clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Football recruiting SitRep: A look at Arizona’s future at running back, 2019 targets & more

New, 11 comments

What will the running back corps look like in the future?

Oregon State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The spring recruiting season is churning on for the Arizona Wildcats as the coaching staff continues to hit the road all across the country. That means new offers and checking in on prospects who already hold one.

With that, the ‘Cats will look to add to their lone 2019 commit, cornerback Logan Wilson, and that includes adding some players to the offensive backfield.

Last week we took a look at quarterback targets, this week we’ll look at the running backs.

Let’s get started with this week’s SitRep.


Running Backs

Key Returners: J.J. Taylor, Nathan Tilford, Gary Brightwell, Branden Leon

Key Losses: Nick Wilson and Zach Green

Key Newcomers: Anthony Mariscal and Darrius Smith

The running back group is going to be one of the strongest and most consistent groups for the offense this coming season. There is depth and talent from top to bottom. Another thing that stands out about the group is the different style each player brings to the table. That should make the group very difficult to stop for opposing defenses.

Moving to the players, we’ll start with Taylor. We all know what we are getting with him. A dynamic, explosive playmaker. A human highlight reel. The human joystick. I’d expect more of the same from him this year.

Tilford will most likely get the second most carries this season. The big sophomore only had 13 carries last year for 121 yards and 2 touchdowns. And that was just a small, small taste of what the former 4-star can do. He showed a little more of his repertoire during the Spring Game. He has everything that coaches could want in a back: size, speed, agility, strength, and fancy moves.

Tilford straight slammed Azizi Hearn to the ground with a stiff arm. He is much improved from last year but there still a couple of things he needs to work on. His vision is better but needs more work. He still needs to lower his pad level a little but that might not be too big a deal. And finally he hesitates a little when coming to the line instead of plowing through. These are all things that can be fixed and I’d expect him to have most solved by the time the season starts.

Brightwell is someone who has made a ton of noise during practice dating back to fall camp last year. The last coaching staff moved him to slot receiver but he never made it to the field on offense, mainly playing special teams. This year he was moved back to running back and his downhill power style is fun to watch. He was looking great during UA’s open scrimmage the weekend before the Spring Game. He left that scrimmage with a knee injury but should be back for fall camp.

Finally, we reach scholarship running back Branden Leon. The Goodyear native is heading into his fourth season with the program and received his scholarship last year. And I will say that he has earned it. He is one of the hardest runners and even when he makes contact, he is still able to gain yards. He makes sure that the defense has to work to bring him down. Last year he saw more time in games and I would not be even remotely surprised if he gets a lot more touches this season. He had one of the better performances of all running backs during the Spring Game, busting a couple of 40+ yard runs.

Newcomer notes: There will be two new faces in the offensive backfield in 2018, with one player making a switch from the defense. That’s former safety Anthony Mariscal who made the switch after last season. It’s a sensible move, as the safety position is getting a little crowded and Mariscal played running back in high school, and he was darn good at it. No one really knew what to expect until the first open scrimmage, but that was only a small glimpse as to what he can bring to the backfield.

During the Spring Game, Mariscal had a breakout of sorts. He has a nice mix of speed, power, and agility to his style and that will only help the group. He busted a few big runs and looked like he has been playing the position his entire college career. He did have some ball security mishaps, but nothing that can’t be fixed during fall camp.

Now to the lone running back signee for the 2018 cycle, Texas-based Darrius Smith. He’s a little bit of a smaller back, sitting at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. He isn’t the fastest either but he has an explosive first few steps, blasting him through an opening along the line of scrimmage. He is also incredibly elusive and shifty.


2019 RB Targets

With only about 5-6 backs in the stable, UA will be looking to add at least one in the 2019 class. There aren’t very many targets that UA is heavily pursuing but below I take a look at the ones they are.

Zach Charbonnet, 4-star

6-foot-2/215 pounds/Oaks Christian High School (Westlake Village, CA)

Career Stats (30 games): 362 car, 2,971 yards, 48 TD; 35 rec, 257 yards, 1 TD

Charbonnet is a big back, much like Nathan Tilford. He is a violent, powerful runner. He does, however, have the agility and vision of a finesse runner. He has an explosive first step and is able to carry that speed all the way down the field. His agility, though, is something that really stands out to me about his running. He is incredibly elusive for someone his size.

