Thanks for stopping by everyone. We already have a lot of good questions ready to go, so we'll get started. It's good to (virtually) see everyone again!
When a recruit gray shirts, it essentially means he will just wait a year to enroll in school. The player will spend the time preparing for the season on his own and the year doesn't count against his eligibility. Sometimes it makes a lot of sense. For example, with defensive tackle Sharif Williams, who broke his leg during his senior season, this gives him more time to recover and doesn't start his clock at the UA. For the other two players, J.R. Hunt and Jordan Morgan, it gives them more time to develop. Whether or not they all stay committed remains to be seen. They are not bound by a national letter of intent.
As for the second part of your question, the two defensive tackles that went on Mormon missions, Sani Fuimaona and Aiulua Fanene, are both expected to rejoin the team this summer. Rich Rodriguez can't comment on either of them yet, but both have been in communication with the staff and are planning on coming back to the UA. The Wildcats have a serious need at nose tackle and both could help there.
I think receivers is a safe one to go with. The unit made serious strides throughout the season and Nate Phillips was about as good as a true freshman can be for a team that slowly developed its passing game. Combine Phillips with the return of Austin Hill and the additions of Cayleb Jones and DaVonte Neal and the Wildcats will be in good shape. Of course, that doesn't even factor in guys like Trey Griffey, Cameron Denson, Samajie Grant, David Richards and Garic Wharton. The receivers should be deep and talented.
Both schools posted recruiting classes that ranked in the top 30 in the nation. ASU's is ranked higher by most recruiting services, but both schools did well. ASU went to a lot of different states to gets its guys, while Arizona really concentrated on Arizona and California. I think both coaches are legitimately happy with the classes they put together.
Not necessarily. RichRod's staff is a unique one. Most of these assistants have been with him for a really long time and aren't looking to move up/move on at this point. There are a couple of exceptions of course with guys like Charlie Ragle and Matt Caponi, but the majority of the staff has a defined role under Rodriguez and seem to like how things are. There aren't a lot of head coaching candidates in this group. Instead, most of these guys have been assistants for decades. Now, if RichRod were to move on, that would certainly shake everything up. But as long as he's here, I don't think there will be a lot of changes to his staff.
I think Rodriguez values the "character and cultural fit" traits more than he does anything else. I think that goes with his "OKG" philosophy of looking for guys that fit in with what Arizona is trying to do. He's not always trying to recruit the best players, but rather the right players. (I just stole that line from the movie 'Miracle') I think you've already seen that pay off last year with guys like Scooby Wright, Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant. He liked those players because of their attitudes and passion even though they weren't very highly recruited. As for the way he recruits, most guys that sign here tell me that Rodriguez is more informal than most coaches and they feel very comfortable around him and talking to him.
Really good question, K-Rich. (I wouldn't expect anything less from one of the finest Jayhawks). I don't know if they "missed out" on guys, but I think they would have liked to have been more involved on some higher profiled recruits later and couldn't because the class was already filled. If you look at schools like UCLA and USC, they were in the mix for four or five big-time guys on signing day. I think you want your program to be in the fold for guys like that, even if you miss on a few. I also think RR can be more deliberate in the recruiting process going forward. I think the first few years, he had to be more aggressive to fill some holes. Now, as the holes get filled, he can be more selective and go after some guys that maybe he couldn't in the first few years.
Jamardre Cobb, the middle linebacker from Salesian High School in Los Angeles, is a guy I think will have an instant impact. He should have the chance to compete for the starting middle linebacker spot and might even be the favorite for the job at this point. He was a four-star recruit with offers from all over the place. He brings good size (6-2, 220) and also has some speed to go with it. Marquis Ware, Cameron Denson, Devon Brewer, Nick Wilson and Rodney Carr are a few others that I think will play right away and get a chance to contribute.
