When Jay Johnson took the Arizona Wildcats head coaching job last June, he knew that one thing that needed to be addressed immediately was the pitching situation.
On this first day of the baseball junior college signing period, he has done that.
Arizona has officially received National Letters of Intent from both RHP Tylor Megill (Cypress CC) and RHP/INF Seve Romo (East Los Angeles CC). They have also received a scholarship agreement from RHP Landon Faulkner (Chipola CC).
Faulkner can not sign an NLI at this time due to an SEC conference rules violation that Georgia unknowingly committed when they tried to originally sign Faulkner.
"Major impact," Johnson said of his three new recruits. "We've really been patient. I really like all the guys that we've signed in the early period, but we made a vow that we would not get impatient in this first class, because the recruiting world is crazy."
"Guys are committing so early, that a lot of the premium high school guys were taken or committed by the time we got hired here," coach continued. "So our plan was to kind of lay in the weeds a little bit, and we didn't want to take somebody just to take somebody. We felt like they needed to be of our caliber to sign 'em, and luckily for us, these three guys fit that mold."
We'll start with Seve Romo, who actually went to Jay Johnson's old school, the University of San Diego, in 2014. He made ten appearances for the Toreros that year, their first without Johnson as an assistant.
He now pitches and plays shortstop at East Los Angeles CC, where he is putting up some incredible numbers on the mound:
"We're going to keep all options open," Johnson said if Arizona plans to use him primarily as a pitcher or a middle infielder. "But he's having a really dominant season as a pitcher."
As is the case with all pitchers that the Wildcats are looking to bring in now, Romo will add more velocity to this staff.
"Really good fastball command. I'd say he's 89-92 with a really good slider," explained Johnson of his skill set. "Really, really good slider, and he's a mature guy. He's 21, and will be a redshirt junior here, kind of in the mold of JC Cloney in terms of experience."
"Almost everybody in the Pac-12 can hit a fastball," Johnson continued about adding velocity like that. "So the improvement of our staff's secondary stuff is a point of emphasis in recruiting and with the guys we have right now."
On the fielding side of Romo, there's a chance that he could be used at second base, shortstop, or third base, but he will come to Tucson to primarily be used as a pitcher.
Tylor Megill is another guy that Jay Johnson has been familiar with. Megill was originally going to attend USD, but when Johnson took the Nevada head coaching job, Megill ended up going to Loyola Marymount, where his older brother Trevor was playing at the time. Trevor has since been drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 7th round of the 2015 draft.
That D-1 experience, along with Romo, and some other 2016 signees like Jojo Romero (Nevada, Yavapai College), Cal Stevenson (Nevada, Chabot College) and Cory Voss (New Mexico, McLennan College) will be crucial to this new Arizona coaching staff finding an immediate foothold in the Pac-12 and nationally. Stevenson and Voss were both Freshman All-Americans last year.
"I feel like we're getting a bunch of proven Division One players in this recruiting class, and it'll help us fill that junior class and make it not so much of a year where we're really young," Johnson said.
The previous relationship that Coach Johnson had with Tylor made bringing the tall (6-foot-7) righty to Tucson that much easier.
"In fact, when we picked up the phone and called him after tracking his year at Cypress and his development, it didn't take long to get the ball rolling."
Megill plays with a guy at Cypress that Arizona baseball fans will know, and that's Elijah Skipps. Skipps played in eight games at Arizona last year as a freshman, picking up just one career hit.
"I saw (Elijah) the other day when I went to go watch Tylor, but that was actually the first time I'd seen Elijah play," explained Johnson. "Big dude." Yeah, 6'3", 232 pounds is pretty large.
The third and final name is Landon Faulkner. He is not technically able to sign a National Letter of Intent right away because of a snafu he ran into at Georgia.
In the SEC, you have to be at the same junior college for three consecutive semesters before signing an NLI in that conference. Georgia's head coach, Scott Stricklin, was unaware of the rule and signed him illegally. This made Faulkner available, and Arizona jumped into the fray right away to land his services.
"We'll continue to recruit transfers and junior college guys," explained Arizona's coach if bringing in so many junior college guys will be a trend. "I've personally had a lot of success in my coaching career with 'em. I think there's no substitute for experience. We're lucky. We feel like we got a bunch of guys that will help us in 2017, which we'll need."
The thing that Arizona's been missing this year is experience on the mound. With these three guys coming in, that changes, and changes in a big way. Plus when you add in the early signings of Romero, Stevenson, and Voss, you have yourself some high-quality players making their way to Hi Corbett looking to turn this program around immediately.