The Arizona Wildcats have been extremely active on the recruiting trail lately. The scouting department is extremely talented in finding guys before any other schools come along, often offering some kids who don't even hold a Power Five offer, unranked by many recruiting services.
Sometimes when an unranked kid comes into the news, there are some not-so-positive reactions. The typical phrases come up:
Why is the staff wasting their time on an unranked kid?
Stop trying so hard to buy into the OKG mindset.
These guys aren't going to get us wins.
Let me know when we land a 4-star guy.
But early recruiting rankings, extending through the summer, can be extremely rough.
As Rich Rodriguez says, you can't judge a class until two or three years down the line. I'm not here to say that recruiting rankings don't matter, because they do. Teams that win in recruiting win football games. Teams that recruit well are typically the ones filling out the top 25 every week. Arizona has consistently been in the bottom half of the Pac-12 when it comes to recruiting, which can help explain the Pac-12 South record.
However, it's a program that just went through the winningest stretch in school history. It's a program on the rise. But up until now, Arizona has always been competing with Utah to be the fourth-best option within the same division, not to mention Oregon and Stanford in the Pac-12 North.
Remember back in 2014 when Rich Rodriguez finished with ten wins? A lot of folks were saying that he was winning with low levels of talent, drooling at the thought of his fully-developed recruiting classes going forward.
Fast forward to the midway point of the 2015 season and many were saying that the recruits weren't good enough to win anymore.
A lot of Rich Rodriguez' original recruits ended up leaving the program, whether that may be for off-the-field issues, lack of playing time or medical concerns. Look back at Rodriguez' past four recruiting classes and their rankings.
|247Sports Composite Ranking
Despite being two of his lower-ranked recruiting classes on 247Sports composite rankings, I feel comfortable saying that both the 2015 and 2016 recruiting classes will end up being the two strongest recruiting classes of the five. Why? Because of the position needs and scheme fit.
Some of Arizona's lowest ranked guys have been some of their best. Jacob Alsadek (83 grade), Will Parks (82), Derrick Turituri (82), Nate Phillips (81), Demetrius Flannigan-Fowles (81), Cody Ippolito (78), Scooby Wright (78), and Jake Matthews (unranked). But all of these guys fit into Arizona's system seamlessly, and that's what a large part of recruiting is all about. When I ask a recruit what some of their decision factors are, the first thing they'll typically say is how well they fit in the system.
This new defensive staff has been hyped up as a strong bunch of recruiters, but you can't have a class lined with 4/5-star guys, especially not at a program like Arizona....yet. It doesn't look pretty, but you're going to need some upper 2-star/lower 3-star guys to fill in a class. You just can't land every prospect on the wish list.
Take the almighty Alabama for example. They took six 3-stars in 2016, four in 2015 and five in 2014. That's a school that can have virtually any recruit in the country.
When you check a recruiting profile for some of these guys that Arizona offers, they're often unranked. But give them about a week or so and they'll jump to an automatic 3-star. Take Rhett Rodriguez, Elijah Watson and Kylan Wilborn from this 2017 class alone. Or the latest Arizona commit, Tony Fields. He was unranked by 247Sports prior to his commitment. Check his profile out now and he's suddenly Arizona's third highest ranked recruit.
Recruiting rankings matter, but to a degree. This early in the process, take the unranked and 2-star labels with a grain of salt. Many of Arizona's guys aren't even ranked by any recruiting services, but give them until the fall, when they start pulling in offers and they'll have all those stars you want next to their name.