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Arizona football recruiting: Potential running back targets, Matt Leo update and more

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Another roundup as we hit the halfway point of September

O’Maury Samuels
Student Sports

After the dismissal of Orlando Bradford, and another injury that held Nick Wilson out, we were able to get our first real taste of J.J. Taylor against Hawaii, and he sure impressed. It’s been hard to count on Wilson as an every down back in his career, but Taylor brings serious intrigue to the offense going forward.

Barring anymore unforeseen events, the Arizona Wildcats would only have three legitimate running backs available going forward into 2017. Wilson will be leading the way as a senior, Taylor as a sophomore, and Nathan Tilford as a true freshman.

While that’s plenty dynamic for a backfield, it seems like a good idea to have another back stashed away. You’ll have a senior in Zach Green and walk-on redshirt sophomore Branden Leon, but there’s just something about having another running back ready to go.

Potential running back targets

There are a few potential running backs that Arizona could target, and my guess is that they will try and add one more running back for insurance, though it is still unclear at this point.

4-star O’Maury Samuels was a guy who said that he wanted to visit Arizona. He’s from New Mexico, but is currently committed to Michigan. While the Wildcats already have Tilford, I’m sure it wouldn’t be a hard sell to play in this offense and be that one-two punch with Tilford.

3-star Chris Brooks essentially lost his spot once he didn’t commit this summer. Arizona wants him as a running back, but he wants to play wide receiver at the next level. Last I spoke to him, he said that Colorado State was his leader because of their track record for producing wide receivers. But if Brooks does want to come to Arizona, maybe now is his chance. I think it’s doubtful, but I’m just trying to think of options here that Arizona has already offered.

3-star Drake Beasley seems to be the most likely option of the three. Arizona has been involved in his recruitment for a while, but he’s forced to sit out his senior season after transferring. The CIF deemed that his transfer was for football purposes, making him ineligible. This could help with his recruitment because he’s losing an entire season of film, making it tough for a lot of schools who haven’t recruited him already to dive in.

KJ Hamler and Jaylon Redd to Oregon

4-star wide receiver KJ Hamler released his top five last week and Arizona made the cut. I’ve been told he’s a lock for Oregon, along with 4-star corner Jaylon Redd. Just a heads up, I wouldn’t expect anything out of these guys.

Matt Leo ranking update

The Internet’s favorite commitment received a 2-star ranking after playing in just two games this season. He recorded four tackles and two sacks vs. Pima CC. The 6-foot-6, 275 pound defensive end has been getting worked into the rotation quite a bit lately. He has seven tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery in his two games this season.

Reader Questions

Good question. Recruits need to be satisfied with on-field success in order to keep them, especially when you already have 26 commits. Losing to BYU and scraping by Grambling State isn’t a good look, which does concern some recruits. However, a large amount of them understand that they will put Arizona in contention.

On the offensive side of the ball, there are some nice pieces. But when you talk about Braxton Burmeister and Tilford, those are two guys who understand that they are the future. Warren Jackson, Drew Dixon and Darrian McNeal all have a very good shot at seeing the field early too.

Early playing time has been a huge selling point to a lot of recruits, which is also why losing isn’t the worst thing in the world for recruiting. These recruits knew Arizona wasn’t going to have a spectacular season, likely an 8-4 situation at best, and that’s something they consider when they commit so early.

It’s interesting because that’s obviously something you want to look into originally. You check their grades to see if they’re even eligible. And a lot of times grades are indicative of character.

Then the staff talks to the recruit’s coaching staff, family, teachers, anything to help them understand more about the kid and if there are issues that have come up in the past.

What’s even more interesting about Bradford is that I’ve been in contact with his pastor at Calvary Baptist since he committed to Arizona. He always spoke highly of him and couldn’t be more proud of him to finally start increasing his work load.

What is concerning, however, is the fact that there have been a lot of off-field issues for Arizona in the past six months: Tellas Jones DUI, Derrick Turituri and Anthony Fotu using banned substances, Josh Allen failing to qualify academically, Keenan Walker being charged with assault, and now Bradford doing disgusting things.

To be honest, I don’t think this offensive line is ready. Players on the team have told me that last year’s offensive line was the worst in the Pac-12. Going left to right you have Layth Friekh who I really liked as a prospect, but I feel like he’s still going to needs more help protecting the blindside. Freddie Tagaloa just never panned out after his injury issues, now trying to adjust to playing guard. We obviously know the circumstances of the center and what this team went through just before the season began.

Jacob Alsadek is really the only solid piece on the line, contributing since his redshirt freshman year, being named a freshman all-american. Then you have Gerhard de Beer out on the right side, who didn’t have a football background and is playing one of the most technical and difficult positions to master on the field.

Give Friekh some more time and help on the left side, then let young guys like Alex Kosinski, Harper Sherman, Keenan Walker, Michael Eletise, Levi Walton, Cody Creason and Bryson Cain develop.

If those guys don’t improve the offensive line play, then there are going to be some issues.

That would be ideal. On the offensive side, there are a few directions Arizona could go. There’s offensive tackle Ryan Nelson out of Buena Park, CA, but I have Virginia in my Crystal Ball for him. Although, the way their season is going, having to make his way all the way across the country, who knows. There’s also an in-state prospect in Jonathan Nathaniel out of Basha High (Chandler, AZ). He’s having himself a nice year protecting Arizona State commit Ryan Kelley.

As for the defensive line, I have Odua Isibor coming to Arizona in my Crystal Ball. After that, I’m not entirely too sure what other options are out there. The staff is working with a few versatile pieces. Jalen Harris is projecting to be more of an outside linebacker/defensive end, then there’s Kylan Wilborn and Bryce Brand, who are guys that have a Derrick Turituri frame, and could ultimately play on the defensive line.

Arizona has time to offer both offensive and defensive linemen in the future, so that could also be an option.

As I mentioned above, obviously you need wins to secure a recruiting class. But at the same time, Arizona’s pitch to a lot of these guys has been early playing time and being the recruiting class that puts Arizona on the map, back into the Fiesta Bowl, and in the Pac-12 South spotlight.

There are a few guys you worry about landing bigger offers and being swayed away by bigger schools. But this staff has done a great job connecting with these recruits and that is typically the biggest reason why a guy commits to Arizona.