Arizona football: Coaches spring into action on recruiting

2013-05-26T00:00:00Z 2013-05-27T16:58:55Z Arizona football: Coaches spring into action on recruitingDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 26, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Sure, it's called the offseason.

But any images you have of Arizona Wildcats football coaches lounging around and enjoying the Tucson sunshine are dead wrong.

In fact, what happens in April and May directly affects what happens in August through December.

Recruiting - it's not for the faint of heart.

"This is the most crucial time of the year for recruiting because the coaches are able to physically get out and talk to coaches and watch players up close," said Matt Dudek, the UA's director of on-campus recruiting and player personnel.

The Wildcats are nearing the end of an NCAA-mandated evaluation period that began April 15 and runs through Friday.

Assistant coaches are allowed to hit the road during the six-plus weeks and watch prospects work out, lift in the weight room and, in some states, watch players go through spring practice with their teams.

NCAA rules forbid head coaches from traveling during the evaluation period.

"In terms of getting out and evaluating, this is the most important time of the year," said Brandon Huffman, a national recruiting analyst with the Scout.com recruiting service. "In the fall, it's to tie up loose ends. You want to see a guy one last time to see if they progressed."

How it works

At Arizona, each assistant coach is assigned areas to recruit throughout the country.

That coach is the first to see players in person, then reports back to the prospects' potential position coach. If both are intrigued, it moves up the ladder to the offensive or defensive coordinator and then, finally, to head coach Rich Rodriguez.

"The area coach and position coach could be interested in offering a player a scholarship, but it could die at the coordinator," Dudek said. "This is the time to go out in the spring and confirm or deny what the other coaches think."

If one coach is worried a player doesn't have the size or speed to produce in the Pac-12, now's the time to see if that's true.

"If the coach goes out and says, 'That's not a problem, this kid has plenty of speed,' and then we'll go through the process again," Dudek said.

Offers galore

UA coaches have made offers to 151 players in the 2014 class, according to Scout.com.

That number is inflated, though, when you consider that several of those prospects have since committed to other programs and others won't even consider the Wildcats.

Arizona coaches have made offers to players from 24 different states.

Believe it or not, Arizona's coaches are being selective.

"They are doing a much better job of being deliberate in terms of who they offer," Huffman said. "They are still offering a lot of guys, but they aren't making a lot of stretches on either end of the spectrum."

Huffman also said the Wildcats are often the first Pac-12 program to make an offer to players; other conference teams then follow.

It's an indication Rodriguez's staff has an eye for talent.

"I think that's a big deal," Huffman said. Players "never forget that first offer."

Who they're targeting

Rodriguez and his staff have been the most active with offensive skill players and the defensive secondary.

The Wildcats have already landed four commitments for 2014 - two running backs, a wide receiver and a tight end.

Arizona remains in the mix for several quarterbacks; Huffman said UA coaches are working hard on Novato, Calif., product Manny Wilkins. The four-star recruit was on UA's campus this week for a visit.

Naijiel Hale, a four-star cornerback from Bellflower, Calif., also reportedly intrigues Arizona's coaches. The son of the late R&B singer Nate Dogg, Hale received his first Pac-12 offer from Arizona in February. Arizona State, Cal, Utah and Washington State have since followed.

"He would fill a big need in the secondary," Huffman said. "That will weigh on his decision. In my opinion, they are in the lead with him."

Other names the Wildcats are pursuing heavily include: Phoenix Mountain Pointe receiver Jalen Brown, Sabino offensive tackle Andrew Mike, Los Angeles linebackers Jamardre Cobb and Marquis Ware, and Auburn, Ala., defensive end Rashaan Evans.

What's next

Once the evaluation period ends, the UA invites its main targets to campus for a trio of one-day prospect camps in June.

There, the coaches can show off their campus and facilities and Rodriguez can show off his personality - something that can't happen now.

And even though Rodriguez can't travel with his assistants now, his name is getting UA coaches in living rooms they might not be able to enter otherwise.

"He has 'street cred' and gets us in houses and schools all over the country," Dudek said.

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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