The Arizona Wildcats saw a lot of turnover in their 2016 recruiting class. While quite a few were due to the major overhaul of the defensive staff, there were quite a few guys that the staff suddenly backed off of late in the process.
Arizona only had 17 members of the 2016 recruiting class make it to campus and eight saw playing time this season. The staff had a total of nine decommitments in 2016, with quite a few guys that could have helped immediately or given Arizona some solid depth for the future.
Here’s a look at where those decommits ended up and how they did this season.
Louisville safety London Iakopo
Arizona has been loading up on the secondary and London Iakopo was one of the earlier commits of the class. But once the new defensive staff came in, it seemed clear that Iakopo was going elsewhere, with Louisville recruiting him hard the entire time he had been committed to Arizona.
Whether Arizona actually needed him this season, I’m not so sure. The staff loves Isaiah Hayes and Tristan Cooper going forward, and you have a true sophomore in Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles as well.
Iakopo contributed on special teams this season for Louisville, but suffered a season-ending knee injury early this season. Even Arizona decommits can’t escape injury.
Syracuse wide receiver Sean Riley
Given the running back circumstance this season, it’s clear that Arizona missed Sean Riley earlier in the season.
As one of the first commitments of the 2016 class, committing in March of his junior year, the staff slowly started backing off of Riley around November, asking him to gray shirt instead, which led him to Syracuse as a wide receiver.
He contributed both on special teams and offense as a true freshman for the Orange. He’s hauled in 10 catches for 104 yards, returned two punts for 30 yards, and returned 43 kicks for 919 yards.
Temple running back Tyliek Raynor
Arizona backed off yet another running back in the 2016 class, this time with a late summer commit in Tyliek Raynor. He was forced to decommit late in the process and ultimately chose Temple, which was another school high on his list prior to his Arizona commitment.
He had established a relationship with Will Parks, mostly due to the fact that they were both from Philadelphia, as the four-year starting safety had spoken highly about Raynor in a press conference.
It appears as if Raynor redshirted this season.
UCLA quarterback Devon Modster
A few months ago, the quarterback position had no concern. It looked like Arizona would have a healthy Anu Solomon coming back for his redshirt senior season, a rising Brandon Dawkins, an explosive four-star in Khalil Tate, and the long-time four-star Braxton Burmeister. Something just had to give.
Devon Modster backed off his commitment to Arizona around the holiday season and soon flipped to UCLA afterwards. He didn’t play a snap this season and will continue to sit behind Josh Rosen until he decides to go pro.
With all of the injuries this season, Modster probably would have seen the field at some point, burning the redshirt label off of two four-star quarterbacks this season. I find it ironic that Tate’s redshirt was pulled against UCLA, but that’s beside the point.
Looking back, it was probably best for Modster to decommit anyways. UCLA is just a much more intriguing option to begin with, and it’s closer to home for him as well.
UCLA defensive end Jake Burton
Arizona has been lacking size on the defensive line, and while a large part of that has been the three junior college busts in Timmy Hamilton, Anthony Fotu, and Josh Allen, a lot of changes happened in the 2016 class and no loss was bigger than Jake Burton.
The 6-foot-6, 270 pound defensive end committed to Arizona in July before his senior season. Just two weeks before National Signing Day, he flipped to UCLA, who was in his top three alongside Vanderbilt.
He told me it was strictly just the best move for him. There was uncertainty with the defensive line coach, as Vince Amey was hired extremely late in the process, and UCLA just ended up being a better option for him.
Burton is redshirting this season.
Boise State defensive tackle Jabari Watson
Another botched defensive line prospect here. Jabari Watson was another summer commit for the 2016 class, who picked Arizona over Boise State before ever actually stepping foot on campus.
He spoke very highly of the staff, and that was ultimately the deciding factor for him when it came to Arizona. But around December, he had told me that the staff asked him to gray shirt, but were trying to get him to blue shirt, which doesn’t actually have an effect on a recruit’s scholarship...it’s just a weird process to manage scholarships counts for a recruiting department.
Asking him to gray shirt with a chance to blue shirt turned him off and he left for Boise State.
The 6-foot-1, 265 pound defensive tackle redshirted this season.
Missouri defensive tackle Markell Utsey
This was just a weird recruitment for Arizona that the staff probably couldn’t have done anything to stop. Clearly Arizona’s biggest defensive linemen at 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, the new defensive staff was still recruiting him to stay with the program. Donte’ Williams went out to Arkansas to visit him before National Signing Day.
Just a few days later, one of Utsey’s best friends decommitted from Boise State and flipped to Missouri. Suddenly, Utsey had an urge to decommit and flip himself.
Now he’s contributing for the Tigers. He played in four games and racked up five tackles.
Oklahoma middle linebacker Kapri Doucet
Kapri Doucet was one of the biggest landings for the previous defensive coaching staff. His commitment had really been a long time coming, and he told me he chose Arizona because of Jeff Casteel. His junior college teammate Emmanuel Beal, three-star defensive end, also seemed likely to come.
Casteel was fired and Doucet flipped. Doucet and Beal were essentially a package deal and both chose to go to Oklahoma and play under Mike Stoops. Can’t really blame either of them for leaving for Oklahoma either.
Doucet had 22 tackles on the season and one sack for the Sooners, and the team is inside the top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings.
Arizona needed to address the linebacker concern and this is probably where grad transfer Michael Barton came in to replace Doucet for the new staff, which turned out nicely as well.
Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson
Arizona once had a commitment from the No. 4 player in the country, the No. 1 overall quarterback in the 2016 class. Shea Patterson, out of Calvary Baptist High (Shreveport, LA), was a long time Arizona commit, dating back to December of 2012. He eventually decided to decommit in January of 2015.
His brother Sean, became a graduate assistant for the staff in 2014, which made it seem like the commitment would be likely to stick, alongside the commitments of his high school teammates Shun Brown and Orlando Bradford.
Sean eventually left for a quality control position at LSU in 2015 and it seemed likely that Shea was following him. Shea ended up choosing Ole Miss, and just a few months later, Sean left his job at LSU for a new position at Ole Miss himself.
Shea’s redshirt was burned after Chad Kelly suffered a season-ending injury. In his first game for Ole Miss, Shea led the Rebels to a comeback win at Texas A&M. It went downhill from there though, losing by three possessions at Vanderbilt, and dropping the Egg Bowl 55-20.
He’ll likely be the starter at Ole Miss for the next three years.
Long Beach City CC defensive end Josh Allen
Not exactly a decommitment, but a strange story here that would have given Arizona help on the defensive line if everything panned out.
Josh Allen, a 6-foot-4, 260 pound defensive end, made the strategic move of sitting out his sophomore season at Long Beach City in order to give him three years to play at Arizona, enrolling in January to join for spring practice.
Suddenly, Allen had received offers from Alabama, LSU, Miami, Texas A&M, UCLA, and many other powers and decommitted. He pushed his commitment date to the spring semester, which ultimately negated his plans to enroll early at his future school.
Turns out that those offers were all made up. Allen really only had offers to Arizona and Washington State, committing to Arizona once again, missing out on the chance to join the team for spring practice all because of these fictitious offers.
A lot of time passed and word got out that Allen had never made it to campus for either summer session. Just a few days before fall camp it was announced that Allen had failed to academically qualify and would not be enrolling at Arizona.
He is now at Long Beach City CC once again, where he racked up 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks this season. He has since picked up offers to Idaho, Marshall, and Southeastern Louisiana.