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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Class highlighted by big offensive linemen, QB, DB”

    Mike Stoops admitted yesterday it was nice to finally exhale.

    After spending the last three weeks traveling around the continental United States and Hawaii finalizing his list of high school seniors to play for his football program, the bulk of the work is over after he signed 22 players to National Letters of Intent yesterday.

    Rivals.com ranks Arizona’s class as No. 38 overall in the country and seventh in the Pacific 10 Conference.

    The Wildcats had 12 linemen and four linebackers out of the 22, including 12 offensive players and 10 on defense.

    The list is highlighted by seven huge offensive linemen to make up for nearly a third of the commitments – a huge difference from last year’s class, which had none.

    The latest lineman to commit was 6-foot-8, 300-pound J’Marcus Webb, a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, out of Navarro College in Texas. Stoops said yesterday Webb will likely compete for the left tackle position left open by departed senior Peter Graniello.

    “”That was probably the best news in the last week or two to get a guy like (Webb),”” Stoops said. “”He’s a guy we’re gonna lean on from the start.

    “”We haven’t had great depth on the offensive line and that’s something we wanted to create – some depth and some competition, and there will be some good competition.””

    The Wildcats will return four starters to the offensive line next season, but Stoops wanted no shortage of depth on the unit, especially after backups Daniel Borg and Cody Anderson left the team for personal reasons.

    The word “”depth”” may take on a new meaning for the line in 2008. The average height and weight for the seven linemen is 6-foot-5, 314 pounds.

    Aside from Webb, the Wildcats will welcome three-star recruits Trace Biskin (6-6, 275), Mike Diaz (6-5, 330), Vaughn Dotsy (6-4, 364), Phillip Garcia (6-8, 340) and Kyle Quinn (6-3, 279).

    “”It was an area where we wanted to gain some depth and gain some physical, bigger style of players for our style of offense,”” Stoops said. “”I’m very pleased with the outcome.””

    The standout impact players of the class undoubtedly are quarterback Matt Scott and defensive back Robert Golden.

    Scott, a mobile quarterback who was one of seven finalists for the Joe Montana High School Quarterback of the Year Award, is the highest-ranked player of the class and is expected to take the reins from Willie Tuitama when he departs after the 2008 season.

    Stoops said Scott may actually play next season, differing from what many analysts had expected, and may be involved in a specific zone-read spread offense, because of his mobility.

    “”We’re gonna expand some things and we would like to have maybe a mini package for him in some situations,”” Stoops said. “”Matt can run the ball very effectively and that’s something that we will explore and see how much of it we can fit in our offense.

    “”He can do some very unique things with his feet and with his arm.””

    Scott had been recruited by several schools recently, including Michigan.

    “”To turn down the likes of a Rich Rodriguez (Michigan’s head coach) tells you a lot about the kid,”” Stoops said.

    Golden, who had been wavering between ASU and Arizona, may also play immediately in place of departed seniors Antoine Cason and Wilrey Fontenot.

    Golden said the coaching staff has talked to him about starting as a freshman.

    “”They want me to come in and play boundary corner right away,”” Golden said. “”It’s all up to me if I come in and work hard and hit the spots. They haven’t told me I’m going to be the starter but they told me they want me to be the starter.””

    Stoops, a former defensive coordinator who has produced several defensive backs to the NFL, compared Golden to Cason.

    “”There will be a lot of comparisons,”” Stoops said. “”Robert will come in with much higher accolades in high school than Antoine, but they present a lot of the same characteristics – just an attitude, a toughness and competitiveness.

    “”Robert may be a guy that is further along than Antoine was at this age.””

    The class lacks an elite running back, a specific position of interest, particularly due to the Wildcats’ last-ranked running game in the Pac-10 last season.

    Ryan Bass, a four-star recruit, originally had committed to Arizona, but ended up retracting the bid for ASU, citing academic reasons.

    “”Arizona State has turned into a (junior college) and we’re a four-year college, according to all the players,”” Stoops said. “”Apparently it’s easier to go to school there and it’s easier to get in, but I thought we had the same requirements. It’s news to me. … Obviously we have the same requirements.””

    The Wildcats lost three commitments to ASU, and only had two instate players sign – defensive tackles Kenny Barnes and Chris Merrill.

    Keola Antolin, a three-star running back out of Las Vegas, is the highest-rated tailback, and is joined by Greg Nwoko, the last to sign a letter of intent.

    The Wildcats also didn’t sign a single safety, although Stoops said newcomers may be added to the class.

    Arizona had no commitments from a 5-star recruit – the only school in the Pac-10 was Southern California, which had two – but did have five 4-star and 12 three-star recruits, for an average of 3-stars per player.

    In total, the Wildcats had 17 players sign letters of intent yesterday, with five junior college transfers already enrolled at the UA for the spring semester.

    Linebacker Vuna Tuihalamaka is the cousin of current UA redshirt linebacker Apaiata Tuihalamaka and could be a starter at inside linebacker come August, Stoops said.

    “”I think we have a very complete class if you look at the entirety of it,”” Stoops said.

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