Arizona's biggest replacement search on the defensive side of the ball no doubt starts at the linebacker position. Rich Rodriguez loses captain Jake Fischer and sidekick Marquis Flowers after their senior seasons, but there's a shot that the 2014 recruiting class will have an easy solution to any question-marks there.
Bishop Mora Salesian High School products Jamardre Cobb and Marquis Ware are a pair of 4-star linebackers that may lead the 2014 class in instant-impact ability -- at least in terms of the true freshmen in the group.
As of early afternoon on National Signing Day, Cobb had sent in his letter of intent while Ware finally got his commitment in after dealing with fax machine issues (who knew all these guys know how to use fax machines?).
That means Arizona is only waiting on Marquis Ware, who is dealing with a broken fax machine— Jason Scheer (@JasonScheer) February 5, 2014
Ware, a 6'2, 230 pounder with a stocky build similar to Fischer, could be the most-likely candidate as an instant-impact player. He garnered intrigue from some highly-touted schools like Oklahoma, Stanford and Wisconsin, but it eventually came down to the Wildcats.
As an outside linebacker he is primarily used in passing situations as an edge rusher. As a pass rusher, Cobb lacks length and isn't particularly explosive off the line. His initial rush angles tend to be a bit wide, but he usually takes a fairly efficient route to the quarterback once he's turned the corner.
At the collegiate level Cobb would probably be a more effective gap blitzer. He flashes the ability to close but he doesn't profile as the type of recruit who would win hand battles with longer offensive linemen.
As an inside ‘backer Cobb is extremely physical player who is explosive on contact. His low center of gravity allows him to stay balanced as he creates violent collisions even after only taking a step or two towards the ball carrier. Some of the same traits he flashes as a downhill running back translate to defense in his ability to shoot gaps and close quickly and close quickly in the open field.
Ware is the slightly more highly-regarded recruiting of the two. While Cobb played both running back and middle linebacker, Ware could likewise see time at two spots. He's of a thinner build and is listed as an athlete in some recruiting circles because he also played wideout at Salesian.
During the Wildcats' recruiting webcast, Rich Rodriguez made it clear that he'll look at versatility as a more important asset moving forward (he must have taken a lesson from Jim Mora, who surprised the Wildcats with linebacker-running back hybrid Myles Jack this season). Be it the Cam Densons or the Wares, Arizona might be getting a little more tricky with their personnel decisions in the upcoming year, and the versatility of a player like Ware is the reason for that.
That's the way UA is recruiting, after all.
But first, Rodriguez will need to plug the holes on a defense that's losing quite a bit from a relatively successful season. If the quarterback question-mark is the first order of business, the linebacking crew is probably the second.
Update (12:40 p.m. MST): The two lone commits that haven't signed, Salpointe Catholic receiver Kaelin Deboskie and Chandler safety J.R. Hunt, are expected to fax in their letters but the school has yet to announce it. After that, any other signings would be a surprise.
Updated 2014 Arizona recruiting signee list
OL Levi Walton, Ida S. Baker High School
OL Kaige Lawrence, Chaffey College
LB Antonio Smother, Scottsdale Community College
CB Patrick Glover, Scottsdale Community College
WR T.J. Johnson, Milford Academy
OL Layth Friekh, Centennial High School
DT Jeff Worthy, Santa Ana College/Boise State
OL Freddie Tagaloa, ** California Golden Bears
QB Jerrard Randall, NE Miss. Community College
RB Jonathan Haden, Friendship Collegiate Academy
DL Jerod Cody, Glendale Community College
CB Devon Brewer, Central High School (Fresno, Calif.)
TE Trevor Wood, Chaparral High School
OL Jordan Poland, La Jolla Country Day
WR Tony Ellison, Granite Bay High School
RB Nick Wilson, Central High School (Fresno, Calif.)
CB Kwesi Mashack, Vista Murrieta High School
TE Darrell Cloy, La Habra High School
QB Brandon Dawkins, Oaks Christian High School
LB Jamardre Cobb, Bishop Mora Salesian High School
DB Jace Whittaker, Oceanside High School
WR/CB Cameron Denson, Salpointe Catholic High School
DB Rodney Carr, Bishop Mora Salesian High School
LB Marquis Ware, Bishop mora Salesian