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Football recruiting SitRep: On the future of Arizona’s offensive line, 2019 targets, and more

Taking a look at the men in the trenches

USC v Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The Arizona Wildcats are finishing up the spring evaluation period, and if there’s one position the coaching staff has targeted the most, it’s been the offensive line.

During the Spring Game, the offensive line was the group that showed they needed the most work.

We will delve into more on that below. We will also look into who the Wildcats are targeting for 2019, including more on four-star quarterback Grant Gunnell.

Without further ado, let’s dive into this week’s SitRep.

Grant Gunnell, QB

On Tuesday, Adam Gorney of reported that Gunnell has a Top 3 of Arizona, California, and Ohio State.

I feel like Arizona is the leader and I’m comfortable enough to say that. He does not have a date for an announcement but I believe it will come within the next two weeks. So keep an eye out.

If Arizona does land Gunnell, I think it would have a better shot at wide receiver prospects like Elijah Higgins and Jaylen Ellis.

Jalen Curry, Gunnell’s high school teammate, would probably give Arizona a more serious look too, as would Chase Lane, a Texas A&M commit.

Offensive Line

Key Returners: Josh McCauley, Jon Jacobs, Bryson Cain, Layth Friekh, Nathan Eldridge, Alex Kosinski, Michael Eletise, Cody Creason

Returning Redshirts: Tshiyombu Lukusa, Edgar Burrola, Tyrell Aponte, Maisen Knight, Tyson Gardner

Key Losses: Jacob Alsadek, Christian Boettcher, Gerhard de Beer, Levi Walton

Key Newcomers: David Watson, Donovan Laie, Steven Bailey, Robert Congel (per reports)

Returner Notes: As noted earlier, the o-line had a rough go of it during the Spring Game. And with the loss of three starters, it’s not really surprising that there were issues. The current group has a lot of talent and a lot of potential, they just need to gel together. Plus there were some projected starters out during the Spring Game.

The projected starting lineup seems to be Friekh, Eletise, Eldridge, Cain, and Creason. Even then I’m not sure that is set in stone. There are plenty of other players who will push for playing time as well. One glaring issue is the lack of returning experience.

Obviously, Friekh and Eldridge have plenty of experience, and Creason is someone who is a very solid option, especially after stepping up to start at right tackle after de Beer suffered some injuries the past couple of seasons.

Eletise is a former 4-star and played in 11 games last season. I expect him to break out this season. Kosinski is another player who has game experience and can bounce between guard and center. McCauley played a few games last season at left tackle while Cain is a bit of an unknown. Both the old and new coaching staff really like him, but his season ended last year before it began due to an injury.

Redshirt notes: Lukusa is the big name to keep an eye on here. The big Michigan State transfer came to Tucson last year and had to sit out due to transfer rules. His first spring with the ‘Cats ended early with an injury but expect him to come back during the fall and make noise. He should play this season. Burrola and Knight are two other players I expect to see time this season.

Newcomer Notes: Moving on to the newcomers and we find early enrollee and legacy player David Watson. At 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, Watson was someone who was making some noise this spring. Some of the coaches were impressed with his performance in his first spring with the program. It’s possible Watson will see time but I’d expect a redshirt year to sharpen his skills.

The other two newcomers are Steven Bailey and Donovan Laie. Bailey is an offensive guard from Glendale C.C. Donovan Laie is a big tackle who was the best offensive lineman from the San Diego-area in his class.

As I was typing this, it was reported that former Texas A&M offensive lineman Robert Congel will be transferring to Arizona and rejoining Kevin Sumlin.

Congel saw time as a backup offensive guard, seeing action in five games as a true freshman. He walked on in College Station, but reports suggest he will be on scholarship at the UA.

2019 OL Targets

There are 29 offers out to offensive linemen for the 2019 class. That tells me the UA is looking to add anywhere from three to four.

Here are some of their targets:

Logan Sagapolu, 3-star

6-foot-3/340 pounds/Skyridge High School (Lehi, UT)

Arizona is doing well with the big lineman from Skyridge. One reason is that he is related to former Wildcat QB Willie Tuitama. The other reasons are Iona Uiagalelei and Davy Gnodle.

