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Arizona football recruiting: 2017 Wildcat commits playing for championship-caliber high schools

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Arizona has commits from some powerful schools across the country

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Arizona Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Even before the major coaching changes this past offseason, the Arizona Wildcats had slowly been tapping into stronger high school programs for their recruits.

Now, this new staff has taken it to new levels, landing guys from some of the top schools in the nation. Out of the top seven teams in the nation, Arizona has landed commitments from four of those schools.

Here I’ll break down each prospect by their ranking within the state and their national ranking if available.

IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida)

Arizona has a presence in the number one ranked high school in the nation, IMG Academy. The staff landed hybrid defensive end/linebacker Bryce Brand earlier this summer. It seems as if Brand has since transferred, heading to California for Clayton Valley Charter.

The move could have been made for multiple reasons, and while he has no relation to their current ranking, it should be noted that IMG Academy is the most heavily recruited high school in the nation.

But Arizona will still have a commit playing there in Elijah Watson, who decided to apply and transfer from a smaller school in Georgia. For those who live and die by recruiting rankings, Watson has been a 2-star prospect since he committed. Simply by being at a program like IMG Academy, his ranking will be increased. I would be shocked if he does not end up as a 3-star prospect with at least a .8333 grade.

Armwood (Seffner, Florida)

Arizona got arguably one of the fastest players in the nation from the seventh ranked school in the nation, fifth in the state of Florida. Darrian McNeal serves as the quarterback for Armwood, but will come to Arizona as a slot receiver.

He’s a phenomenal athlete who I think could be a combination of Tyrell Johnson’s speed and J.J. Taylor’s elusiveness. Expect his ranking to increase drastically this season.

Mater Dei (Santa Ana, California)

Mater Dei has been one of the most historically successful programs in the nation, and they lead the California state rankings, checking in at fifth in the national poll.

Xavier Bell is an extremely long and athletic safety for Mater Dei, who has only been ranked by 247Sports. ESPN, Rivals nor Scout have him ranked yet and you can expect Bell to be a high-end 3-star prospect by the end of his high school season. He’s a guy that I’m very excited to see in an Arizona jersey.

Hawkins (Los Angeles, California)

Hawkins is home of the No. 1 athlete in the nation, Greg Johnson. He was one of Arizona’s first commits of this 2017 class and the big splash that got the whole cycle off to a hot start.

The school is currently ranked 15th in California, 125th nationally.

This is a program that Arizona has been able to develop a strong relationship with, hosting a satellite camp there earlier this summer. All of that has put them in great position to land some top receivers; 2017 5-star Joseph Lewis, and the top-ranked receiver in the 2018 class, Jalen Hall.

Helix (La Mesa, California)

Scott Young’s school is the favorite to win their division this season, finding themselves ranked 20th in the state of California, 175th in the nation.

Young to me is Will Parks in the making. He’ll be a strong slot corner for Arizona who can fill in a lot of holes with a solid 6-foot, 190 pound frame.

Alemany (Mission Hills, California)

Warren Jackson is Arizona’s biggest pass catcher who checks in at 6-foot-5. His school is currently ranked 25th among California schools, 233rd nationally.

Jackson is a huge vertical threat, averaging over 16 yards a catch in his varsity career.

When you read what scouts and analysts have to say about Jackson, they all agree that he has a huge amount of upside, with the ability to grow into his frame a little more.

Just outside of the top 25 for the California state rankings were Long Beach Poly (26) and Cathedral (35), home of linebacker Joshua Brown and safety Rhedi Short respectively.

Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Bishop Gorman has been one of the hottest high school football programs in the past decade, producing top Division I recruits, including Arizona’s very own Anu Solomon. They’ll enter the season ranked first in Nevada and second in the nation.

Corner Malik Hausman will be assuming a starting role for the Gaels, and their schedule is loaded with some of the top ranked teams in the nation. You’ll be able to catch one game on ESPN later this season.

Tyjon Lindsey, ranked 39th in the nation overall, 6th among receivers, is transferring back to Gorman, giving Hausman some top notch practice every day.

Desert Pines (Las Vegas, Nevada)

Just a few spots behind Bishop Gorman is Desert Pines, which currently houses two Arizona commits, linebacker/safety Tony Fields and offensive tackle Edgar Burrola.

I really love what Fields brings to the table. While he might come in a little undersized at linebacker — currently reported at 6-foot-2 205lbs — I think he has exceptional size for a bandit safety, maybe even a hybrid depending on what his correct weight is.

Then there’s Burrola, who had Arizona come in as his first offer. Since then, he’s turned some heads and looks to be a fast rising prospect throughout his senior season. He is a little older, turning 20 years old in November, but his size at 6-foot-6, 295 pounds is something Coach Michalczik has to like.

Saline (Saline, Michigan)

Rich Rodriguez landed a long time family friend in Bryce Wolma out of Saline, who will be a pivotal piece to the Saline offense. The team is currently ranked 19th in the state of Michigan, just inside the top 500 in the national polls.

While Arizona hasn’t exactly implemented tight ends in the system since Terrence Miller left, they never really had any true tight ends to use. With the youth movement of Trevor Wood, Brion Anduze and Jamie Nunley, Arizona is going to have a nice piece with Wolma when he arrives.

Sheldon (Eugene, Oregon)

Cody Shear was so close to helping his team win a state championship last season. Now, the Sheldon Irish come in at fourth in the Oregon state rankings.

A large part of their success came from quarterback Justin Herbert, who is now a freshman with the Oregon Ducks. Still, Shear says this team has the talent to win a championship, which is why he chose to end his recruitment process prior to the season.