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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Rich Rod’s failure to develop NFL caliber talent starting to become problem

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Alex McIntyre

When I was watching the Bum Steer, a former local hotspot for food and spirits, catch on fire with the final three rounds of the NFL Draft on my television in the background, it dawned on me: Arizona football is an exact representation of the burning restaurant as it sits currently.

Realistically, this draft wasn’t the best year for Wildcat prospects considering the only one with a realistic chance of being one of the 253 picks was linebacker Paul Magloire Jr., and he signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent.

Wide receiver Trey Griffey signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an UDFA, and offensive lineman Freddie Tagaloa had the same deal with the Cleveland Browns. Jon Weiner, Stugotz on ESPN’s “The Dan Le Batard Show,” said Monday that the only reason Griffey got a deal was because he was the son of baseball hall of famer Ken Griffey Jr. Ouch.

Odd years under head coach Rich Rodriguez have been brutal. This year was the first time a Wildcat wasn’t selected since 2015, and before that, it was 2013. Even years haven’t been a bright spot, either, because no Arizona player has ever been selected higher than a fourth-round pick, and that was All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey.

Still, Carey wasn’t a Rodriguez recruit and neither were Shaquille Richardson or Marquis Flowers—both drafted in 2014. The only Rodriguez recruits that have been drafted are Will Parks in the sixth round to the Denver Broncos and Scooby Wright III in the seventh round to the Cleveland Browns last year.

So Rodriguez has been in Tucson for five going on six seasons and has two draft picks to show for it? I hate to stand on my old man box and talk about “back in my day” even though I’m 21 years old, but player development is subpar.

Let’s give credit to Rodriguez for a moment because he took Arizona to a bowl game in every season except for 2016, but former head coach Mike Stoops produced individual talent after a few seasons under his belt. Were they winning teams? No, but he still managed to send players to the NFL—21 to be exact, including Earl Mitchell, Eben Britton, Brooks Reed, Nick Foles, Mike Thomas, Rob Gronkowski and first-round pick Antoine Cason.

Stoops was fired halfway through the 2011 season because he couldn’t get Arizona over the hump of not appearing in a Rose Bowl, but the man put raw talent on the field. He was able to bring potentially the greatest tight end of all time to Arizona in Gronkowski. The pool parties helped, but it’s still Stoops’ prized NFL player.

In this year’s draft, look closely at how Pac-12 Conference teams with coaches that have been head coaches for the same amount of years or fewer than Rodriguez fared over the weekend. USC, UCLA and Washington each had five draftees, including a first-round pick; Colorado sent out four draftees; California had three picks; Oregon State had two picks and Washington State, as well as ASU, had one draft prospect.

What was even more eye-opening was that CU head coach Mike MacIntyre sent a program that was 1-11 the season prior to him coaching in Boulder, bottom feeders of the Pac-12, to a bowl game in 2016 and still produced more draft picks in one season than Rodriguez has his entire career at Arizona.

Hot take alert coming, but maybe the lack of sending players to the NFL is one of many reasons why recruiting and winning has gone down. Recruits everywhere have hopes of reaching the NFL. Even a two-star prospect has hopes and beliefs, so if that recruit received an offer from both Arizona and Colorado, what seems more attractive? The beautiful sunshine 365 days out of the year with world-class facilities or freezing Boulder that has a higher chance of being drafted?

I’ll take the draft pick any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

It’s not all Rodriguez’s fault. He can’t control player development like it’s a video game, but producing professional products has been a slippery slope from hangover Stoops’ players to non-existent.

As I sat there on my apartment balcony watching Tucson firefighters clear out the fire for two hours, it reminded me that, much like the Bum Steer, Arizona football in the NFL Draft was enjoyable in the 1990s and even in the 2000s but is now burnt to a crisp.

I guess all good things must come to end until there is some personnel change with keeping the foundation in tact.


Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.

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