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Arizona football recruiting: Rich Rodriguez turning the tide of in-state recruiting

This 2017 recruiting class could be filled with a handful of talented in-state products

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Over the last few years, it’s fair to say that Todd Graham has been winning the recruiting battle between the two Arizona schools. Arizona State has been landing some of the top JUCO recruits in the nation, multiple 4-stars in every class, and just better overall talent than the Arizona Wildcats.

But neither Graham nor Rich Rodriguez have done an exceptional job of keeping guys within the state. Rodriguez says it's even hard to get some Phoenix kids to come down for an unofficial visit sometimes too, even though Tucson is just about 90 minutes away.

But the state of Arizona isn't filled with a whole lot of talent to begin with. There are usually about 15 ranked guys, with maybe the top two or three going to programs like Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Michigan State or some other high-caliber school. The remaining guys have been going to mid-tier power five programs.

But lately, there seems to be a shift in the in-state recruiting battle and it's starting to show for Rodriguez and the Arizona Wildcats.

The scouting and recruiting department at Arizona has to be one of the best in the Pac-12 the way they find these kids. When I write recruiting roundups, a lot of these guys are often unranked, with Arizona as their first power five offer. When Arizona starts offering guys, you’ll quickly see a few other schools jump on board. Arizona State, Louisville, Nebraska, Mississippi State, Oregon – a lot of schools suddenly start to jump on board.

But a lot of the guys that Arizona discovers on their own come from states all across the country, which often leads to a recruiting pipeline. Georgia, Washington, Michigan and Louisiana; all are states that Arizona goes after, seeking out these recruits.

But there’s been plenty of great undiscovered talent within the state of Arizona that the staff hadn’t really tapped into, even in Tucson itself. Now the coaching staff is starting to tap into that market.

Arizona has a lot of great in-state talent lined throughout the roster, including DeAndre' Miller, Cody Ippolito, Layth Friekh, Nate Phillips, Cam Denson and even Jake Matthews, who came in as a walk-on out of Ironwood Ridge. Keenan Walker was the No. 2 ranked player in the 2015 recruiting class and is now with the team after a gray shirt to recover from a torn ACL. Parker Zellers, Zach Hemmila and Trevor Wood are also key contributors from within the state.

Arizona also landed themselves a bunch of top in-state players to join as preferred walk-ons this summer. Rich Rodriguez has said that this is the best group of walk-ons that they’ve had. Arizona also had a lot of spring semester walk-ons from Tucson as well.

We’re starting to see Arizona work on those in-state recruits even more, many of which Arizona has a strong shot at landing too. This upcoming 2017 recruiting class also has a lot more talent than previous recruiting classes, which could also explain why there is much more of an effort.

The commitment of Rhett Rodriguez is already there, going from unranked to 3-star over the last few weeks. Odua Isibor, Jalen Harris, Bryce Gilbert, Kaelib Jarrell, Drew Dixon and My-King Johnson are all in-state products that Arizona is in great shape to land. And that doesn't include the possibility of Isaiah Pola-Mao, a four-star safety out of Phoenix, ranked 19th in the nation at his position.

So Arizona has been able to land some in-state talent that turned out to be really good, but this year there seems to be an emphasis on the in-state battle with ASU. Maybe it's because of the rise of the program, with those Phoenix kids now giving the Wildcats a double take, even with ASU in their backyard.

The Wildcats have been able to find the undiscovered talent from across the nation, and now the staff is starting to dig into their own backyard and it's going to payoff big time with this class, which Rodriguez says will be one of, if not the best class in Arizona history.