Kevin Sumlin just bought some insurance for his University of Arizona football program. And maybe a little additional job security.
Sumlin, who was hired in mid-January to take over the Wildcat program, just put a gold star on five months of recruiting by landing a four-star quarterback that will be waiting in the wings, ready to step in as a sophomore when current starter Khalil Tate exhausts his eligibility two years down the road.
Tate, who was the nation’s No. 10-ranked dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school, became the first player in UA program history last season to have three 200-yard rushing games in the same season and also set an FBS rushing record for a quarterback with 327 yards in a single game.
The recruitment of Grant Gunnell, a four-star quarterback that was also being courted by top-tier teams like Alabama and Ohio State, also helps confirm Sumlin’s abilities as an accomplished recruiter. During his six years as head coach at Texas A&M prior to coming to Tucson Sumlin developed a reputation as one of the better recruiters in college football. He snagged top-15 recruiting classes in each of his last three seasons with the Aggies.
This recruiting coup actually wasn’t as difficult as it could have been. Sumlin had already landed the youngster for his Aggies program. When he and Noel Mazzone left College Station, Gunnell de-committed. Then, it was just a matter of convincing the 6’6″, 220-pound strong-armed passer to follow them to the desert.
Mazzone was Sumlin’s offensive coordinator at Texas A&M and now serves as the OC at Arizona, spending much of his time working with the quarterbacks.
Gunnell’s addition to the Arizona program has vaulted the 2019 class into the upper half of the nation’s top-100 classes.
A big consideration in the decision to hire Sumlin after six years at Texas A&M and four years running the Houston program before that was his perceived ability to recruit the kind of top talent that his predecessor, Rich Rodriguez, was unable to stockpile during his six seasons in charge of the Wildcat program.
The fact that Sumlin had already enjoyed success in the local market surely helped the school with the decision to hire him. While at Texas A&M, Sumlin scooped up some of Arizona’s top talent, a couple of five-star prospects from the Valley: Christian Kirk, a wide receiver from Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School, and quarterback Kyle Allen from Desert Mountain High School, also in Scottsdale.
But a pipeline to Texas now seems to be developing under Sumlin. Gunnell is the third recruit from the Lone Star state to commit to the Wildcats, and Gunnell could bring more with him since there are a number of high-profile prospects on his team at St. Pius X High School in Houston that have been scouted by the Arizona coaches.
Gunnell is the fourth commitment in the Class of 2019, joining Michael Wiley (running back), Logan Wilson (cornerback), and Kyle Ostendorp (punter).
But Gunnell is seen as the crown jewel in the group so far. In the 247Sports composite rankings he is listed as No. 97 in the class overall and the No. 3 pro-style QB. During his junior season just completed, he passed for 4,936 yards and 61 touchdowns and ran for 390 more yards and eight TDs.
He had similar otherworldly numbers his sophomore season and has amassed 11,356 passing yards so far, with another season still to go in his prep career.