Arizona football signed 22 players to letter of intents on Wednesday, early signing day. Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that he expects the class to expand by February signing day. As of now, Arizona’s 2023 class ranks No. 43 nationally and No. 7 in the Pac-12 according to 247 Sports.
Our early signing day tracker can be found here.
Fisch spoke about the signing class, which includes 21 high school players and one junior college recruit, as well as Arizona’s key returnees and transfer portal pick-ups.
On overall thoughts of signing class: “These last really six to nine months, last couple of weeks, all sorts of different visits in June and December. Commitments. Decommitments. More commitments. Really battles throughout the way, across the country. That’s kind of the landscape we’re in right now. As we’re continuing to build, today we’ve really been excited about who we added. I think we’ve added some really, really good football players. We’re going to find ways to get better every single day. We needed to open up spots, we needed to have spots filled. It looks to me that we’ll have at this moment 84 scholarship players out of 85 after everybody signed today. Still looking to see where that ends up here in the very end, but right now that’s what it looks like.”
On key returners: “Excited about our players that are returning. Really excited about the fact that Mike Wiley and Jordan Morgan, Jacob Cowing Jayden de Laura all chose to return, although they have opportunities to go into the NFL. Excited about guys like T-Mac and Keyan Burnett and Tanner McLachlin, Speedy Luke, Jonah Coleman, all of those players that have just been in last year’s class. Really excited about the defensive group that we had all the young freshmen that we played, and now all the guys that have added. Then also of course continuing to look at the depth at quarterback with Noah, and now this year’s class. So I think we’re in a spot right now that our build is progressing and we are evolving. The evolution of our program from one win to five wins was hard, but I believe from five wins to nine wins will even be harder, whatever that other four game jump will be. So we’re gonna have to really attack January and attack the spring, attack the training camp. Really make our coaches be the very best they can be, our players be the very best they can be, and continue to utilize the portal, continue to utilize the final signing day. I think there will probably be a couple more changes here if I was to guess in January, and I would expect a couple more people to be arriving on campus. Really looking forward to that.”
On landing Justin Flowe: “So just a couple of notes on these guys. First of all, I would say that when you get the guys returning that are returning, those are the biggest transfer wins you can have, or NFL wins whatever it might be, portal wins. To get those guys back was huge. The second thing is to go get Justin Flowe was enormous for our program. Justin Flowe will be the highest ranked player from high school ever on campus, one of the highest ranked players period. The fact that he and T-Mac will be playing together, T-Mac did an incredible job of recruiting him for us as well as Jayden did over those few days. Ee were excited and thrilled to have Justin Flowe on our campus ready to roll. He is excited to play next to Jacob Manu and Jerry Roberts and all the other guys that have committed to us this year.”
On transfer portal additions: “We’ve also brought in three or four other transfers that have done a great job of bringing a winning culture to the program. Bill Norton from Georgia, Noah (Pulealii) from UCLA. Guys that have been in winning programs and winning cultures are going to make a huge difference for us. That’s a huge part of what we’re trying to get done. So to bring a guy in from Georgia, a guy in from Oregon, a guy in from UCLA this past year, they’ve all won a lot of games, and to have them is critical.”
On where the class stands now vs. February signing day: “Couple of highlights of this year’s recruiting class on top of that. Looks like we have nine players ranked to the top 1,000. I expect a few more by February 2023. I think last year we had 14. I think when we start adding them up we’ll probably be closer to 12 or 13 by the end. We have about 25 new commitments somewhere in that range. I’m expecting a few more by the start of spring football to get our number to 85 on June 1. We set out to fix our defense. We signed I believe 16 of our 25 commits on the defensive side of the ball. And really we believe this, the build will never stop. The build will never stop. The program has improved, but it’s not where we want it to be. I don’t think it’ll ever be where we really want it to be. We want it to be an infinite amount of winning. So to do that, we’re gonna continue to build off of the guys we have on our roster, to make the players better, to bring in great players every single year, to never turn away talent, and to continue to build off of what we started, which is a pretty good foundation right now. 103 of our 110 players on our roster have been on our team two years or less. So we know what we have. We know what we’re getting. And we know who’s coming in. ... That’s two years in a row. I would say we’ll end up with a top 30 class by the time February 1 comes.”
On philosophy of recruiting more defensive players this year: “I thought that as a staff, we made a decision that the best way to build this team after the 2021 season was to find ways to score points. Our attendance went up 10,000 people per game. We were more fun to watch. We needed to get more players to want to be a part of our program. We needed to develop what I thought would be a top offense in the country, a top offense in the Pac-12, and that’s what we did. To do that we needed to invest our resources into offensive players, which is our time, the amount of players we could bring in through the portal, and the amount of players we could bring in through recruiting. And so that’s what we did. Now we feel as if, from that, we’re going to take the group, the core group of defensive players we brought in, that we have, and then how much can we add? How many players now want to be on a team that has a great offense? Our thought was this, if you are a defensive player, you want to be on a team that scores points. You don’t want to be on a team that you have to win game 17-13. So this year, a lot of our focus was on players like let’s call it Nick Fernandez, Tristan Davis, Dom Lolesio, Julian Savaiinaea, Taye Brown, Kamu (Kaaihue), Arian Parish, Canyon Moses, Gavin Hunter, Genesis Smith, Tyler Manoa. Orin Patu from Cal, pass rusher. Emmanuel Karnley, Justin Flowe, Bill Norden, Keanu Mailoto. All those guys are defensive players that we protect to make a big difference.”
