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Addressing Arizona football’s recruiting needs for 2021

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Let’s take a look at the high-priority position groups

arizona-wildcats-football-2021-recruiting-breakdown-analysis-needs-sumlin-priority Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats have secured two top commitments to kick off their 2021 recruiting class, which is now Kevin Sumlin’s third full recruiting cycle since taking over the program.

The current roster has 80 scholarship players assuming no departures or academic issues, which is only five spots shy of a the 85-scholarship maximum. Arizona has 19 seniors and there will likely be more transfers after the season, meaning 2021 could bring in another full class.

But the scholarship distribution is far from balanced between positions and graduating classes, as the staff has attempted to overhaul the roster by restoring order to the trenches and adding size across the board.

So now let’s talk about the critical positions the staff needs to address within this 2021 class.

Middle linebacker

Middle linebacker is a huge need, as four-year starters Colin Schooler and Tony Fields will be graduating, and behind them there isn’t exactly a promising up-and-comer being groomed. We also learned that incoming freshman Jabar Triplett will be out for the season after recently tearing his Achilles, which will slow his development.

Both of Arizona’s current 2021 commitments are LBs and could help fill that role, but it’s also a tall order for true freshmen. Kolbe Cage may ultimately be suited for a safety role and Jackson Bailey has a shot to play both inside and outside.

The hope would be that Arizona can land a top-end linebacker who can come in immediately. Whether they manage a huge recruiting win for a high school prospect, patch up with a junior college transfer or hit the transfer portal, the Wildcats need someone immediately.

Defensive backs

Safeties have been a huge story due to the departure of Scottie Young Jr. Luckily it is one position that Arizona has had a lot of success with in terms of freshmen over the last few recruiting classes.

But there’s a good chance that Jaxen Turner and Christian Young could be the only returning safeties next year. Adding a high-end caliber prospect at that position and an extra one or two promising safeties to begin developing will be necessary for depth.

Arizona is going to need to find another solid starting cornerback to pair with Christian Roland-Wallace once Lorenzo Burns is gone. Perhaps that will be one of the two 2020 signees—Edric Whitley or Khary Crump—but Arizona needs to continue building depth there.

Find some athletes that can easily be flexed between safety and corner and the staff can hit two thin positions at once as well. It wouldn’t be crazy to see Arizona add five or six versatile defensive backs in this class.

Wide receiver

Maybe this is just a personal preference but the offense needs true wide receivers who can contribute early. While there are 14 scholarship pass catchers, many are still in the development phase or still on the verge of a hopeful breakout.

Perhaps we were spoiled with the immediate success of Rich Rodriguez’s receivers from his first few classes, with Samajie Grant, Nate Phillips, Trey Griffey and Shun Brown all taking on much bigger roles as freshmen than those who’ve signed since 2016.

The staff has offered 31 receivers in the 2021 class. I get the feeling that they need to make a move at that position to not only maintain healthy numbers but also bring in a big-time talent who can ball.

Remaining positions

Arizona doesn’t have to press on running backs. The position is absolutely stacked and even a transfer or two wouldn’t hurt the outlook. Unless it’s the local kid Stevie Rocker, from Canyon del Oro High School, you can pass.

A quarterback will be nice to continue building depth, and the options are getting thin as it’s the first position to make a run in recruiting. The way things are shaking out it looks like Clay Millen is the top guy, although Jalen Kitna’s top schools have already filled their quarterback needs as well.

Tight end is to be determined, although the offer count of eight, along with the fact that six are committed, makes it seem like a very low priority.

The staff has quietly done a tremendous job at loaded up on scholarship linemen with a total of 16 on offense and 14 on defense. I’m a believer that every class you should always bring in two or three linemen on each side for numbers.

The defense is absolutely stacked with edge players but there’s a lack of developed beef at nose and tackle. On offense the staff can get a go balanced between tackles and guards, although the offers out to tackles (20) far outweigh the offers at guard (eight). However, tackles are usually guys who are more versatile and can be moved inside so it’s a wise approach.

We’ll get to see Tyler Loop compete at kicker and Kyle Ostendorp take over at punter and with them being so young you hope that position doesn’t need to be addressed for a few years aside from the occasional walk-on.