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National Signing Day 2014: Arizona football eyes top-30 class

The major question-marks seemingly have been answered, but there's always room for surprises.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Rodriguez's recruiting strategies have become clear. The Arizona Wildcats went into the class of 2014 with aggression, and all along their efforts have put them in or near the top-25 in terms of the various recruiting rankings. As national signing day has drawn closer, it became clear that Arizona has a philosophy -- there's no such thing as a soft commitment.

Because, you know, that's what the word "commitment" means (I digress).

RichRod's top recruit in his time at UA, 5-star cornerback Jalen Tabor, chose the Wildcats over Alabama during the Under Armour All-American game on Jan. 2. Less than a week later, he flipped his commitment to join the Florida Gators.

Most recently, the Wildcats broke off a relationship with defensive back Naijiel Hale, a 3-star cornerback.

Overall, the class now looks at a top-30 finish once National Signing Day is over with. It took a small slide from where it was a month ago, but in Rodriguez's eyes, it could be addition by subtraction. Arizona expects faxes from 27 commitments on Wednesday, which is 2014 National Signing Day. Four are 4-star commits, and the rest are 3-stars.

What's the need?

Defense line: While the UA defensive front was not all that recognized, Rodriguez will be forced to replace two experienced loads in tackles Sione Tuihalamaka and Tevin Hood. It's unlikely a freshman could join soon-to-be senior Reggie Gilbert to immediately provide support, but there is a chance the Wildcats could earn a commitment from Marcus Griffin, a 4-star, 300 pound defensive tackle from Bellevue, Wash.

Linebacker: Scooby Wright will be the obvious leader on the linebacking crew, but there could be opportunity alongside him with Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers having used their eligibility.

Cornerback: The biggest loss for Arizona leading into signing day was obviously at corner. Who replaces the enigmatic Shaquille Richardson?

Quarterback: B.J. Denker had a nice one-year run and made for a nice story, but RichRod will be looking at a number of quarterbacks to replace him. Whether it comes in Texas transfer Connor Brewer, or redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, or otherwise, there's a chance a freshman could put himself in position to start from the get-go.

Running back: Ka'Deem Carey is gone. That's rough. On top of it, Daniel Jenkins is also graduated, and third-string back, speedster Jared Baker, tore his ACL in the final regular season game of 2013. The position is wide open, and assuming there's not another Carey on the roster, Rodriguez will be looking for two or three solid backs to fill in at the beginning of the 2014 football season.

The top recruits

Marcus Griffin 4-star, DT ( Bellevue, Wash.): At 300 pounds, Griffin is the one uncommitted player who could be a strong lean toward becoming a Wildcat. California, Washington State and Mississippi State are also in the mix for the defensive tackle's services.

Brandon Dawkins, 3-star (Westlake Village, Calif.): The quarterback commit isn't your typical RichRod recruit. He's 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, but he does have the typical dual-threat abilities that could make him a dynamic part of the Arizona offense.

Nick Wilson, 4-star, RB (Fresno, Calif.): The big-bodied back could be an immediate help in the backfield with Carey's departure to the NFL.

Cameron Denson, 4-star, RB/DB (Tucson, Ariz.): Denson is the most significant local commit. The Salpointe Catholic star was recruited to play receiver and has the speed to make an impact despite a deep returning core of wideouts. Yet, because of the openings in the defensive backfield, there are thoughts he could be a two-way player.

Marquis Ware, 4-star LB (Los Angeles): The 6-foot-2, 210 pound outside linebacker very well could be in the running to play right away.

Jamardre Cobb, 4-star LB (Los Angeles): A middle linebacker and teammates of fellow Bishop Mora Salesian product is also considered a candidate to see some early snaps for RichRod.