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Arizona football recruiting: Defensive line needs are being addressed with Matt Leo’s commitment

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Despite 26 commitments, there is still a good amount of room for more defensive line talent

The Arizona Wildcats landed their 26th commitment of the 2017 recruiting cycle on Friday, with Arizona Western College (Yuma, AZ) defensive end Matt Leo pledging to the ‘Cats.

This will give Arizona some much needed size on the defensive line, with Leo checking in at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds. Hailing from Australia, Leo doesn’t have a football background, but one in rugby. Last year at AWC was his first year playing football, giving him a bit of a learning curve.

While junior college defensive linemen haven’t been very lucrative for Arizona (Timmy Hamilton, Anthony Fotu, Josh Allen), there’s a lot of upside to be had here for the Wildcats, especially with his size. This commitment also likely rules out a return for Josh Allen, who is at Eastern Arizona.

I briefly touched on Leo in late July, simply naming him as a potential short-list option on the defensive line after Hunter Echols committed to USC.

But it really wasn’t until mid-August or so when I started believing that Leo was a very real option. That hunch came after another defensive lineman that Arizona offered, Ray Lima, opted for Iowa State over Oregon State.

There was a feeling that Leo was favoring Iowa State a little bit, but Lima gave the Cyclones four defensive linemen in this class and I just couldn’t imagine them taking another, especially already having two come from junior college.

I pulled my Iowa State prediction for Leo, but felt like he would wait a bit on his recruitment, as he has so much potential to blow up, with this being his second year playing football.

By ending his process before the season begins, he can now focus on learning his craft.

He’ll be a mid-year enrollee, which gives himself — and Arizona — extra time to elevate his game.

This now gives Arizona 26 commitments for the class, with five mid-year enrollees (Braxton Burmeister, Tony Fields, Darrian McNeal, and Delshawn Phillips the others) that can have their scholarship pushed back to the 2016 recruiting class.

With that being said, it gives Arizona more room to land additional pieces.

Current commits

U of A has quite a few defensive line prospects already in this class. Kurtis Brown at 6-foot-3, 260 pounds and Elijah Watson at 6-foot-3 270 pounds serve as the defensive tackles. Then Arizona will bring in two solid options on the edge in Bryce Brand and Kylan Wilborn.

Whether Jalen Harris plays defensive end or has more of a linebacker role at 6-foot-3, 210 pounds will be figured out later. Last recruiting class, the Wildcats classified Francisco Nelson as an outside linebacker at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, after he primarily played defensive end in high school.

Remaining options

I still think Arizona will be looking to add another defensive line piece to the 2017 class. Whether that’s being able to flip 4-star Hunter Echols from USC, or landing either Odua Isibor or My-King Johnson. Of that group, I think Isibor is more likely, with Johnson not too far behind.

Isibor could easily go Arizona State or Stanford, but Arizona seems to be in a good spot just behind Stanford. The Cardinal will wait to see test scores before offering, but that could tip the scale for Isibor.

Johnson has Arizona State, Oregon, Texas A&M and USC in his top list of schools. It’s hard to get a feel on his recruitment, but I don’t think he ends up at ASU or USC in the long run.

Of course, there is also a chance Arizona offers an entirely new prospect throughout the next few months as well, and make some serious headway with someone we don’t even know about at this point.