TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 19: Defensive end Mohammed Usman #97 of the Arizona Wildcats celebrates with a flag after defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils in the college football game at Sun Devil Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 31-27. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Rich Rodriguez will not coach his first Arizona football game for another two months, but the new Wildcat sideline general is making an impact.
WildcatAuthority.com reported on Sunday that Rodriguez and staff received a verbal commitment from Derek Babiash, a defensive back from Poway (Calif.) High School.
Babiash helped PHS to the CIF San Diego Section championship last fall, excelling both in the secondary and as a wide receiver for the undefeated Titans. His nine interceptions were the most among North County San Diego players, and he added 35 receptions with three scores on the offensive end.
He is commitment No. 22 for UA's 2013 class, which Rivals.com currently ranks No. 18 nationally, and third in the Pac-12 Conference behind only USC and Washington.
Verbal commitments are not necessarily indicative of how a final recruiting class can look, particularly seven months out from National Signing Day. Nevertheless, Rodriguez's blueprint for Wildcat football is promising.
Now, recruiting projections do not always translate to collegiate success. The jewel of the '06 class was five star-rated defensive lineman Louis Holmes, a JUCO transfer from Scottsdale CC. He was All Pac-10 Second Team in 2006, but struggled as a senior and left UA without meeting his sky high hype.
Conversely, Stoops' highly rated classes of '05 and '06 produced translated to bowl appearances once they reached upperclassmen's status. UA slipped near the bottom of Pac-10/12 recruiting rankings in 2008, and felt the repercussions in the form of a 4-8 finish last year.
UA signing classes from '08 through '12 have ranked no higher than No. 8 among conference counterparts. One strong crew will not turn the tide immediately, as Rodriguez's brief tenure at Michigan proved.
Rebuilding projects often require seasons of struggle -- at UM, Rodriguez finished 3-9, 5-7 and 7-6 in his three seasons as head coach.
However, his highly regarded recruiting classes of 2008 (No. 10), 2009 (No. 8) and 2010 (No. 20) produced 11 wins and a Sugar Bowl appearance this past season.
The Wildcats may have seasons of struggle ahead, but the UA rebuilding project should be on a solid foundation if the '13 signing class comes to fruition.
Along with Babiash, Rodriguez has a commitment from four star quarterback Anu Solomon. Solomon passed for 2744 yards and 41 touchdowns, and rushed for another 402 and six to lead Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman.
Rodriguez has also made good on a National Signing Day 2012 promise to focus on winning in-state recruiting battles, landing Marcus de Niza slotback Mauriece Lee and Buckeye linebacker DeAndre Miller.