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Mailbag: On Arizona football recruiting, basketball’s starting 5, Book Richardson’s void and more

Answering your questions!

NCAA Basketball: Cal. State - Bakersfield at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

There was no football availability this Monday because the regular season has ended, so I decided to replace that with an Arizona Wildcats mailbag.

You sent me your questions, and I answered them. I couldn’t get to all of them unfortunately, but I’ll probably do another one of these soon so stay tuned.

In your opinion, is the absence of Book Richardson and Joe Pasternack affecting the team more than we thought it would?

I’m not sure if it’s affecting the team “more” than we thought, but I do think it is one reason for the team’s slow start.

Losing two assistant coaches in one offseason is never a good thing, plus the team has one assistant coach fewer than usual (Austin Carroll is serving in Richardson’s role right now but that’s not the same).

And Richardson was probably the coach that had the best relationship with Arizona’s players. I saw this tweet from a high school basketball coach during the Purdue game, and the point being made makes a ton of sense.

Also, this is the first year Sean Miller has been a head coach without having Richardson on his staff, so I’m sure this is an adjustment for him too.

Again, though, I don’t know a whole lot about the in-game responsibilities of each coach, so it’s hard to be sure if, say, Richardson’s departure is affecting the defense or Allonzo Trier’s passing or anything like that.

Who should start at small forward until Rawle Alkins gets back?

Brandon Randolph, because he was the only small forward that had a good game in the Bahamas.

Dylan Smith made two starts and had a minimal impact, while Emmanuel Akot was a non-factor in the start he made.

Randolph didn’t do much of anything in Arizona’s first two games in the Bahamas, either, but then he had 17 points on 7-11 shooting against Purdue, which is more than enough to earn him a start this Wednesday against Long Beach State.

By the way, Miller said Monday on his radio show that Alkins is not ready to return quite yet, but “he’s right around the corner from being cleared.”

Why is it that in the six seasons Rich Rod has been here, the same issues we’ve had have not been addressed? Shaky special team play, undersized d-linemen. It seems like it’s an ongoing theme.

It is an ongoing theme and it all stems back to recruiting and player development.

For one, Arizona abandoned recruiting Texas, which was a head-scratching decision since that’s arguably the top football state in the country and it’s in close proximity to Tucson. Some of Arizona’s best defensive linemen under Mike Stoops — Earl Mitchell, Justin Washington, Lionel Dotson, etc. — were from Texas.

Arizona’s standing with Polynesian players fell off, too.

The good news is that Rodriguez is making an effort to restore both those pipelines, but we’ll see if that translates to anything.

Another issue is that several highly-regarded players Arizona has landed haven’t panned out. That’s common for every school, but it seems to be even more so the case with the Wildcats.

Former four-star offensive linemen Jordan Poland and Keenan Walker never played a snap, for instance. Walker was Arizona’s highest-rated recruit in 2015.

And here’s a look at the top half of UA’s 2014 class. Looks great on paper — it was ranked 31st nationally — then you realize none of those guys, aside from Nick Wilson, did much of anything in Tucson.

UA has also underrecruited on both lines for whatever reason and that is a problem again in the 2018 class. Arizona has just two defensive line commits and two offensive line commits.

The shaky special teams play has sort of been addressed with the addition of freshman kicker Lucas Havrisik, but obviously the punting situation is still a mess.

How long has it been since our last NFL lineman? When will our next one be?

The last linemen from Arizona to be drafted were Earl Mitchell (2010) and Eben Britton (2009). I’d be willing to bet that’s the longest drought in the Pac-12. And I don’t think another Arizona player will be drafted until 2019 at the earliest.

Rich Rodriguez has not had any offensive linemen or defensive linemen drafted during his tenure in Arizona, and when you compare that to Mike Stoops’ track record, there’s a huge discrepancy.

Stoops coached the likes of Britton, Mitchell, Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore, D’Aundre Reed, and Lionel Dotson who were all selected in the NFL Draft.

Stoops-coached teams also put several more linebackers and defensive backs in the NFL, too.

In fact, really the only NFL players Rodriguez has produced are Scooby Wright III and Will Parks which says a lot about the overall talent level in Tucson lately.

How does the future of women’s soccer look? Strong incoming class?

Arizona is a soccer school now (I’m only half-joking). The men’s club team won a national championship last week, and the women’s team just had one of its best seasons in program history.

The women’s team has made the NCAA Tournament three times in the last four years and just tallied seven conference wins for the first time in program history.

And it is a program that appears built for long-term success, as it has a strong group of underclassmen returning next season, including two All-Pac-12 players. That’s a pretty big deal since Arizona used to be a doormat in the Pac-12.

Head coach Tony Amato has done a tremendous job with the program and should be a candidate for a raise considering Mike Candrea and Jay Johnson just got one and Dave Heeke recently said the school is doing its best to secure its “highly-sought after” coaches.

I’ve heard the incoming recruiting class is good (it will be officially announced in February), but Amato always says how difficult it is to project how players will translate to the collegiate level.