Over the last two years, I've been trying to contact as many potential Arizona Wildcats recruits as possible. I don't get a chance to talk to all of them, but when I do, I have a set of questions depending on how the conversation goes and how open they are about the process. The general questions include:
When did you begin communication with the staff?
Who on the staff have you been talking to the most?
Initial thoughts and what the program has to offer?
What are some of the other schools you're talking to?
What are you looking for in your future school?
Where does Arizona rank against some of the other schools?
We've seen a huge culture change this spring with the new coaching staff. The players took notice all throughout practices and the change is certainly impacting recruiting. When recruits start talking about why they like Arizona, they like the scheme fit, coaches, Pac-12, campus, facilities, connections with the players, etc.
A lot of guys from the last few recruiting cycles would tell me that the staff has a welcoming, family feel. That still holds true with this new staff, as many also say they like the younger personnel. They're able to relate to them a little easier, especially taking notice of the exclusively African-American defensive coaching staff.
Recruits value honesty and a lot of them say that the coaches are straight up. The staff tells a kid how they fit in the system, where they'll be used and how they can develop them into a better player and man. This is when recruits notice the relationship between the coaches and players extending off the field as well.
Playing time is a big selling point for Arizona right now, but Rodriguez won't tell a recruit he'll automatically get in the rotation; he's never even been one to hand over a starting job to a returning starter. Rodriguez needs to have trust in his players on the field and a freshman is more than capable of earning that trust, as seen at almost every position. Put in the work, and a lot of these guys have the ability to play early and develop, elevate Arizona, and make it to the league. That's the gist I get from recruits on Arizona's pitch.
That's the difference between Arizona and other programs. Other programs will hype a kid up, tell him how great he'll be as a freshman all-American, how they'll get to the league in three years, how big the spotlight will be and so on.
The coaching staff also has a lot of connections to powerhouse programs. Over the last few years, guys like Calvin Magee, Charlie Ragle, and Miguel Reveles have tapped into some winning high school programs from across the country. Now, the new staff is digging deeper.
The greater Los Angeles area is loaded with talent that Donte' Williams is very familiar with. Recruits say that they've already formed a relationship with Williams through various camps during his time at San Jose State. The same applies to Marcel Yates and his previous relationships built at Boise State. Jahmile Addae has invaded his home state of Florida, and Chris Singletary is heavily attacking Michigan. Vince Amey has been all across the country in this recruiting cycle, constantly checking up on recruits as well.
Those pipelines are starting to create a buzz around Arizona. When a guy like Greg Johnson commits to Arizona, when he's holding over 25 offers to schools including Florida, Notre Dame, Texas A&M, USC, recruits take notice. They begin to wonder why he committed, what he liked about the program and give Arizona a double take. It also helps that a lot of guys know each other from 7-on-7 leagues. Football is now year-round for these athletes and they're playing guys from all across the region. When you start getting recruits at The Opening or any of the Rivals Challenges, these guys start talking about what they like from other schools and recruiting happens non-stop.
I'm a firm believer that recruits commit to a coaching staff, not a school, despite heavy annual coaching changes. A kid isn't going to commit to a program if he doesn't like the coaches. Likewise, the parents aren't going to let their kid go to a school where they don't feel comfortable with the coaches.
Recruits see that Arizona is a program on the rise. They appreciate the relationships formed with the coaching staff, their honesty in development and scheme fit, as well as the connection to the current players/potential commits. Proximity to home and academics for a lot of these guys is also a factor when it comes to Arizona. The way the Wildcats' coaching staff is assembled and the potential in the last few recruiting classes have Arizona trending upwards.