On Flowe’s expectations: “Number one, he’s healthy. He’s 100% healthy. Number two, he’ll be here in January ready to roll for the first day of classes for spring ball, for everything we could possibly ask for there. Be in our strength and conditioning program, our training room, all those things. On top of it all, I would expect him to be the type of player that we saw when we played them. And the type of player that we saw in high school, which is an elite linebacker. You watch him run and hit, he’s as physical and as forceful of a player as you’ll see on a college field. His energy, his passion he plays with is incredible, and he’s a guy that’s 6-2, 225 pound linebacker that probably will be 235 pounds on opening day and will make an enormous impact on our defense.”
On recruiting QBs in each class: “I believe in that philosophy of always bringing in a quarterback. This one that we got here is a special one. Brayden Dorman coming in. Four-star, number one player in Colorado, top quarterback. I would say the one that we liked the most in this area, the West Coast time zone area. I feel as if he’s the type of player that can make a huge impact. And I believe you should always recruit just like you would always draft a quarterback in the NFL once a year, I think you always have to recruit one every year, especially with the landscape we’re in. But Noah Fifita is special, so to have Noah on our roster from one year ago, the fact that he now has his four years of eligibility still available to him. I hope that Brayden can learn from that process of hopefully red shirting, but coming in to compete just like Noah did, and then have four years from there. But I know Brayden wants to come in and compete. I know Noah wants to compete and is going to compete, and then I know both of those guys will push Jayden. And that’s really what makes a special room.”
On the offensive line: “I’d say in terms of the offensive line, what we’ve done is we brought in four high school players, I believe it is, and then bringing back Jordan (Morgan). To us that was a huge win when Jordan finally made his decision yesterday of returning and then being able to bring in RJ Pulido, Tylen Gonzalez, Elijha Payne, and Rhino (Tapaatoutai) to that group, you’re talking about guards, tackles, center, guys that can play all those positions that adds our depth. We’d like to get to 15 scholarships at the o-line. And I think that got us to 13.”
On Jordan Morgan’s recovery: “The hope is August 1. I think he’s planning on being a little bit ahead of schedule, but I would say most ACLs at this point, doctors are going from six to nine months and that would put him right at about the nine month mark.”
On landing Raymond Pulido: “I credit Coach Carroll on that one. Really, what you look at is, he was one of the first people we offered. We were his first offer two years ago. He came to a camp here and we were able to get an offer out to him, and then as his recruitment just kind of skyrocketed, he wound up picking up offer after offer after offer and you would kind of catch him on social media going to one place to another place to another place. Then he made his commitment. But toward the end here he reached back out and felt like he wanted to be on the West Coast and wanted to stay let’s call him a little bit closer to home. And when he reached out he reached out to Coach Carroll because they maintained a really good relationship. And I think he mentioned that in his articles and mentioned that in his interview on the real reason why Arizona got back involved was because of Coach Carroll. And his belief in Brennan and his belief in Brennan helping develop him. But you’re talking about a guy that was 6-7, 340 pounds on his visit I believe, and then when we were at his home last Sunday, I think he’s at the 6-7, 314 pound mark trying to get down to a super heavyweight wrestler to get the 285 for high school and then plan to go back up for track and then back coming here at about 325 So he’s able to gain and lose weight.”
On recruiting bigger sized guys: “When you look at his size, when you look at Manoa’s size, when you look at Tyler’s size, even the linebackers we signed are now all 6-2, 225 pounds. When you look at Dom Lolesio’s size and you look at Tristan Davis’s size, we brought a lot of a lot of six foot five plus players in here, Elijha Payne’s size, and then 300 plus pound guys both on the offensive and defensive line to help us win games.”
On the running back room: “Speed, vision, toughness. Another special running back. Brandon Johnson is going to be a really, really good player for us. I love that running back room right now. Mike Wiley returning. Jonah Coleman coming back a year better. Speedy Luke coming back healthy. You’ve got those guys. And then Stevie Rocker is sitting in that room competing to get going again. And then you also now bring in Brandon, I think that’s a room that’s going to have some special players to it and really make a huge impact in what we’re trying to get done. On top of that, we have DJ for one more year. So now you’ve got DJ Williams who’s now not coming in in August, we’re not trying to get ready at the very end but we actually have DJ ready to roll all of spring, all of summer, all of fall. That running back room should be once again really special.”
On bringing in Tyler Manoa: “Some of those guys, you have to have a background with them, you have to have a history with them, With Manoa, similar to Echols, Coach Nansen coached them both. So Coach Nansen saw how they played, saw how they practice, saw what their skill sets were. I felt most comfortable there with a player that let’s say didn’t have as much production, but we had familiarity. Hunter was in that case, and now Manoa was in that case. The rest of the guys that we brought in, we either had a really good familiarity with them or we’ve seen a lot of film on them. Bill Norden is another one that we just felt like you watch him play and you see what a Georgia defensive lineman looks like and you see when they get into the game and how immediately disruptive they can be, somebody like that is going to immediately impact our program here.”
On the lack of high major recruits from Tucson: “Yeah, I don’t understand that per se. I know that there’s there’s really good high school coaches in the area. I know that there’s been a lot of really good high school players, one of which we just saw is sitting out of his bowl game, but it’s probably an elite running back in the country from around the corner. So I’m not sure why this year it’s that way. I’m not sure why maybe it’s been that way last year a couple of years, but the most important thing we could do is continue to cultivate players within the area and keep making these players in Tucson viable options for FBS programs, viable options for Arizona. And then we have to continue, we brought in two guys from Hamilton High School, Genesis Smith and Taye Brown, we’ve got to continue to push off Phoenix and in the valley area, and we have to make sure that those guys jump on it and make this drive to Tucson and are a part of this program as well.”