There are a ton of schools going after his commitment as he is sitting at 24 offers. Washington, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Oregon State, Utah, USC, and Washington State join Arizona as the Pac-12 schools on his list. Some other schools include LSU, Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Notre Dame. There will be a ton of competition for his services so the ‘Cats have their work cut out for them.

Keilan Robinson, 4-star

5-foot-9/184 pounds/St. John’s College High School (Washington, D.C.)

(Unable to find career stats)

Robinson is another really solid back. He is quick, agile, and fast. He is well-built and that, coupled with his speed and him keeping his feet moving, allows him to break tackles and create big plays.

Robinson can be a nightmare for defenders in the open field as he uses his agility and vision to put a move on the would-be tackler and gains chunks of yardage. He is also a very viable option to catch passes out of the backfield. He has great hands and vision to catch the ball in the air. His route running is also pretty solid.

Robinson is up to 24 offers, with Arizona and USC the only Pac-12 schools on the list. Some other schools include Alabama, Duke, Florida State, Michigan, Maryland, Georgia, Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Wisconsin. St. John’s is a school that Arizona has been recruiting and actually doing well at since last year. They landed QB Kevin Doyle from there and have down well with multiple players. Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Noel Mazzone will continue to help UA gain inroads into the talent-rich school.

Kenan Christon, 3-star

5-foot-10/185 pounds/Madison High School (San Diego, CA)

Career Stats (24 games): 211 car, 2,062 yards, 25 TD; 9 rec, 136 yards, 2 TD

The name of Christon’s game is speed. He is the fastest player on the field during most plays and as soon as he gets an opening, he is gone. He also runs track for Madison and it shows, especially when he crosses to goal line. He also has the strength to break free of any would-be tacklers. He does have some moves that he can put on people but for the most part he doesn’t need them and is a north-south runner. His highlights are definitely worth a watch.

A lot of schools are vying for his services in large part due to his speed and because he is a dual-sport athlete. He is sitting at 18 offers with half of them made up of Pac-12 schools; minus Oregon, Arizona State, and Washington. Some other schools who have offered him include Alabama, San Diego State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Colorado State, and TCU. As of now it will be an uphill battle but Arizona would not have offered if it did not think it could make headway. The ‘Cats have done well in San Diego of late and it would not be surprising to see them make a run.

Cameron Wiley, 3-star

6-foot-2/185 pounds/Desert Pines High School (Las Vegas, NV)

(Unable to find career stats)

Desert Pines is school that all Wildcat fans should know, as it gave them Tony Fields, Edgar Burrola, Tony Wallace, and gray shirt Jaden Mitchell. Now UA has gone back to DP to potentially land Wiley. He does not have video of stats from his junior year, sitting out after making the move from Silverado High School in Vegas.

Wiley has been making some noise this offseason, however, and is now up to 7 offers. Arizona, Utah, and Oregon are the Pac-12 schools who have extended offers. Southern Utah, Kansas, UNLV, and Minnesota are the other schools on his list. Wiley has been to UA’s campus a few times and is one of the schools standing out to him. He should see more offers rolling in as the spring eval period continues and even into summer. Arizona has a good chance in this recruitment and will likely be at the top until the end.

Reader Questions

From our very own Jason Bartel: Which Arizona target has the best name?

There’s really no crazy names that jump off the board but I’d have to go with Khyheem Waleed, Jacobby Dinwiddie, or Siaki Ika.

From @RV30B: Brandon, have you had any shocks in the refocus of recruiting under Coach Sumlin? Style, formats, etc.

I won’t say shocked but I can definitely say pleasantly surprised. Everyone know Sumlin was a great recruiter but I’m not sure anyone knew how he would recruit to Tucson. Now we can see how he plans to do it. I do know there will be a marked improvement in recruiting than under the old staff. However, I believe that people should be patient. UA won’t be adding 7-9 4-stars to their roster every year. They will, however, be adding quality. I will say that I was more surprised at the staff he put together. Not only are they great recruiters, but they are great coaches and teachers.