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Football recruiting SitRep: On Arizona’s future at DE/Stud, the Gunnell commitment, and more

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Time to switch to the defensive side of the ball

Arizona State v Arizona Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Camp season is now fully underway and the Arizona Wildcats are continuing to add to their 2019 class.

They added a highly-touted quarterback, and we received an update from a previous commit. Plus we continue to look at each position group, with our first defensive group.

There’s plenty to get to, so let’s dive into this week’s SitRep.

Grant Gunnell, QB

We’ll start with the newest member of Arizona’s class. Gunnell made his long anticipated commitment Wednesday. His comfort level and long-standing relationship with Kevin Sumlin and Noel Mazzone made the decision easy for the 4-star gunslinger.

Gunnell is well connected and respected in Texas, and he will join Logan Wilson in recruiting other players to join them in Tucson.


Logan Wilson, CB

Wilson has had a very productive spring. He has increased his speed, agility, and strength. He continued to improve his ability to diagnose plays and make plays on the ball, coming up with 10 interceptions throughout spring.

Wilson is 100 percent solid with his commitment to Arizona. So much so that he helped recruit Gunnell to Arizona and is looking to add multiple other playmakers. Wilson’s relationship with the staff has only strengthened since his commitment. His main recruiter, Demetrice Martin, made a stop by Bishop Dunne High School to check in about midway through spring practice.


Defensive End/Stud Linebacker

Key Returners: Justin Belknap, J.B. Brown, Kylan Wilborn, Lee Anderson III, Jalen Cochran

Returning Redshirts: My-King Johnson, Jose Ramirez, Jalen Harris, Dante Blissit

Key Losses: DeAndre’ Miller, Francisco Nelson

Key Newcomers: Adam Plant, Nahe Sulunga

Returner Notes: The ends and studs is a rather interesting group. Besides Belknap, Wilborn, and Anderson, there isn’t much experience.

Belknap is a former walk-on who earned a scholarship before the 2017 season. His high motor is something every coach wants and he has consistently put on weight every season.

Wilborn was one of the freshmen phenoms last season. He wore down a little near the end of the season but he should continue his success this season. Both Anderson and J.B. Brown played last season, but really made their mark this spring.

Anderson proved to be a handful coming off the edge during the spring game while Brown showed his high motor and skill he possesses.

Cochran has all the size of a college defensive end, but he has yet to see the field. After leaving the program and returning after his redshirt season, he suffered a season-ending injury last season.

Redshirt Notes: Both Johnson and Harris were some of the better players in Arizona’s 2017 recruiting class. Both players have skill and aggressiveness, they just need to add some size.

Harris is probably the best pass rusher on the roster. Ramirez was kind of an unknown when he committed to the ‘Cats near the end of the 2017 cycle. He came to Arizona bigger than I expected but had to redshirt to pick up the speed of college. Blissit was a track-and-field star at Goodyear-Desert Edge and he walked on to the team, but he has some skill.

Newcomer Notes: UA lost two studs/linebackers after this past season: one to graduation and one to transfer. With that, they added two very talented defensive ends to the mix. Four-star recruit Adam Plant is physically ready for the college level. He looks the part and can flat-out play. There are some concerns that he won’t qualify academically, but I believe that will get resolved before he arrives to campus, and he will participate in fall camp.

Sulunga is sort of a sleeper. He is another large, talented human being who played at a SoCal power program in Calabasas High School. He only played half of the season since he transferred from another SoCal powerhouse in St. John Bosco High School. Sulunga has natural talent and a nifty set of moves to help him get past blockers. Both newcomers will push for playing time.

2019 DE/Stud Targets

I believe Arizona will take two defensive ends and only one, possibly two, stud linebackers this cycle.

Below are the players I believe are priority targets for UA.

Jermaine Johnson, 4-star

6-foot-6/240 pounds/Eden Prairie High School (Eden Prairie, MN)/Independence C.C.

2017 Stats: 58 tackles, 8.0 sacks, 3 fumble recoveries

We’ll start with one of the best JuCo prospects in the country in Indy CC’s Jermaine Johnson. Johnson’s defensive coordinator is Demetrice Martin’s brother and former UA player Jason Martin. Johnson holds 20 offers from programs such as Arizona, Georgia, USC, Texas, Oregon, Nebraska, and Texas A&M to name a few.

