Neither Arizona nor Arizona State got much buzz on their football recruiting classes this year.
But both schools are putting the best face possible on the results of their efforts, as National Letter of Intent signing day arrived Wednesday.
Despite the fact that Arizona head coach, Mike Stoops, said he figured his 2011 class ranked somewhere in the middle of the new Pac-12, most analysts don’t give him that much credit. Rivals.com put the Cats at eighth in the conference and Scout.com ranked them dead last.
Arizona State is generally considered to have the 10th-best class.
So, not much to write home about.
The Wildcats signed on 20 in its latest class, including three from junior college programs. Add to that Daxx Garman, the much-heralded quarterback who signed early and is already enrolled at UofA.
It would have been tough to live up to the results of last year’s recruiting class, which Stoops calls the best he has had in Tucson. All 25 players from that class are expected to return next season.
The Sun Devils have a smaller class this year, signing just 14, with the possibility of adding one or two more.
ASU didn’t have as much room on the roster as their rivals down south, since they had a small senior class this year and didn’t have a large loss to graduation. They didn’t have a lot of scholarships available, so the coaches had to be a little more discerning about their picks.
They added five local high school grads to their roster, but only two were among the state’s Top 15. The top catches locally would have to include Gary Chambers, a wide receiver from Ironwood High School in Glendale; Israel Marshall, a linebacker from Mountain Pointe HS in Phoenix; and Mo Latu a defensive lineman from Perry HS in Gilbert.
Latu is one of two four-star recruits in this year’s Sun Devil class, with the other being Michael Eubank, a quarterback from California. All the rest are rated two- and three-star picks.
Eubank is the No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the country and comes from Centennial High School in Corona, Calif., which has been a treasure chest of talent for the Devils in the past few years. The other signal caller in this class is Mike Bercovici from California, who is ranked by PrepStar as the No. 7 QB in the country.
Dennis Erickson and his staff are hoping Latu, ranked the No. 2 center by Rivals.com, will be able to step into the defensive tackle spot vacated by All-American Lawrence Guy, who opted to turn pro rather than return for his senior year.
Both UofA and ASU had their struggles holding on to late defections from earlier verbal commitments, as well as some of the undecideds they were hoping would pick their school in the eleventh hour.
Erickson’s biggest late-inning de-commit was probably Dillon Van Der Wal , a four-star prospect who was ranked the No. 12 tight end in the country by Scout.com, who switched to Vanderbilt University. His most disappointing near-misses had to be Cyrus Hobbi, an All-American guard from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, and Todd Peat Jr., a local product from Corona del Sol HS in Tempe.
Peat, a 295-pound defensive tackle was one of the top senior prospects in the state this year, signed with Nebraska. The 285-pound Hobbi, who was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 4 guard in the country, opted to play at USC.
Stoops, too, had his share of disappointments. Perhaps the hardest last-minute hit came from Ezekiel Bishop, a safety from Colorado, who had given the Cats a verbal commitment last summer.
This one had a particularly nasty sting to it since Bishop switched to rival ASU – after Arizona had managed to hold on to him for seven months.
However, Stoops did manage to hang on to the biggest prize, running back Ka’Deem Carey from nearby Canyon del Oro High School.
Carey, who piled up 5,702 yards and 82 rushing touchdowns during his high school career, had committed to Arizona back in June, but appeared to be having second thoughts. He visited ASU and was said to be weighing his options right up to signing day.
That was a huge win for Stoops because the Cats need some serious help with their running game and Carey brings a big-play threat to the table and may be able to get on the field as early as next year.
He also landed another important local player, Jacob Arzouman from Salpointe Catholic HS in Tucson. Arzouman is an offensive lineman who the Arizona coaches would like to work into the critical role at center.
Arizona was also able to hang on to Patrick Onwuasor, a 6’2″ receiver from California, who had also been considering an offer from Arizona State. He’s an explosive after-the-catch runner who could also make a difference early.
Based on the overall look of this year’s class, Arizona appears to have acquired some much-needed help on the offensive line and on the defensive ends. They are getting bigger on the offensive line and were able to add some quality help on the defensive line, including Auwae DeRego, a junior college transfer who will give the Cats additional pass-rushing talent.
Stoops says he could add a couple more recruits, but that his 2011 edition is “about 90-95 percent” complete.