Arizona Football

RichRod: Signing top in-state players translates into competing for Rose Bowl





Rich Rodriguez says the state of Arizona produces as much as 14 quality players a year and he wants them all

Rich Rodriguez says the state of Arizona produces as much as 14 quality players a year and he wants them all

Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez, interviewed on Sirius/XM’s College Sports Nation Show this morning, mentioned that signing the state’s top talent will translate into a Rose Bowl berth.

“We talked about it quite a bit when we first got here,” Rodriguez said. “There’s probably anywhere between 10 to 12 to 14 high-caliber BCS-level football players in-state and for whatever reason we don’t have a lot of them here.

“And they haven’t stayed in-state. They’ve gone out of state to different places. We want them to stay in-state. I want them all. I don’t want half of them. I want them all to come down here to the U of A. If we get the best players in the state of Arizona to come to the U of A every year, we’re going to be competing for the Rose Bowl.

“That’s kind of our pitch.”

On National Signing Day today, five of the Wildcats’ 26 prospective recruits are in-state players, all from the Phoenix area. They include Tempe Marcos de Niza teammates — wide receiver Paul Elvira and wide receiver/running back Mauriece Lee. Both of them were early commitments to Rodriguez and his staff which means other programs, including ASU, backed off.

The Arizona Republic describes Lee (5-8, 185) as “slippery, crafty, resilient, versatile. Great in space.” The newspaper reports that Elvira (5-11, 175) “had 48 catches and had 12 touchdown catches last season. Great slot receiver. Good possession receiver who can make thing happen after he catches the ball. Sure hands.”

The other in-state talent to sign a letter of intent today with Arizona includes Glendale Community College center Steven Gurrola, Buckeye High School linebacker DeAndre Miller and Chandler Basha High School wide receiver Nate Phillips.

Judging from recruiting-service ratings, Miller is the standout of the group. He is rated a three-star recruit by Rivals, Scout and 247. Arizona’s coaches have indicated to the media that Miller is the best prospect in Arizona, in their judgement.

ASU has four in-state recruits in tow, including Auburn transfer Christian Westerman, a 6-4, 303-pound offensive lineman. He redshirted at Auburn in 2011 and played in only two games last season because of injuries. He is enrolled at ASU this spring. He was regarded as a five-star prospect as a high school senior at Chandler Hamilton in 2010.

He was named the nation’s No. 2 offensive tackle and the No. 6 player nationally by ESPN.com/Scouts, Inc.

This is the first full year of recruiting for Rodriguez and his staff in the western part of the country. Rodriguez was hired in late November 2011, less than three months before last year’s signing date. He believes he and his coaches have made an impression on West coast recruiting.

“I knew Arizona a little bit because I’ve recruited here with other schools,” Rodriguez told Sirius/XM. “We’ve also recruited California and the southeast a little bit. We want to maintain our ties to places like Georgia and Florida.

“We realize that Arizona and California have to be a strong base for us. We are establishing relationships and understanding where the players are at.”

One of the 10 California prospects on Arizona’s Class of 2013 list is former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins, a 6-1, 200-pound dual-threat quarterback. He is enrolled at Arizona this spring after transferring from El Camino (Calif.) Junior College.

“We knew about him in high school,” Rodriguez told Sirius/XM. “It was a situation in which it didn’t work out at USC (mostly because of academics), but he is still a talented guy.

“He is now more mature. He knows what he has in front of him and he’s hungry. He’s grown up and is ready to compete. He’s going to give us great competition for the quarterback spot.”

Rodriguez spoke in glowing terms of San Diego Madison High School tailback Pierre Cormier and Cape Coral (Fla.) all-purpose athlete T.J. Johnson.

Rodriguez suggested that Cormier (5-10, 180) will be a multi-faceted threat for Arizona.

“He is talented enough to play in the slot,” Rodriguez told Sirius/XM. “He’s got great ball skills. He is also a great returner. We’re looking for dynamic guys in space. Every coach will tell you that but he’s a very, very productive guy.

“He won a state championship. The bigger the game the better he was so we’re really excited about Pierre.”

Johnson (5-8, 165) had some interest from some big-time programs such as Notre Dame, Miami and Tennessee. Rodriguez and his staff recruit Florida well and they won over Johnson with their read-option spread offense.

“I love Coach Rodriguez’s offense,” Johnson told Scout.com. “When you watch them, you can just see how explosive and well coached they are, then you consider the fact it was his first year at the school and it really speaks volumes.”

Rodriguez and his staff identified Johnson early in the recruiting process, which likely led to the prospect signing with Arizona.

“I thought he was one of the most dynamic players in south Florida,” Rodriguez told Sirius/XM. “Certainly, that region has been very good to us.

“I think T.J. has a chance to make an instant impact. He’s extremely fast (4.4 in the 40). He is one of the fastest guys in a fast state like Florida and he’s gonna be able to do a multitude of things for us, particularly in the slot and returning kicks so I am excited about T.J.”

Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner

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