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Revisiting Arizona football’s 2018 recruiting class

We still need some time to evaluate this group

arizona-wildcats-pj-johnson-seattle-seahawks-free-agent-202-nfl-chargers-lions Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

We’re taking a look a back at each of the last four recruiting classes that still have players remaining on the current roster. Last on the list is the 2018 class, the last one put together by former coach Rich Rodriguez (with a late addition by Kevin Sumlin and his staff).

The 2018 class was RichRod’s parting gift to Arizona. This class came together very slowly throughout the 2017 season and saw a fair share of decommitments along the way, which caused a lot of groans considering similar pain from the previous class.

2018 Recruiting Class

Name Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Sports Composite
Name Position Height Weight Hometown 247 Sports Composite
Kevin Doyle QB 6-4 210 Washington, DC 3-star, 559 overall
Jamarye Joiner QB 6-3 205 Tucson, AZ 3-star, 584 overall
Dayven Coleman S 6-2 200 Mesquite, TX 3-star, 786 overall
Jhevon Hill ATH 6-3 185 San Bernardino, CA 3-star, 844 overall
Nahe Sulunga SDE 6-2.5 252 Calabasas, CA 3-star, 857 overall
Christian Young S 6-1 201 Richmond, TX 3-star 859 overall
Thomas Marcus WR 6-4 185 San Diego, CA 3-star, 982 overall
Zach Williams WR 6-3 205 Alpharetta, GA 3-star, 996 overall
Donovan Laie OT 6-6 275 Oceanside, CA 3-star, 1028 overall
McKenzie Barnes CB 6-0 170 Fresno, CA 3-star, 1082 overall
Issaiah Johnson ILB 6-3 220 Los Alamitos, CA 3-star, 1083 overall
Mykee Irving DT 6-4.5 330 Calabasas, CA 3-star, 1106 overall
Tre Adams WR 6-3 178 Frisco, TX 3-star, 1212 overall
Jaden Mitchell WR 6-0 180 Las Vegas, NV 3-star, 1268 overall
Jake Peters TE 6-5 225 Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 3-star, 1277 overall
Steven Bailey OG 6-3 290 Glendale, AZ 3-star, 121 overall (JUCO)
David Watson OT 6-6 300 Tucson, AZ 3-star, 1378 overall
Jailey Bailey WR 5-10 180 San Diego, CA 3-star, 1704 overall
PJ Johnson DT 6-5 315 San Francisco, CA 3-star, 185 overall (JUCO)
Darrius Smith RB 5-9 170 Pearland, TX 3-star, 1854 overall

Who returns for 2019?

Kevin Doyle was the lone piece that Sumlin and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone had time to bring in when they first arrived to Tucson, and while he was the only quarterback to not play last season—and was limited in practice this fall—the hope is that he brings some competition to 2019 signee Grant Gunnell in the coming years.

Jamarye Joiner was one of those quarterbacks who saw the field last season. He got thrown into the Cal game backed into his own end zone and then thrown to the wolves in Salt Lake City in the one of the first drives of the game. He has since switched to receiver, where he was one of the top guys in camp and made a great debut at that new position in the opener against Hawaii.

After suffering a shoulder injury, safety Day Day Coleman sat out the end of his freshman season and has since moved to linebacker in order to provide relief for Colin Schooler. The hard-hitting Texas native will figure to be in the rotation this season.

Putting on some big time weight prior to heading to campus, Nahe Sulunga moved to defensive tackle, bringing nice size to the line. He will hopefully crack the rotation.

One of the 2019 guys who played and my personal favorite of the class, Christian Young is starting bandit after splitting between safety and corner last year.

There are a bunch of pass catchers who did not see much action last season, and with the depth at wide receiver there is a chance that they can carve out a role for themselves. Tre Adams, Zach Williams and Jake Peters all have size and the ability to contribute.

Donovan Laie flashed NFL potential after just one season by starting all year on the offensive line, including several games at left tackle. He stepped into one of the most technical positions as a true freshmen when Arizona needed him most.

Arizona has a pair of 2018 offensive linemen who will serve as reserves this season, junior college Steven Bailey (who can swing between both guard positions and center) and David Watson. Both will be fighting for a spot on the two-deep.

At 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, Mykee Irving had a lot of hype when he entered the program and saw a small amount of action his first year. Although the excitement ended when it was announced that he was moving to offensive line, a head-scratching move considering the lack of depth on the defensive line. He has since moved back to the defensive line, and Arizona will look to get any sort of production they can from him.

Issaiah Johnson was an under-the-radar linebacker who has bulked up and moved to defensive end during his first season, which has suddenly become a crowded position.

The lone bright spot of the Houston game last season was seeing Bam Smith shred. He’s a shifty back that has a lot of talent ahead of him, but there’s a shot he can work his way up to steal some touches.

Who left the program?

Jhevon Hill never made it to campus, which was a huge blow to the corner depth given his size and talent. He did not qualify academically and moved onto Arizona Western College, one of the premier junior colleges in the nation. He played out the season but appears to be out of football at the moment.

Adam Plant also never made it to campus due to academics, which was a big blow to the defensive line considering the lack of depth there in 2018. He was a true defensive end that had a loaded offer sheet. He ended up stepping away from football for a year to preserve eligibility and ended up at TCU.

Jailen Bailey was removed from the program this off-season and it is not known what his next move will be. He was a strong candidate to help in the return game and made significant progress as a receiver in the spring.

We just recently saw Thomas Marcus ushered out of the program. An electrifying athlete in high school who had the tools to be a great receiver at Arizona, he’s now at a junior college.

Quickly going over the decommitments of the class, the group includes Josh Walker, who committed to Arizona despite it not even being in his top three. He later enrolled at FCS school Chattanooga. Haki Woods was the Pima College safety standout who left his dream school for Oregon. Martell Irby went rogue the week leading up to National Signing Day after getting a UCLA offer, flipped, and contributed quite a bit last season.

Armani Adams flipped on National Signing Day and ended up going to FAU. Jaiden Dockery decommitted a week before National Signing Day with all signs pointing to Memphis, but he never actually enrolled.

Top players of the class

  1. Laie gets my number one spot simply because of the fact that he came in as a true freshman during the summer, picked up the scheme and ran away with the starting job. After just one season he is already one of the best and most irreplaceable pieces on this roster.
  2. PJ Johnson had a heck of a year at Arizona and parlayed that into a jump to the NFL. He came in and dominated the spring and forced his way into the lineup early. He was a versatile piece that brought a tremendous boost to the defensive line. He was a high performer in Pro Football Focus’ analytics each week, but only contributing for one year holds him back on our list.
  3. Young started to challenge Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles and eventually took over for some time last season. When corner depth was looking bleak, he slid over and provided great production considering his inexperience at the Pac-12 level. Now he’ll have the bandit role for the next few years.
  4. McKenzie Barnes was one of the few players who burned their redshirt last season primarily starting on special teams and working his way into the secondary. He’s a lengthy corner who I think could make a jump into the starting rotation over Lorenzo Burns this season.
  5. Smith gets the final spot here since he actually played last season and showed off some good stuff during that time. Due to the sheer talent at running back he’ll likely have to wait for an injury to see an uptick in his carries for a game but for now he has a lot of potential to become a full-time back.


This was one of the lower ranked classes during the RichRod era but he finally hit on a lot of neglected areas and added a ton of size. It was a small class with 20 enrollees, and they are already down three players from a year ago with Bailey, Hill and Johnson gone.

This will be a big year to see how good this class really is and if they can step up and show potential. So far, based off those who have played and the overall potential, the class seems to be in a decent spot, but there are quite a few might eventually get buried.