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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Son of Nate Dogg improves Wildcats recognition

Tucson may be experiencing record heat, but suddenly Arizona football is cool.

Last week four-star defensive back Naijiel Hale — son of the late rapper Nate Dogg — chose the UA during a nationally televised event for top recruits called “The Opening” at Nike headquarters.

Hale’s commitment made for some creative headlines and story angles, as well as some nostalgia for classic rap fans. He’s also the second son of someone famous to enter Rich Rodriguez’s program, the first being Trey Griffey, son of former MLB superstar Ken Griffey Jr.

Ultimately, it’s the addition of his talent that makes Hale’s commitment most noteworthy. And at the moment, it has the UA atop the Pac-12 recruiting race.

Whether it is Arizona’s surprising 2012 season, the impending opening of the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility or its flashy new uniforms, Arizona has shot up the recruiting charts.

In its latest class of 2014 rankings, Scout.com has Arizona (28th overall) just ahead of Stanford and USC. 247sports.com also has the UA first in the Pac-12, but swaps USC for Stanford.

Arizona has the most commitments in the Pac-12 and Cal is second with nine.

Commitments are not binding and a player is not locked into a school until they sign a National Letter of Intent. Still Arizona has had 12 players commit, including three four-star players and five three-stars, according to Scout.com.

ESPN says the Wildcats have three four-star commits as well, but ranks Hale as a three-star defensive back.

Stars are mostly meaningless though, unless you want an up to date American flag or are counting World Cup wins.

On the hardwood, UA recruits Josiah Turner, Jamelle Horne and Grant Jerrett were all five-stars but had lackluster careers at best.

In football, Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s leading rusher as a true sophomore, and Jake Fischer, who is on the watch list for best defensive player in the country, were only three-stars as recruits, according to Scout.com.

While recruiting is crapshoot, a good way to gauge a player’s ability is by looking at who else wants him.

Arizona’s top rated commit, receiver/quarterback Cameron Denson, out of Salpointe Catholic High School in Tucson, has been offered scholarships by Notre Dame, Oklahoma and West Virginia. Alabama visited him even though he picked the Wildcats in January.

Denson, an All-American before his junior year of high school, is only rated as a four-star recruit. Yet the Crimson Tide seem to think Denson is good enough to go across the country to see.

Arizona’s other commits are also attractive to big schools.

Running back Nick Wilson has received offers from schools like Arkansas, Boise State, Tennessee and Washington. Running back Jonathan Haden picked Arizona over Ohio State.

Signing Day is still seven months away and once the Trojans, Cardinal or Ducks add more players to their classes, they could easily shoot up to their usual spots atop the Pac-12 recruiting rankings.

But this recent recruiting revival could be the start of something big for Rodriguez, who won four Big East championships at West Virginia. Arizona has also proven to be a reliable recruiting destination, pulling in top 20 classes in 2005 and 2006.

Last season’s 8-5 mark is by far Rodriguez’s best first year record, who started 3-8 at WVU. He went 11-1 four years later.

Rodriguez knows how to recruit and emulate talent. If he keeps it up, Arizona will be securely on the right track.

— James Kelley is a journalism and history senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @JamesKelley520.

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