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Arizona football recruiting: Offensive line prospects, gray shirt candidates and defensive line concerns

More reader questions as we approach kickoff

UNLV v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

With 25 commitments for the Arizona Wildcats’ 2017 recruiting class, things have started to slow down for now. Fall camp is in full swing and we’re just under a month away from kick off. Recruiting won’t necessarily start taking off again until we get to the home games, when recruits will start to set their official visits while playing through their senior season.

It’s been awhile since I was able to field some of your recruiting questions, so here it is. In my latest posts, I spoke to a SJSU commit about what makes Donte’ Williams such a great recruiter. Here’s my last recruiting round up in case you missed that as well.

  • 3-star DE Tyler O’Neil
  • 3-star DE Odua Isibor
  • 3-star DE My-King Johnson
  • 4-star LB Isaac Slade-Matautia
  • 4-star CB Thomas Graham
  • 5-star WR Joseph Lewis

If you want to know some guys who have some serious interest in Arizona, here they are. Whether or not Arizona will have the opportunity to offer these guys for a variety of reasons, I’m unsure. But these guys do have interest in Arizona.

  • 4-star DE Markaviest Bryant
  • 4-star CB RJ Potts
  • 3-star DE Owen Carney
  • 3-star CB Nate Culpepper
  • 3-star DE Alfred Bryant

There are also still plenty of guys who will be offered throughout the season.

I'm pretty surprised. When it came to front runners for Echols, it seemed as if it was Arizona, Oregon and Notre Dame. But at the same time, it's also USC, and they can attract almost anyone in the country.

But because USC came out of nowhere, I'm not sure he's 100% done with his recruitment process, despite his tweets. He likes to play a lot of games on social media and really enjoys the attention of the process.

This is going to be an extremely difficult decision for the staff to make if it comes to that point. In all reality, I don't think they even have to make the decision given all the early enrollments.

But over the past few years, we’ve seen a few quite a few different positions come in as gray shirt candidates.

Going back to the 2014 recruiting class, there was receiver Jordan Morgan, tight end Darrell Cloy, corners Devon Brewer and Jace Whittaker, as well as defensive lineman Sharif Williams.

From the 2015 recruiting class we had offensive linemen Keenan Walker and Harper Sherman, cornerback Antonio Parks and tight end Jamie Nunley.

And just recently from the 2016 recruiting class, there was both a wide receiver and running back in Jessie Britt and Russell Halimon.

Gray shirting doesn’t necessarily mean the player is at a lower skill level. Gray shirting is an option for medical, academic or depth concerns that may arise. You’re essentially able to lock a guy in for an extra year, keeping this one year farm system where you can stash some guys to bring into the next recruiting class.

With that being said, tight ends have come up recently and there is some pretty solid young depth that the staff is happy about, most notably Brion Anduze and Jamie Nunley. Trevor Wood will also only be a redshirt junior next year, giving you three solid options.

Arizona will be bringing in two TEs with this 2016 class, Bryce Gilbert and Bryce Wolma. Gilbert has an incredibly lean 6-foot-5, 230 pound frame with the option to split out wide.

So you could speculate Wolma as a candidate, or maybe even Brian Casteel at wide receiver. Still, it's hard to tell given any unforeseen academic or medical barriers that could arise for any of the 25 commits.

You could look at defensive backs, as there are currently six defensive backs committed in this class and there is definitely room for one more. That’s a lot of guys to bring in from one position group, despite their versatility to move anywhere in the defensive backfield.

It's easy to look at the recruiting rankings and automatically pick Troy Brown as that guy, but the size of his school and high school division severely impacts his ranking, so it’s hard to tell from the DB standpoint.

With this class, gray shirting will come down to injuries and future projected depth, not skill level.

So through most of fall camp a lot of coaches and players have been talking about how much the secondary will be able to make plays in this new defense, which might put that extra emphasis on defensive backs. Naturally, you'll need more defensive backs because there should always be five on the field, as opposed to only three linemen, but I do find it odd that Arizona will likely land seven defensive backs in this cycle, after hauling in five in the last class.

The situation is really unfortunate, because there could have been a lot of 2016 defensive linemen that would definitely be in the farm system:

  • 6-foot-3, 280 pound Jabari Watson was asked to gray shirt after he had committed last July. He ended up at Boise State.
  • 6-foot-4, 280 pound Markell Utsey had a sudden change of heart after one his buddies flipped from Boise State to Missouri, following him there.
  • 6-foot-6, 260 pound Jake Burton was another guy who had a sudden change of heart, flipping to UCLA late in the process

Then there was Josiah Sa'o. The kid would have committed as soon as Arizona offered him. It was his dream school, but the staff said he could gray shirt. Despite Vince Amey vouching for him during all the recruiting talks, he couldn't get Sa'o a scholarship. Vanderbilt came into the picture, flew out for an in-home visit and offered him on the spot. He held out for Arizona to offer him but it never came, so he committed to Vandy.

So I guess to answer the question, Arizona is getting some extremely strong quality and versatility with their defensive backs going forward. The new scheme seems like it has a very strong emphasis on allowing defensive backs to make plays, especially when you have Donte’ Williams coaching back there.

But going forward, the defensive line doesn’t look all that great and there needs to be some work done.

There are a few prospects that the Wildcats could potentially land; it all depends on how much space is available. We still have over five months in which a kid can be offered, which would give Arizona some newer prospects to work with.

Tucker Robertson just went off the board a few weeks ago to Nevada, which was a bit of a surprise to me. But here’s a look at a few guys.

  • 4-star OT Aaron Banks
  • 3-star OT Jonathan Nathaniel
  • 3-star OT Michael Richardson
  • 3-star OT Ryan Nelson

I only felt compelled to put Banks here because he has Arizona in his "Sweet 16." He was just at Arizona State this weekend and did not visit Arizona. I would be shocked if U of A made his top ten.

Nathaniel might be the best bet for now, who I will be reaching out to shortly. Richardson was on campus a few weeks ago but I haven’t been able to really get a feel on his recruitment. As for Ryan Nelson, it seems as if it’s down to Arizona and Virginia. I think he’s headed to the Cavaliers but he’s going to be taking his time during his recruitment.

I’m not too sure how serious the staff is about landing another offensive lineman, but it is a position to watch, simply because you always need five on the field at one time.