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Pac-12 Football Recruiting Profiles: Arizona Wildcats

The first in a look at the 5-year recruiting trends of every team in the Pac-12 conference.

NCAA Football: Arizona at Arizona State Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to a new series in which I will be profiling the football recruiting trends and habits of each team in the Pac-12 conference over the past 5 seasons. That means I’ll be including the 2014-2018 classes which concludes with the incoming freshmen this upcoming season.

The data I used does not include every single offer and commit for every program but it does include the vast majority. The cuts I made were deliberate. To see more information about what specifically is in the data set and an explanation of any metrics I used, please check out this article here which has all of the information you could want and more. With that out of the way, let’s get started.

Program Overview

Arizona football has gone steadily downhill over the past 5 seasons. Rich Rodriguez had his most successful year as Zona’s coach in 2014 when they won the Pac-12 South and got to double digit wins for just the 2nd time in program history. They declined by 3 wins to just 7-6 in 2015 but at least still made a bowl game. But then in 2016 the rug was pulled out from under the Wildcats as an injury plagued season led to just a 3-9 final record.

Things started out rocky again in 2017 with a 2-2 start but the insertion of Khalil Tate at QB gave a giant shot in the arm to Arizona’s hopes and he rallied them to 7 wins and a bowl appearance while setting the stage for a run at the Heisman. Tate’s success didn’t help Rich Rodriguez however as he was fired without cause after the year in part due to allegations of sexual harassment. Kevin Sumlin who was known as an excellent recruiter at Texas A&M took over at the beginning of January and had to scramble to salvage the 2018 recruiting class.

General Recruiting Statistics

Average Offer: 3.45 stars, 0.889 composite rating (9th in conference)

Average Commit: 3.1 stars, 0.855 composite rating (8th in conference)

Average # of Offers: 146.4 (9th in conference)

Recruiting Style: Offers- Middle of the Road, Quality- Middle of the Road

Arizona has been a fairly consistent program however there’s no question that their recruiting is in a state of decline. The average star rating and composite rating of their recruits has fallen in 3 of the last 4 years down from their high point in 2014 (3.25 stars, 0.865 composite rating).

18.7% of their offers went out to players who were rated higher than their highest rated commit. That number isn’t insignificant but it’s also well below the absolute bottom of the conference. Under Rich Rodriguez they had been fairly realistic about who they had a shot with and didn’t waste too many offers on kids they weren’t serious about.

Best Recruiting Win: Khalil Tate- Class of 2016, ATH. 4 stars, 0.9177 composite rating.

“With the current trajectory of Arizona’s program, it has to be Khalil Tate. A four-star recruit ranked just outside the top 200 overall in 2016, Arizona plucked him out of Junipero Serra (Gardena, CA), which has been feeding into USC the last few years.

USC offered him, but only as a receiver. A lot of schools actually wanted him to play receiver, but very few wanted him at quarterback, the position he desired.

Tate ultimately picked Arizona because of Rich Rodriguez’ spread offense and his history with dynamic quarterbacks such as Pat White and Denard Robinson.

Arizona also held a commitment from Devon Modster, who had committed prior to Tate but later flipped to UCLA because of what seemed to be a full quarterback room at the time. Tate was never worried about the competition, committed and became an ambassador for the 2016 class, helping to recruit the local talent he built relationships with.”

-Gabe Encinas, Arizona Desert Swarm

Worst Recruiting Loss: Teez (Jalen) Tabor- Class of 2014, CB. 5 stars, 0.9925 composite rating.

“There had been a lot of devastating decommitments under Rich Rodriguez over the last few years that have really hurt recruiting and the outlook on the program. But one towards the beginning of Rodriguez’ tenure still stings. Jalen Tabor was the No. 15 recruit in the country back in 2014, and the No. 4 corner.

At the Under Armour All-America Game, he announced his commitment to Arizona, and was planning to enroll just a few days later. The semester started and Tabor never made it campus. Instead, he signed with Florida.

While he turned out to have multiple off-field issues at Florida, he was a two-time first team All-SEC selection and ended up being drafted 54th overall by the Detroit Lions. Arizona is rarely in the discussion for such a highly ranked recruit, and the staff was so, so close to landing a game changer that could have drastically boosted recruiting after the 2014 Fiesta Bowl season.”

-Gabe Encinas, Arizona Desert Swarm

Recruiting Map Profile

Arizona Offers 2014-2018

There are a few black holes on the map where Arizona hasn’t ventured, most notably over the northern part of the midwest and the very northeast. The banding doesn’t reflect it very well but pretty much everywhere that’s yellow that isn’t in the western half of the country had 6 or less offers. It’s most accurate to say the recruiting base has been everything that’s darker than yellow plus Georgia, Washington, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Utah, Michigan, Oregon, and Maryland/DC.

Highest Success States

California: +12.3%, Arizona: +8.52%, Nevada: +4.06%

We’re only in part one of this series but you’ll see that Arizona is one of the only schools in the conference that don’t have their home state at #1.

