In year two of the Rich Rod era, the Wildcats finished with an 8-5 record once again. However with the season done and over with for the Wildcats, what does the future of Arizona Football hold?
The next couple of years seem pretty promising as the potential 2014 recruiting class is currently ranked #19 according to ESPN, headlined with plenty of 4-star recruits. On offense, Rich Rodriguez will bring in Tucson native and Arizona High School Player of the Year Cameron Denson as an athlete, dual-threat quarterback Brandon Dawkins and running backs Nick Wilson and Jonathan Haden, brother of Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden. On defense the Wildcats will add linebacker duo and Bishop Mora Salesian High School (Los Angeles, California) teammates Marquis Ware and Jamardre Cobb, along with defensive back Naijiel Hale, son of rapper Nate Dogg and now 5-star cornerback Jalen Tabor, who picked Arizona over Alabama. No one can deny that this recruiting class can be attributed to the success of Rich Rodriguez thus far, beautiful weather year round, as well as the new athletic facility and turf field.
The Wildcats will also have a trio of sophomore transfers eligible for 2014 including former ESPN 150 recruits Cayleb Jones at receiver and Connor Brewer at quarterback, who were both teammates at Texas. The Wildcats will also welcome receiver Davonte’ Neal from Notre Dame, the #8 recruit in the 2012 class. Neal and Brewer were teammates at Chaparral High School (Scottsdale, Arizona), where they won three straight state championships together.
As for players leaving, the defense takes quite a hit as 6 seniors will be graduating. Arizona will be losing defensive back Shaquille Richardson, linebackers Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers, along with defensive linemen Tevin Hood and Sione Tuihalamaka. However the returners show plenty of promise for next year. Safeties Jared Tevis, Jourdon Grandon, and Tra’Mayne Bondurant will all return for their senior campaign, as well as defensive back Jonathan McKnight. Freshmen all-American linebacker Scooby Wright will also help anchor and lead the defense.
The offense will only lose three seniors, Chris Putton on the offensive line, BJ Denker at quarterback and receiver Terrence Miller. Junior receiver Austin Hill, who tore his ACL last spring, will be returning for his senior year. With the emergence of freshmen receivers Samajie Grant and Nate Phillips, along with redshirt freshman Trey Griffey, son of MLB Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., this has the potential to be a very explosive offense. Rich Rodriguez has also been loading up on quarterbacks since his arrival and there is no doubt that he will find the right leader to run his offense.
However the biggest question mark is in the backfield with Ka’Deem Carey. He accounted for over 30% of Arizona’s offense this season as he led the nation in carries per game and finished second in rushing yards per game, earning consensus All-American honors two years straight. He now faces the decision to either forgo his senior year to declare for the NFL Draft or earn a degree and finally get the recognition he deserves. 2nd string running back Daniel Jenkins will be graduating and sophomore Jared Baker tore his ACL against ASU, which will keep him out for quite some time. Should Ka’Deem Carey leave, freshman Pierre Cromier redshirted this year, and both Nick Wilson and Jonathon Haden are both viable options to start as true freshmen.
The returning Wildcats, as well as the transfers and potential 2014 commits give Arizona fans plenty to cheer about for next season.