returning next season and didn’t want to risk losing athletes they brought on board.

    Dunn recruited only four players, and his top two targets committed to USC. The others, Deonte Green and Aaron Harris, are still weighing their options.

    Williams, meanwhile, did not recruit a single player.

    Collateral damage?

    Frequent staff changes are not necessarily bad for programs hoping to keep its commitment list intact, Wallace said. Usually, coaches have little difficulty convincing athletes to stick around.

    “”If the kid likes the school and he wants to go there, but the school is in a rebuilding phase because they want to upgrade the staff, the kid can still look at it as a positive that they want to get better,”” he said.

    Many athletes stick with a school once they’ve verbally committed, even if their main recruiters are suddenly fired or bolt to a job at another school, Wallace said.

    But, if the main recruiters are offensive or defensive coordinator, figures instrumental in an athlete’s progress, athletes may follow coaches to new schools regardless of factors like education or expected quality of opposition.

    There was speculation Honolulu quarterback Bryson Beirne, Arizona’s only signal-caller in the upcoming class, would renege on his verbal commitment once Canales, his main recruiter and the UA quarterbacks coach at the time, left the program.

    But Beirne told the Wildcat Nov. 30 he was committed to Arizona because Canales “”told me a lot of times, ‘You committed to the school, not to me.'””

    So far, only one of Arizona’s 15 verbal commits, defensive end Will Tukuafu, has jumped ship to another school.

    Tukuafu’s decision to head to Oregon, which came two weeks after he committed to the Wildcats Nov. 27, had nothing to do with Arizona’s coaching staff, he told the Ducks’ rivals.com Web page.

    “”Coach Stoops and the guys that are remaining are doing a good job of damage control,”” Kimbrel said. “”Because (recruits) do get attached to the recruiting coach.””

    Wallace said the recent loss of Dan Berezowitz, who had been the Wildcats’ director of personnel and research since 2001, shouldn’t negatively affect Arizona’s class.

    Erick Harper, the UA director of football operations, has assumed Berezowitz’s duties until the team finds a replacement.

    “”Scheduling and that kind of stuff, I don’t think it would be hard to replace,”” Wallace said. “”Something happens when you lose a dynamic recruiter, someone who’s a closer.””

    The gains

    Arizona has seven more scholarships to offer over the next two weeks.

    The additions of Dykes and Bedenbaugh could mean the program will focus on getting a stronger Texas contingent during that span. The state has been one of Stoops’ biggest recruiting priorities but so far has yielded only three players for the Wildcats’ class.

    Dykes’ pull in and around Dallas should complement UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops’ presence in the area, and Bedenbaugh’s knowledge of the Houston suburbs and East Texas will broaden the program’s overall reach, said Jeremy Patterson, the Southwest regional manager for scout.com.

    Dykes was one of Texas Tech’s ace recruiters, and his efforts helped the program score a rare coup last February with a better class than rival Texas A&M, Patterson said.

    He added that Bedenbaugh has a less glamorous track record but recently convinced former Texas commit Jerrod Gooch, an offensive guard, to switch his allegiance to the Red Raiders.

    It appears the newcomers will be scouring their favorite stomping grounds down the stretch. The coaches, along with Arizona head coach Mike Stoops, have been out of town recruiting this week and were not available to comment.

    “”The one advantage that Arizona will have with this class is that they’re bringing in two guys have been recruiting Texas extremely hard,”” Patterson said. “”They know the guys that Texas was going to offer and Oklahoma was going to offer.””

    Still, Dykes and Bedenbaugh’s greatest impact likely won’t be made by early February.

    “”They’re going to know a lot about the guys in 2008,”” Patterson said. “”I think you’ll really see it pay dividends for the class of 2008, bringing those guys on, (rather) than the class of 2007.””

    In the meantime, could anyone on Bedenbaugh’s recent radar now be swayed to Arizona? He earned a trio of three-star athletes for Texas Tech, and his seven targets upon departure included five-star defensive back Curtis Brown and four-star prospects Dez Bryant (wide receiver) and Kyle Hix (offensive line).

    Defections are possible, especially if the coach left on bad terms, but oftentimes outgoing coaches promise they won’t bring recruits with them, Patterson said.

    If the Wildcats end up with anyone unexpected through their new hires, they would more likely be three-star recruits than elite prospects, he said.

    “”What I have learned is that kids put a lot of stock into who the coaches are and the position thing, but they also look at the school,”” he said. “”Plus, it’s so close to signing day.””

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