Before you ask, the answer is yes. Arizona Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin is very happy with his 2019 recruiting class, one that checks off all the boxes and is full of talented, high character kids.
Did you really think he’d say otherwise?
“This time of year I don’t think there’s any coach that says no, it didn’t shape up the way we wanted it,” Sumlin said Wednesday, his first press conference since Arizona’s 2018 season ended 25 days ago with a massive collapse against ASU in the Territorial Cup.
Arizona signed 20 players on Wednesday, a group that 247Sports ranks 47th in the nation and seventh-best in the Pac-12. The 2018 class, nearly all of which was put together by Rich Rodriguez and his staff, ranked 60th and 11th, respectively.
Those rankings are still well below what Sumlin did at Texas A&M, where his classes from 2012-18 hovered between fifth and 18th, but it’s quite evident his first Arizona class has his fingerprints on it. This is most notable in the number of Texas-based recruits, eight, the most the Wildcats have inked in one class since Mike Stoops signed nine in 2005.
The bulk of Sumlin’s coaching career has either taken place in Texas or, as was the case with his time at Oklahoma from 2003-07, involved him spending a lot of time recruiting in the Lone Star State. Over time he’s established quite a few relationships and those are paying off for the Wildcats.
“You know a lot of people, you know a lot of coaches, a lot of families,” he said. “They know you as more than just a coach.”
Those connections were key in Arizona signing its three highest-rated players: wide receiver Jalen “Boobie” Curry, cornerback Bobby Wolfe and quarterback Grant Gunnell. All are from Houston.
Curry and Wolfe committed to Arizona on Wednesday, while Gunnell—the Texas high school career passing leader—came on board back in June.
“He’s the all-time leading passer in the state of Texas, in the history of the state of Texas,” Sumlin said. “Last time I checked there’s some pretty good quarterbacks there.”
Among the QBs Gunnell passed during his senior year: former Arizona standout Nick Foles and NFL career passing leader Drew Brees, whom Sumlin coached back at Purdue.
“Nick was here and I was with Drew at Purdue; maybe we’re on to something here,” Sumlin said.
It remains to be seen if Gunnell will make an immediate impact, particularly with Sumlin confirming that Khalil Tate would be back for his senior year. It’s a different story when it comes to some of the players Arizona signed on the offensive and defensive line.
The Wildcats have seven linemen—four offensive and three defensive—coming in, and two on either side are from the junior college ranks. The quartet of OLs Josh Donovan and Paiton Fears and DLs Trevon Mason and Myles Tapusoa are among the eight signees who will enroll in January and, thus, be a part of spring practice.
“I think the big takeaway today is you’ve got eight mid-year enrollees,” Sumlin said. “That’s going to have an impact. Priority No. 1 was offensive and defensive lines.”
One place Arizona’s class is noticeably lacking, though, is local talent. Not including Tapusoa, who played at Eastern Arizona College, the Wildcats signed just two in-state prep prospects. Offensive lineman Jordan Morgan, from Marana, was the No. 33-ranked player in Arizona.
Don’t be surprised if there’s a much larger local haul in 2020. Arizona currently has four top-100 prospects in that class, compared to two in 2019, including 4-star running back Bijan Robinson from Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic.
“We’re going to start everything in state,” Sumlin said. “I think next year is a big year in the state of Arizona, for 20s.”