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Arizona football coaches turn to recruiting trail during bye week

arizona-wildcats-football-recruiting-2023-2024-bye-jedd-fisch-chandler-needs Arizona Athletics

With no game to prepare for this week, Arizona will practice through Thursday and then the players will get a “couple days off” on the weekend before diving back into a routine for the final five weeks of the season.

There will be no days off for the coaching staff, though. Not with the 2023 early signing period just over two months away and future recruiting classes to build.

UA coach Jedd Fisch said he and his staff will hit 28 high school football games on Thursday and Friday, spreading out between contests in Arizona, California, Hawaii and Texas. They’ll be checking in on the Wildcats’ 18 known commitments for 2023—down one after 3-star safety Justin Johnson re-opened his recruitment on Monday—as well as remaining 2023 targets and those Arizona is pursuing for 2024 and beyond.

“We’re very focused on ‘23 right now,” Fisch said. “Our position coaches are focused on ‘24. I’m gonna focus on 23, and 24 a little bit.”

Fisch didn’t say which games he was going to, and NCAA rules prohibit him from mentioning any recruits until they’ve signed, but he said his preference is to check out quarterbacks. Arizona has a commitment from 4-star Colorado QB Brayden Dorman and has offers out to 15 uncommitted 2024 passers including 4-star in-state prospect Demond Williams Jr., whose Chandler Basha faces rival Hamilton on Thursday night.

Arizona has offers out to 18 members of those teams including 2023 3-star safety Genesis Smith, who committed to the program in August, and 2023 3-star wide receiver Tre Spivey. Spivey took an official visit to the UA in June.

“If we have a school that has numerous kids that are available to look at, it’s not a game with just a player, I like to do that,” Fisch said. “So certain games that have a lot of prospects, those are always good. There are certain programs that are just very well-established in the state that I’d like to ... just be able to go out there and see the good football that occurs there. The rest of our coaches will be really position recruiting, they’ll be looking at their own positions.”

Arizona signed its highest-ranked recruiting class in at least 15 years for 2022. Six of those players have already started a game this fall, with another nine seeing action, something Fisch and his staff can point to when meeting with prospects and their families.

This is especially true on defense, where Arizona figures to have a lot of playing time available. Four current starters are out of eligibility, while others could opt to turn pro, and that unit’s overall struggles this season make wholesale changes seem inevitable.

“If you’re a defensive player, you have an opportunity to come in here and compete and start right away,” Fisch said. “We have a lot of veteran players on the defensive side, so you have opportunity in that regard to make kind of the same impact that our offensive guys made this past offseason. If you look at our game against Washington a year ago, there was not one player that touched the ball against Washington in 2021 that was on the field at 2022.

“We have a top 10 passing team and they’re all young, they’re all young players, so if you’re out there as a recruit on offense, you want to be a part of a team that’s very explosive, that scores a lot and throws the ball lot and has a sophomore quarterback, unlike most of the other programs that we’re competing against that have senior quarterbacks.”

Fisch said Arizona is planning to bring in 16 or 17 “midyear” players, meaning recruits who sign during the early period Dec. 21-23 or transfers.

‘There’ll be a lot of new again, but that’s okay,” he said.