I don't think the "rumors" had any effect on Tabor's decision. RR was never close to leaving and that whole thing lasted less than a week. Tabor decommitted largely because his mom wanted him to play in the SEC and, in the end, he wanted to please her. He's admitted as much. I think he really liked RR and Arizona and it was a tough decision for him.
I'm not touching that second part, AG. That's your decision! Denson does need to put on some weight, but I think he's too talented to redshirt. He still has some time to put on weight before the season begins and now that his NLI is in, he will get on the UA's weight program and begin doing that as soon as basketball season is over. He wouldn't be the first undersized player to thrive under RR's direction. No argument he needs to get bigger, but by Aug. 30, I think he'll be in good enough shape to help out.
Thanks, Eric! That's much appreciated. I think that's very tough to answer right now because of the uncertainty at quarterback and running back. If one of the younger QBs steps up and develops into a big-time player, a better 2014 could certainly happen. If they underwhelm him and struggle to learn his system, things could get worse before they get better. But the UA should be more talented at most other spots than it was this past season, lending to more wins and more progress within the program.
Josh Pollack, a kicker from Illinois, will walk-on at first and then is expected to be put on scholarship second semester. I don't think he'll be the guy as a true freshman — there are other candidates for that — but he could certainly be a guy that helps in the longterm.
That's the million dollar question. Both Rodriguez and Graham are working to close those borders and keep the best in-state prospects in state. Rodriguez's sell right now is to look at some of the best in the past like Neal and Brewer and see how they're coming back to Arizona to play at the UA after not succeeding out of state. But I think the biggest thing that can be done to keep players in-state is winning on a regular basis and contending for championships. It needs to be a situation where Arizona kids dream of playing for the UA and ASU and don't feel like they're settling.
It wasn't a huge surprise, but was still a good get for the Wildcats. I think the UA felt good about where it stood with Griffin and would have been more surprised if he would have ended up at one of his other three finalists. But it was a good way to end the class for the UA, who need some big bodies on that defensive line.
Thanks! Mike was offered a scholarship very early by the UA coaches. I do think he was sincerely interested in Arizona, but he wanted to take his time with the recruiting process and play out his senior season. The UA prefers to get guys in early and not wait it out. Neither is wrong, but the philosophies are certainly a lot different.
That's a tough one. After watching the two go head-to-head in the state championship game in Arizona Stadium, I have a few thoughts. Whiley looks more ready to contribute right away. He looks more like Ka'Deem Carey did as a high school senior. He has more weight to him and has less work to do in the weight room. That said, Denson outplayed Whiley in that game and it wasn't close. Denson picked off a pass intended for Whiley. So it'll be interesting to see how it plays out the next four years with those two. I think they'll see plenty of each other.
Another good one. The UA has a bit of different philosophy when it comes to recruiting. RR wants Dudek to be the face of recruiting for the staff. He allows him to do pretty much whatever he wants. The goal is the player becomes extremely comfortable with Dudek first and then RR and the position coaches come in to really put down the sales pitch. But nearly every recruit I talked to talked about the positive impact Dudek had on his recruitment. That said, Rodriguez realizes he needs to be more vocal than he has been. A major reason is he has the personality to do it. He always has one or two funny lines in his press conference and plays that role very well. So I'm sure even Dudek wants RR to show that off more. A couple of the assistants, mainly Rod Smith and Charlie Ragle, are decently active on Twitter. I think you'll see the interaction continue to rise going forward.
It's really hard to predict who the guy will be next year, because there's still much to happen. I think the coaches were pleased with the progress both Brewer and Solomon made last year and they're excited about some of the tools Randall brings. If I had to say there's a leading candidate, based on some conversations I've had with UA coaches, I'd say it's Solomon. But there's a lot he has to do to lock down the position between now and the UNLV opener.
He definitely should be. Both receiving and returning kicks. They are very excited about him.
I have to duck out a few minutes early. Thanks so much for stopping by today. We'll do this again soon.