Sagapolu is genuinely intrigued by the ‘Cats and I’d expect a visit from him in the near future. He visited Washington State this past weekend. He has eight offers as of now, with half of them coming from the Pac-12. As always with o-lineman of his caliber, there will be competition for him but I expect UA to be in it until the end.

A couple of aspects of his game that stand out are his footwork and his speed and explosiveness.

Drake Nugent, 3-star

6-foot-2/260 pounds/Highlands Ranch High School (Highlands Ranch, CO)

Nugent is one of the best linemen in Colorado. Arizona visited him over the spring eval period as did many other Power Five schools. The ‘Cats have started recruiting Colorado more and more now that Joe Gilbert is in Tucson. Plus, with the amount of quality linemen the state produces every year, it makes sense.

Nugent is up to nine offers with Arizona State as the only other Pac-12 school on his list. Other schools include Memphis, Oklahoma State, Colorado State, UNLV, and Wyoming. It’s still pretty early in Nugent’s recruitment, so UA has time to assert itself in this recruitment.

He has a really high motor and a real nasty side to his game. He uses the motor and his strength to create a solid push to drive the defense back.

McKade Mettauer, 3-star

6-foot-4.5/285 pounds/St. Pius X High School (Houston, TX)

The general feeling is that Arizona leads for Mettauer or at the very least are one of the top teams. Some of that has to do with the ‘Cats sitting well with his quarterback, Grant Gunnell.

The other part is that Mettauer really enjoyed his visit to Tucson when he came to town in April. Other schools involved include California, Nebraska, Illinois, Houston, and Missouri. This is definitely a recruitment that Arizona fans should keep an eye on.

Mattauer utilizes his hands really well and has a good amount of strength. An added bonus is that if Arizona does land Gunnell and Mettauer decides to go with Arizona, they will already have a rapport.

Sataoa Laumea, 3-star

6-foot-4/305 pounds/Eisenhower Senior High School (Rialto, CA)

Laumea is another huge target for the ‘Cats. His recruitment picked up once schools were able to visit him and he picked up some other huge offers.

As of now he has 25 total offers with 10 Pac-12 teams on his list, minus Washington and Stanford. He also has teams like Notre Dame, Nebraska, and Ole Miss pushing for his services.

As of now the feeling is that Laumea will be difficult to pull away from Los Angeles and California in general, but UA is going to try.

Laumea is a big, physical presence along the line. I like him at left tackle but honestly, I think I like him more on the defensive side of the ball.

Cam’Ron Johnson, 3-star

6-foot-4/283 pounds/Shadow Creek High School (Pearland, TX)

Johnson is up to 14 offers with Arizona and Oregon State being his Pac-12 offers. Other schools involved include Colorado State, Hawaii, New Mexico State, New Mexico, and East Carolina among others.

Johnson received his offer from Arizona a little over 10 days ago and he is already someone to watch. He isn't going to commit right away but you never know with recruiting. He is sort of a sleeper prospect but I expect Arizona to continue to pursue him.

He can add more weight to his frame but he does have strength and decent footwork. He has all the tools that a coach can develop around.

Bailey Elder, 3-star

6-foot-6/295 pounds/Stadium High School (Tacoma, WA)

Elder’s recruitment has started to take off a little and he is up 15 total offers. Arizona and Virginia are his Power Five offers and he holds a couple of Ivy League offers. Other teams on his list include San Diego State, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah State, and Air Force. It doesn’t appear that he is close to a decision and he recently stated that the San Diego State offer intrigued him. We will have to see how aggressively Arizona pursues Elder as the cycle plays out.

I really like how Elder plays. He has high motor and is a violent, physical prospect. He does not stop until his opponent is on the ground.

Cole Birmingham, 3-star

6-foot-4.5/294 pounds/Katy High School (Katy, TX)

Birmingham has garnered a ton of attention from schools all over the country and he deserves the attention. He controls his body well and is solid in pass protection because of it. His footwork is a little robotic but he is still able to do his job effectively. He gets great push along the line which makes him more effective in run blocking. Birmingham can bounce around the entire line at the next level. It’s going to be a tough pull for the ‘Cats but Birmingham is a prospect I’d expect them to pursue aggressively.

