Elephants are poached for their ivory tusks. Whales are poached for cultural reasons that go beyond their meat and bones.
Recruits can be poached as well, and more times than not, poaching in the college football world stems from coaching changes. Most recently, it was newly-instated coach Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins snapping up Wildcat recruit and highly-touted quarterback Devin Fuller from Rutgers, after their own head coach, Greg Schiano, bolted for the NFL.
Coaching changes at Arizona hurt their recruiting class, as did the change at Rutgers.
Scottsdale Chaparral recruit Davonte' Neal, the top recruit in the state of Arizona according to The Arizona Republic, has the Wildcats among his finalists. But with Mike Stoops fired and off to coach defense at Oklahoma and interim coach Tim Kish joining the Sooners, there's new competition for the receiver that could be a huge flex of the instate recruiting power Rich Rodriguez hopes to establish.Don't count the Wildcats completely out of this one yet.
Rodriguez made a smart move in hiring Charlie Ragle as the assistant director of football operations in December. Ragle, 35, won three state championships with Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, and his familiarity with Rodriguez developed during RichRod's time at Michigan, where he gave scholarships to two players from Chaparral.
Though young, Ragle's presence on the Wildcats could be a leading factor as to why Neal still has Arizona among the finalists that include Oklahoma, Ohio State, North Carolina and Notre Dame. That's purely conjecture on my part, but more important in this process -- no matter Neal's eventual decision on Wednesday's signing day or soon after -- is that Rodriguez is making a stamp in the state of Arizona.
Interestingly enough, Ragle turned down an offer to join ASU a season ago. Neal notified the Sun Devils he didn't want to play football for them a few weeks ago, and if he were to join Arizona, it'd be a huge statement that Rodriguez is committed to gaining control of the recruiting front in Arizona.
Even if he goes elsewhere, the hiring of Ragle puts Rodriguez's staff in a better position than the Sun Devils on the recruiting trail. No, the Grand Canyon State isn't swamped with football talent, but there's always two or three high-profile recruits that the Wildcats could have first dibs on.
Prince Amukamara out of Apollo High School is now on the New York Giants after an impressive career for the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Everson Griffen, an Agua Fria High School product, plays for the Minnesota Vikings after playing at USC. The Wildcats themselves found sleepers in players like Mike Bell, Spencer Larsen, and Brooks Reed, all who made it to the NFL.
Neal could be the next player in a thin but successful lineage of Arizona high school football players.
The Wildcats landing Neal would be a surprise, no doubt.
But it'd be an early validation of Rodriguez's push to make his football program deeply-rooted in its own backyard.