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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

First Class

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Arizona Daily Wildcat

During a three-and-a-half day stretch last week, Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez made a stop in 14 different cities while he was on the recruiting trail. It paid off on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, when the Wildcats received 23 signed letters of intent.

Rivals.com ranks Rodriguez’s first recruiting class at Arizona, which he said has room for one or two more players, No. 45 in the nation and No. 11 in the Pac-12.

“I spend more of my time as a coach evaluating high school prospects than any other thing I do as the head coach at Arizona,” Rodriguez said. “I think all of these guys will contribute at some point, and some will be able to contribute right away.”

Arizona’s incoming class includes players from nine different states and four different time zones, but Rodriguez said the diverse class was more a factor of a shortened recruiting period after the coaching change than a long-term plan.

The first-year coach said he’ll focus on places “with a direct flight to Tucson,” in the future, and that will include traditional recruiting grounds like California and Texas while the Wildcats also try to extend their reach into New Orleans and Florida.

“It makes sense geographically,” Rodriguez said. “But we’ll take a look at other areas if it’ll help us.”

Rodriguez also said there’s one quality he needs his recruits to have, and it’s something that will take a few years to get the entire program to understand.

“I don’t want guys that like football,” Rodriguez said. “I want guys that love it and need it. If they just like it, they’ll treat it like a club sport … if we expect to be an elite Division I football team, we need players that want to work at that level.”

While the Wildcats missed out on four-star athlete Devin Fuller after he committed to UCLA — Fuller would have played quarterback had he enrolled at the UA — they still added a signal-caller in Javelle Allen who could have a bright future in Rodriguez’s spread-option offense.

“(Allen) was probably under the radar a little bit,” Rodriguez said. “He’s a very, very good athlete. He’s probably not as fast as Denard Robinson or Pat White, but very few people are. He just has everything you want as a quarterback.”

As a senior at Prosper (Texas) High School, Allen threw for 2,321 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 1,497 yards and 22 scores. Allen also played basketball and ran track at PHS.

Allen and 6-foot-5, 190-pound quarterback recruit Joshua Kern will join senior Matt Scott as the only scholarship quarterbacks on Arizona’s roster next season. Junior receiver Richard Morrison will also see time as quarterback in the spring. Morrison came to Arizona as a quarterback but was moved to the slot after redshirting in 2009.

But even though Arizona’s numbers at quarterback are growing, Rodriguez didn’t shy away from saying how he feels about the Wildcats’ quarterback situation for next season.

“Scary,” he said. “Oh boy. I don’t think I’ve ever been in that situation. It’s scary from the standpoint of experience … but we can fix that through recruiting and I like the guys we’ve got.”

Rodriguez’s offensive system typically uses smaller players at the skill positions, and this year’s class reflects that. Receiver Jarrell Bennett is listed at 5-foot-10, 160 pounds, but Rodriguez said those numbers are slightly exaggerated. Running back J.T. Washington is listed at 5-foot-7, 165 pounds.

The class also includes a number of players who could play multiple positions, and Rodriguez said that would slightly change the dynamics of this year’s practice. Instead of spending the spring sessions working on shoring up fundamentals, Arizona’s players will be subject to more evaluation than usual so Rodriguez and his staff can figure out where the freshmen are most needed next fall.

“We’ve got to do as much evaluating this spring as we do teaching fundamentals,” Rodriguez said. “There’s a lot of evaluation that goes on, certainly the first spring.”

The first day of spring practice will be March 5.

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