Michael Lynn, 3-star

6-foot-7/300 pounds/Cherry Creek High School (Greenwood Village, CO)

Lynn’s recruitment picked up some steam during the spring eval period. He finished the spring with 12 offers with Utah, Arizona State, and Washington State joining the ‘Cats as his Pac-12 offers. Other teams vying for his commitment include Oklahoma State, Boise State, Colorado State, and Wyoming. Arizona is doing well in this recruitment at the moment and I’d expect them to stay in it until the end.

Lynn is another aggressive prospect with a high motor and ability to drive the defenders back. If he continues his development throughout the upcoming camp season, I expect his recruitment to continue to gain steam.

2019 Watchlist

This is a new section in the SitRep where we keep a running list of players that we believe will commit to Arizona soon or players they are doing well with. It will be updated every week.

Jalen Cropper: 4-star Athlete; 22nd ranked ATH; Clovis, CA

Jalen Curry: 4-star Wide Receiver; 20th ranked WR; Houston, TX

Grant Gunnell: 4-star Pro-style Quarterback; 3rd ranked Pro QB; Houston, TX

Elijah Higgins: 4-star Wide Receiver; 24th ranked WR; Austin, TX

Drake Jackson: 4-star Weakside Defensive End; 27th ranked WDE; Corona, CA

Tre’Mon Morris-Brash: 4-star Weakside Defensive End; 21st ranked WDE; Washington, D.C.

MyKael Wright: 4-star Cornerback; 5th ranked CB; Valencia, CA

Stephon Wright: 4-star Strongside Defensive End; 14th ranked SDE; Los Angeles, CA

Don Chapman: 3-star Wide Receiver; 211th ranked WR; San Diego, CA

Bailey Elder: 3-star Offensive Tackle; 96th ranked OT; Tacoma, WA

Jaylen Ellis: 3-star Wide Receiver; 80th ranked WR; Round Rock, TX

Maurice Gaines: 3-star Cornerback; 96th ranked CB; Oakdale, CT

Cam’Ron Johnson: 3-star Offensive Tackle; 110th ranked OT; Pearland, TX

Brandon Joseph: 3-star Safety: 79th ranked S; College Station, TX

Michael Lynn: 3-star Offensive Tackle; 60th Ranked OT; Greenwood Village, CO

Shamar Martin: 3-star Cornerback; 47th ranked CB; San Diego, CA

Dez Melton: 3-star Athlete; 75th ranked ATH; Glendale, AZ

McKade Mettauer: 3-star Offensive Guard; 38th ranked OG; Houston, TX

William Nimmo: 3-star Safety; 61st ranked S; Santa Ana, CA

Sio Nofoagatoto’a: 3-star Defensive Tackle; 83rd ranked DT; Clearwater, FL

Mark Perry: 3-star Safety; 35th ranked S; Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Seth Robinson: 3-star Outside Linebacker; 57th ranked OLB; Scottsdale, AZ

Logan Sagapolu: 3-star Center; 4th ranked C; Lehi, UT

Eddie Siaumau: 3-star Safety; 109th ranked S; Pago Pago, AS

Nassir Sims: 3-star Defensive Tackle; 95th ranked DT; Goodyear, AZ

J.L. Skinner: 3-star Athlete; 80th ranked ATH; San Diego, CA

Jaden Tauanu’u: 3-star Outside Linebacker; 108th ranked OLB; Pittsburg, CA

Jaxen Turner: 3-star Safety; 67th ranked S; Moreno Valley, CA

Khyheem Waleed: 3-star Wide Receiver; 84th ranked WR; Queen Creek, AZ

Kwabena Watson: 3-star Outside Linebacker; 50th ranked OLB; Fresno, CA

Jalen Williams: 3-star Outside Linebacker; 105th ranked OLB; Phoenix, AZ

Devyn Butler: Unranked Cornerback; Allen, TX

Chris Roland: Unranked Athlete; Palmdale, CA