Recruiting heats up as campus clears out
While activity around campus will slow down a bit as students head home for winter break, the atmosphere in the Arizona football offices could be as hectic as ever.
Following a 3-8 campaign, highlighted by a 34-27 win over ASU in the Wildcats' final game, head coach Mike Stoops and his staff find themselves immersed in postseason recruiting to try and add talent and depth to a team Stoops believe could get much better.
"We're not the most talented team, by far, in this conference, but we're working on that vigorously to get the some of the most talented players," Stoops said following Arizona's Territorial Cup win.
Stoops' impact can already be felt in the recruiting area, with the Wildcats gathering 17 verbal commitments already, a luxury the first year coach didn't have last year because he took the job Nov. 29, 2003 and was behind returning coaches in the recruiting area.
According to Rivals.com, a national college recruiting Web site, the Wildcats received just one four star recruit (the site rates athletes on a star system with five stars being the best) last season in defensive lineman McCollins Umeh. Umeh never got to play for Arizona because he collapsed and died during a summer workout in Phoenix.
This season, the Wildcats already have four verbal commitments from four-star athletes according to Rivals.com.
None of the commitments by high school players are official yet - they are all just verbal intents to come to school in Tucson next season because athletes can't sign an official letter of intent until Feb. 2.
Quarterback Willie Tuitama is expected to be the jewel of the 2005 class. The 6-foot-2, Stockton, Calif. native is the seventh ranked quarterback in the nation, according to Rivals.com
Tight end Jermichael Finley, offensive lineman Adam Hawes, and runningback Terry Longbons make up the four-star players vowing to play for the Wildcats next season.
Longbons is also one of four Arizona-products on the verbal commitment list, giving the Wildcats an in-state advantage over the Sun Devils and even more credibility with their win over ASU Nov. 26.
"I think it will really give us the momentum in the offseason," said Stoops about the win. "We've recruited some great players and this is going to do nothing but help every area in the state of Arizona. It gives us credibility beyond what words or people say."
Last season, the Wildcats got just two players from in state, with ASU picking up several more, including Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Zach Miller out of Phoenix-area Desert Vista.
This year, the tables seemed to be turned.
According to Rivals.com, ASU has just four players verbally committed to play their college ball in Tempe, two of which are from in state.
Although UA has commitments from 17 players, it can give scholarships to a total of 25, and it is expected that Stoops and his staff will fill all 25 spots.
All of the Arizona coaches are currently in the process of getting more commitments, and according to Stoops they should be out on the road for the majority of the month of December working to add depth and talent to the Wildcats.
"We have come a long way," Stoops said. "I expect a lot more wins."