Save for a few select contributors, the team the Arizona Wildcats fielded in 2018 under first-year coach Kevin Sumlin was brought to Tucson by former coach Rich Rodriguez and his assistants.
You should expect to see more of Sumlin’s players in action this season, thanks to an influx of junior-college recruits and ready-to-play freshmen. And those guys will tend to stand out because of how much bigger they are, on average, compared to RichRod’s Wildcats.
The 19 signees in Arizona’s 2019 recruiting class averaged 74.8 inches and 230.9 pounds, according to 247Sports. The 2018 class averaged 75.4 inches but only 219.8 pounds, and the 2017 class averaged 74.2 inches and 213.9 pounds.
This isn’t by accident, according to linebackers coach John Rushing.
“In this conference you’ve got to have size, a lot of times this last year we stepped on the field and we were the smallest team on the field,” he said Wednesday. “I think it was a different body size with the last staff, as far as the type of guys they recruited. I just think we’ve got to get more athletic and bigger. We’re moving forward, continuing to get guys who have the length and the frames to put on the weight.”
A great example of this is sophomore Day Day Coleman, who signed with Arizona in February 2018. Listed at 6-foot-2 and 200 lbs. at that time, Coleman played at 216 as a true freshman and entered spring ball at 220, and during the offseason has moved from safety to linebacker.
“That was kind of the plan,” Rushing said. “He came in as a kid with the physical ability to play safety or linebacker. We knew he was going to grow into a linebacker. That was kind of the plan when we recruited him.”