There is a connection to Johnson through UA’s new cornerback coach and the Wildcats are going to try to snag the talented edge rusher. Johnson took a visit to Tucson on Tuesday and initial thoughts are that the visit went well. It’s going to be a tough haul for the ‘Cats with so much competition, but it says something if he is at least willing to take a visit to campus.

Tre’Mon Morris-Brash, 4-star

6-foot-3/241 pounds/St. John’s College High School (Washington, D.C.)

Career stats unavailable

Morris-Brash is another high-level d-end that the ‘Cats are pursuing heavily. The D.C.-based edge rusher has seen his recruitment take off, now holding 23 offers. Arizona, South Carolina, Michigan, Georgia, Florida, and LSU are just some of his offers.

Arizona is doing better here than most people will give them credit for. Part of that is because of UA freshman quarterback Kevin Doyle, who was Morris-Brash’s teammate at SJC. The next step for the ‘Cats in this one will be to get Morris-Brash on campus on a visit and try to push ahead of some of the other competition.

Drake Jackson, 4-star

6-foot-4/260 pounds/Centennial High School (Corona, CA)

Career Stats (22 games): 57 tackles, 8.0 TFL, 6.0 sacks, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 1 forced fumble

Jackson has been a target for Arizona staff ever since they arrived in Tucson. The 4-star Southern California talent has USC, California, Arizona State, Washington, Utah, and Oregon joining the ‘Cats on his list. Jackson has been thought to be a heavy USC lean for quite some time, however, he hasn’t pulled the trigger yet. That gives Arizona a chance to continue to make a push with him.

This is another instance in where I believe that UA is doing better than anyone thinks. Part of that is his relationship with Demetrice Martin. Jackson has also taken a visit to Tucson and by all accounts it went well. This might be a recruitment to keep an eye on.

Stephon Wright, 4-star

6-foot-3/260 pounds/Cathedral High School (Los Angeles, CA)

Career Stats (18 games): 64 tackles, 17.0 TFL, 10.0 sacks, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 2 forced fumbles 2 fumble recoveries

Wright has Arizona among his top schools. But along with the Wildcats comes, you guessed it, stiff competition. UA joins Alabama, Washington, USC, Colorado, Oklahoma, Washington State, and Arizona State as some of the schools he’s seriously considering. Washington seems to be trending in his recruitment as does Alabama, who just recently offered.

Arizona has already had Wright out on a visit, which only helped the ‘Cats. Wright has also taken visits out to Washington and Alabama, to name a few, and I view them and USC as Arizona’s stiffest competition.

Jaden Tauanu’u, 3-star

6-foot-3/230 pounds/Pittsburg High School (Pittsburg, CA)

Career Stats (12 games): 10 tackles, 1.0 sack

Tauanu’u has mostly played tight end during his career, but after speaking with him, it’s clear that Arizona wants him as a stud linebacker type of player. Tauanu’u also confirmed that his high school coaches are looking at him to have a much larger role as an edge rusher this coming season.

He has four offers with Arizona being the only Power Five school. Other schools include San Jose State, Utah State, and Howard. As the season progresses I’d expect more schools to get involved. Most of his highlights are of him playing TE, but there are some pretty solid clips of Tauanu’u as an edge rusher this offseason on social media.

Reader Questions

@jamescasillas76: For the team, what’s the strengths and weaknesses for offense and defense?

For the offense, the strength is the running back corps. It is deep, talented, and full of different running styles. That gives opposing defenses the tough task of trying to stop an already potent running attack. As for the weaknesses, I’d say the offensive line based on the spring game. The talent is there, but the unit needs to gel. If it doesn’t, it’s going to be a rough season for any Arizona QB.

As for the defense, the strength is the talent and aggressiveness they have. It is an attacking defense that loves to hit and swarm to the ball. And to top it off, the defensive line finally has the size and depth everyone has been asking for. The weakness, I’ll say, has to be the youth. Yes, a lot of guys played last year and gained valuable experience, but they are still young and might make some mistakes.

@jamescasillas76: What position should Sumlin be focusing on for recruiting?

Well, there are actually two position groups he’s focusing on: receiver and offensive line. It’s no secret that the new staff would love a talent and size bump at the receiver position and they are aggressively pursuing multiple receivers to do so. The offensive line is also being recruiting heavily. Joe Gilbert knows he is going to need more depth in the coming years and he is finding prospects from all over the country to fill it. I’d expect Arizona to take 3-4 receivers and o-linemen this cycle.