That’s largely because Arizona is almost never the beneficiary of their top shelf home grown talent. Only 2 of the top-21 rated recruits via 247 composite rating over the past 5 seasons have ended up in Tucson (OT Keenan Walker and CB Cam Denson). The 8 highest rated players in that time all went elsewhere. They’ve been able though to end up at a net positive by earning a commitment from 31% of the 3-star prospects they’ve offered from Arizona.

Half of the Wildcat roster is made up of players from California while comprising only 38% of their total offers.

Lowest Success States

Florida: -12.02%, Texas: -5.21%, Pennsylvania: -2.46%

Florida and Texas are tempting targets with their vast array of talent but almost no one in the Pac-12 is able to hit it big relative to the resources invested. It’s particularly bad for Arizona who don’t have a single commitment from Florida despite giving out almost one out of every eight offers there. Even though they’re a fellow member of the Southwest, things haven’t been much better in the Lone Star State. Just 3 of 62 offers given in the state of Texas have wound up at Arizona. And none of those 3 had offers from the powers of Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, USC, or UCLA. Zona has also offered the 2nd most prospects from Pennsylvania of any Pac-12 school, but like Florida they’ve yet to actually reel any of them in the boat.

Non-Conference Rival- Nebraska Cornhuskers, 53.85%.

Arizona and Nebraska have had 26 times where they’ve both offered a prospect who committed to one or the other and the split is 14 for Arizona and 12 for Nebraska. That’s the most of any non-conference program for them. Arizona has defended their home turf well by holding onto 6 of the 7 Arizona recruits. However, Nebraska has bested the Wildcats for the 4 most highly rated prospects in that group.

Non-Conference Big Brother- Michigan Wolverines, 23.81%.

It’s not overly surprising but Rich Rodriguez’s former school owned him for most of the last 5 years. The two schools battled for a prospect 21 times and 16 of those were won by Michigan. The record gets worse for Arizona for the cream of the crop as Michigan was 13-2 for 4 or 5-star prospects. And the only two wins for Arizona in that time were also their 2 highest ranked recruits period.

Non-Conference Little Brother- Boise State Broncos, 69.57%.

There are other schools whom Arizona has fared better against percentage-wise but not with nearly as many attempts. There have been 23 prospects offered by both Boise and Arizona that went to one or the other and 16 of them ended up in Tucson. The 4 most highly rated prospects and 11 of the best 13 all went to Arizona.

Arizona State Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 12.60% 6
2015 11.52% 6
2016 3.91% 11
2017 7.64% 9
2018 7.50% 8
Overall 8.73% 7

This table shows how often Arizona gets a commitment from a recruit that has at least one other Pac-12 offer. It’s pretty easy to see the drop in Arizona’s fortunes. They saw a brief recruiting spike in 2016 but otherwise it has been pretty steadily downwards. The 2018 number is terrible but was clearly affected by the coaching change. Offering more recruits hurts the percentage since whether you offer 100 or 300 you have the same cap on how many commits you can take. Arizona offered more recruits in 2018 than in any of the previous 4 seasons and that plus firing Rich Rod combined to drop them to 11th in the conference here.

Arizona Pac-12 Recruiting Weighted H2H % (2014-2018)

Year Conf Ratio Conf. Rank
Year Conf Ratio Conf. Rank
2014 25.09% 7
2015 8.33% 11
2016 22.10% 7
2017 12.31% 10
2018 8.23% 11
Overall 15.21% 8

This table is the result of the previous one times the average number of other Pac-12 offers their commits had. A high percentage here shows that your fellow conference opponents hate recruiting against you. Arizona has ranked towards the bottom of the conference the last 2 seasons and 3 of the last 4. They have rarely been able to beat out multiple other conference foes for a prospect. Out of the 40 eligible commitments for Arizona in 2017/2018, just 14 of them had at least 2 other Pac-12 offers and only 2 of them had offers from half of the conference. Neither of those came last year under Sumlin’s first go around. Back in 2014 at their high water mark, Arizona reeled in 5 commits with offers from half the conference so it’s possible for them to rebound.

Early Outlook for 2019 and Beyond

Arizona’s average composite ratings on offers for 2019 is currently higher than in any of the past 5 seasons. But that’s to be expected this early in the recruiting period. The 5-star guys get offered early and more of the 3-star prospects will get offered once it becomes clear they’re more realistic. 247 lists Sumlin as having given out 136 offers which is close to their average under Rich Rod. He usually didn’t give out many more than that when at Texas A&M so I wouldn’t expect them to suddenly go crazy handing out offers this summer.

Arizona currently only has 1 recruit committed for 2019, a low 3-star CB out of Texas. With Sumlin on board from Texas A&M you can expect, at least for 2019, that Arizona might do a little better in Texas and SEC country than they have lately. This is the best year for high-end talent coming out of the state of Arizona since before 2014. If the combination of Khalil Tate and a easy conference slate can lead to 9 or 10 wins you might see a snowball effect (or maybe tumbleweed effect in Tucson?) of recruiting momentum that vaults Arizona into the upper half of the conference. If Tate gets hurt or Arizona struggles and they continue to strike out with the 2019 Arizona recruits then it could be a long few years for Kevin Sumlin on the recruiting trail.

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