Leading up to the early signing period, Arizona Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin frequently cited statistics that said roughly 80 percent of high school recruits will sign in December as opposed to waiting until February.
He overshot by quite a bit because the Wildcats signed 12 players this week, only half of what they hope to finish with when the recruiting cycle ends in a couple of weeks.
“We’re gonna add more players,” Sumlin said. “Let’s put it that way.”
They need to. Arizona’s class ranks 70th in the country and 11th in the Pac-12, only ahead of the USC Trojans. Sumlin met with the media Friday to discuss the group and what’s next moving forward.
Here is what he had to say.
On how many players Arizona will add: “I would say that we’re about half right now. There may or may not be a couple that we haven’t announced that have some things that they want to do and announce on their own later on. So it’s an interesting year. There’s quite a few guys that are still out there who have not signed. A couple in-state (recruits) that are notable that haven’t signed with anybody. So from our standpoint, we’re still recruiting. I think it’s changed a little bit this year. There are more guys out there that are available this year than maybe last year with 80 percent. So January will be important, how we finish up and how we continue to recruit.”
On which positions Arizona needs to bolster: “It’s the same since we’ve been here. The front, both sides. We’ve got to get more depth. We’ve got to get more size in both fronts. And that’s been the story since day one. I think we made some steps last year and thank goodness we did because we needed all those guys, offensively and defensively in the defensive front and the offensive line based on injury. It forced a lot of guys to see the field that were first-year players...When I say that I’m not just talking about high school. We’re talking about transfers and junior college transfers.”
On if having assistant coaching vacancies hurt Arizona’s recruiting efforts: “I don’t know about that. I think it would have been a plus. But I think it was situation where was what it was. We knew that was the last couple three weeks of the season. So those conversations were ongoing for really the last month.”
On which recruits can be impact players: “We hope they all are, right? ... I always say at the beginning of fall camp, just look around, there’s gonna be some people in this room or a guy in this room that nobody expects to have an impact on the football team. And some of those guys have just just gotten here. So there’s guys that you think can be special, you hope that they all can. I think we’ve shown since we’ve been here that a lot of young players play. A lot of first-year players play. The best players play. And so from a recruiting standpoint, these guys that are that have signed, I think the message has been ‘Hey, come here, be developed, and you’ve got a heck of opportunity to get on the field early a lot of different positions.’ And we’ve shown that, so I’m not being sarcastic. I hope they all are impact players because we need them.”
On what he likes about three-star quarterback Will Plummer: “I tell you what’s crazy, I like the fact that when his brother was playing quarterback, (Will) was playing all kinds of positions. He was playing tight end. He was playing linebacker a couple games that I saw. He is a physical guy that can run and just loves to play. So I think that speaks to his unselfishness, I think it speaks to his toughness. ... His high school tape from his junior year, sophomore year was him playing a little bit of everything and being pretty good at it and not shying away from contact. He’s a smart guy and loves to play football. That what was really impressed me before he even got to really start at quarterback.”
On the quarterback competition heading into the spring: “It starts from the beginning. Obviously Grant (Gunnell) has the upper hand because he played, he started games, he’s won games. So I think it starts there and then everybody else is really in a competition to see where they are. Competition is a coach’s best friend but there’s no doubt with Grant how much he’s played and won the games that he started. So he’s going to start off and and be number one.”
On the importance landing in-state defensive end Regen Terry, who got a late offer from USC: “He’s the Jordan Morgan of this year so far. He is a national recruit, really, that we evaluated early, had on campus early and then here comes everybody at the end. And we hung on again with a guy that’s right up the road. So, yeah, it’s extremely important. And it’s just like anything else, I say it in here all the time and you guys kinda laugh, it’s our evaluation that matters. Some of these guys that we evaluate, at the end here comes everybody else to recruit them. And in this case, I think relationships mattered and I know they did, so it’s good. He’s happy, mom is happy and we’re happy because we need D-linemen.”
Sumlin’s thoughts on Terry as a player: “You know what our thoughts are because we offered him really early... . It’s hard to get everywhere but obviously our thoughts are pretty high on a bye week for me to be there watching him play.”
On why it’s traditionally been difficult for Arizona to land in-state recruits: “I don’t know. I’ve been on both sides. So I know what has been said from the other side. As somebody told me, it’s not negative recruiting if it’s true. So that’s kind of where it is. We worked at it. Between December and January, we were at over 100 high schools in the state. And we started right here (in Tucson). So it’s not that we’re not working at it. It’s not that we don’t have a lot guys here were visiting. I think that it’s a process too. ... Our new guy (defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads) might help us too since he snatched a couple of them out here (laughs).”
On the three Arizona commits who did not sign: “You have to be confident. You gotta keep recruiting and let me just say this, we’re not the only school that that’s happened with this year right...So, you gotta be confident and you gotta keep recruiting. It may or may not happen. But like I said, we’re not the only people in that boat.”
On junior college tight end Stacey Marshall, who committed Wednesday: “He’s 6-4, 240. I think you see on tape that he’s used to being a tight end. He loves to block, he’s an excellent blocker and we need that because his body type we have only one with Bryce Wolma. We’d love to be able to utilize a tight end a lot more. It was tough was Bryce because if we lost him and it would have been tough for anything. So I think he’s going to give us some depth there and maybe the ability to get some two tight-end sets. You see him on tape, when you throw it to him, he can go get it. So the thing that impressed us with his blocking and his size and his quickness, but obviously he’s a pretty good athlete the way he goes after the ball on tape.”
On German tight end/wide receiver Robert Miranda: “He’s got a tremendous upside. He’s just a great young man, really fluid. When he gets here and it’s strength and conditioning and everything else there’s no telling what his ceiling’s gonna be, so I kinda like those guys.
“For us he would be a big slot. He’s a guy that can play outside. He’s a guy we can move inside. He’s a guy that we can play a little H-back with right now and that’s just him walking through the door. So I wouldn’t categorize him just yet at one position or another because he’s got the ability to play outside.”
On dealing with the transfer portal while trying to sign a recruiting class: “I think it wasn’t well thought out at the beginning. For everybody, the combination of the early signing day time—the middle of December—and the transfer portal, which most guys get into right after the season, roughly the first week in December... is a challenge for roster management because of the fluctuation of the numbers. And I don’t think that was thought about. They’re two separate rules, but they work hand in hand for coaches who are trying to manage their roster. It’s pretty hard to have your numbers of what you want to do, what you need two weeks before the early signing day because things change on you, right? And then all of a sudden other guys become available and they’re looking for places to go by really January.
“So that’s an ongoing process and the tough part right now is, for us, the dead period started this week, so everybody’s out. The other part is most universities like ours close today. So when you’re trying to get a guy in school, it becomes a difficult situation because you can’t visit, you can’t go off campus and see him, you can’t bring him on campus. And then transcript evaluation and getting guys in, it’s a mad scramble in January. So those conversations you have with prospects are still going to go on. But unless you’ve had them on campus or they know a little bit about the campus or have been there or know you, it’s a matter of trust at that point.”