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Arizona football: JUCO recruiting a crapshoot for Wildcats under Rich Rodriguez

Will the trend of junior college transfers underperforming change this year?

Utah v Arizona Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Junior College recruiting is an area where there are a lot of hit or miss prospects. Kids go to junior college when their original choice doesn’t work out or they were lightly recruited out of high school. You’ve got the Cam Newtons and Keyshawn Johnsons of the world who turn out to be superstars, but you’ve also got the Louis Holmes’ of the world who don't quite live up to their hype.

Coaches like Bill Snyder have built programs with a large amount of JUCO prospects coming in and out every year. Todd Graham has even had a good amount of success bringing in such talent.

The Arizona Wildcats haven't had that kind of success since Rich Rodriguez took over. JUCO recruits are supposed to fill holes until high school kids develop, but there hasn’t been much of that with the Wildcats.

With Anthony Fotu leaving the program, and Josh Allen not qualifying and never making it to campus, I’ll take a look at the JUCO recruiting since Rodriguez took over.

Arizona has signed exactly 14 Junior College recruits since Rodriguez came to Tucson. First, let’s take a look at the JUCO recruits who weren’t rated as high, but had big frames for their position. There were high hopes for Kaige Lawrence, Jerod Cody, and Patrick Glover, even though they were two stars.

Lawrence was just a backup, Cody retired almost immediately after joining the team due to health reasons, and Glover transferred out after a year. Timmy Hamilton was supposed to be a pass rush specialist, but didn’t even make it through a day of fall camp and transferred to Kansas to be with his girlfriend. So, that’s four strikeouts right there.

U of A hasn’t only gotten low ranked JUCO kids either. Antonio Smothers was a high three-star and a four-star on some sites, but didn’t pan out and really only played on special teams. Five strikeouts.

Fotu was supposed to start immediately, but was suspended his first game, then sparingly played in five contests before he got suspended for a year. Now he’s gone, so that’s six strikeouts.

Jeff Worthy was a solid contributor, but didn’t start. So he gets the benefit of the doubt for actually doing something.

It hasn’t all been bad though. The loss of Steven Gurrola was felt this year when the team had to endure snaps launched over the quarterback’s head. He was an extremely solid center for two years. Jesse Scroggins and Jerrard Randall were both kids that were highly-ranked out of high school, but took the JUCO route after failing to get playing time at their initial school. Both had the potential to be fixed up and be good quarterbacks, but neither were good enough to be starters. They were both serviceable backups, but I put them in the strikeout category for not being anything more than that.

The position U of A could arguably use the most help at is the defensive line. A position that can't take any more hits took another one with Allen not qualifying. That makes three defensive lineman (Fotu, Hamilton, and Allen) gone within two years and the most the Wildcats got out of one of them is 5 games.

With the defensive line losing depth, the Wildcats will have to find some playmakers on defense and that starts with Paul Magloire. He is supposed to be one of the team’s best players after getting thrown in to the fire when seemingly every linebacker on the team got injured. He is popping up on a lot of draft boards and it will be interesting to see how Marcel Yates decides to use him.

Dane Cruikshank is expected to start at corner after redshirting his first year out of Citrus College. Shawn Poindexter is a kid the staff expects to contribute in some way their first year, but the trend has been miss rather than hit with JUCO players the past four years.

To reverse the trend, it starts with the JUCO kids on the team now. With the loss of David Richards, Poindexter could prove to be very valuable and Arizona needs Magloire and Cruikshank to have big years or the defense is in some trouble.

Hopefully this is the year where the trend of JUCO kids not breaking through changes, because frankly, the Cats need it to or 2016 will be another rough season on defense.