The Arizona Wildcats are in the middle of a defensive overhaul, with Rich Rodriguez saying that they were completely blowing up the old model, working on the fundamentals under Marcel Yates and his defensive staff. All spring long, Rodriguez had said that he will expect some freshmen to come in immediately to compete for some playing time, particularly at the safety position.
With Paul Magloire moving to linebacker, it left the safety depth even more anemic. And with the status of Tellas Jones still unclear, there's even more uncertainty.
Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles will likely come in as the spur safety, Will Parks' old position. Flannigan-Fowles contributed as a free safety this past season, but spur is going to put the rangy safety in much better position for him to make even bigger plays. Then Anthony Mariscal will slide in to fill the void at free safety, after redshirting last year.
After that, it'll be up to Devon Brewer, Carter Hehr, as well as Jarvis McCall and Kwesi Mashack, who both moved from corner to safety this spring.
There's so much movement within the safety positions that it's hard to tell exactly where a guy is best suited. Arizona has plenty of safeties in this upcoming class, five to be exact, one of which who has already been on campus for the spring semester. When I spoke with a few of these incoming safeties, they had said that the coaching staff told them to get ready to be in position to play early, a huge selling to point while trying to land these safeties.
Isaiah Hayes was the early enrollee out of Calabasas, who was originally listed as a cornerback through most recruiting services. However, Arizona has listed him as a safety upon his arrival. That extra spring is definitely going to give him that jump start to come in and compete throughout the fall. Consider him to be a situational guy on defense who will be learning quickly on the job as he progresses through non-conference.
The guy to keep an eye on is Chacho Ulloa. He is Arizona's highest ranked safety of the bunch, coming out of football powerhouse Centennial. The 22nd-ranked safety in the nation was once committed to Stanford and ultimately turned down Notre Dame on National Signing Day. Credit this commitment to the new defensive coaches. He's an even six feet and will likely weigh 200 pounds by the time the season starts, who can play free or bandit. He's a ball hawk in the secondary and you can expect him to see the field early this season.
Gavin Robertson is one of my favorite recruits in this class. He was ranked 2-stars throughout the entirety of his recruitment, getting bumped up just before NSD. While I don't think he'll be a guy that plays immediately, he's going to be a stud two or three years down the line. He's the ultimate bandit safety for Arizona.
Jarrius Wallace was another lowly ranked guy for much of his recruitment, finally getting bumped up to 3-star status by the end of the process. He definitely projects more as a free safety in Arizona's defense. It's hard to tell whether or not he'll be able to contribute right away, especially if a guy like Ulloa fills the gap wherever necessary. But I like Wallace's chances to see the field this season as well, earning a bigger role as the season goes on.
Tristan Cooper is a very intriguing prospect. He's the lowest ranked of the five incoming safeties, but many believed if he were to have played in the Los Angeles area, he would have been a borderline 3/4-star guy. He was drowned out by the 500+ ranked recruits in Texas, with the other seven ranked El Paso kids opting for UTEP. When I spoke to him after his commitment, he said the staff was going to continue talking over his position. He said safety is all he knows and he has the ability to play all three spots. Consider him to be another Swiss Army knife for Arizona.