The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 31 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.
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NOTE: Updates to include Brad Anderson, who originally attended BYU before transferring to Arizona in 1981.
— Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com rates his top 13 transfers during the Pac-10/12 years (1978 to present)
— Brad Allis of WildcatSportsReport.com takes a look at quarterback transfers of the past
The news of Texas quarterback Connor Brewer transferring to Arizona yesterday follows that of former Scottsdale Chaparral teammate Davonte’ Neal, an all-purpose threat at Notre Dame, enrolling at the UA this fall.
Their transfer to Arizona brings to mind players who have left major college football programs for the Wildcats. Players have excelled with the Wildcats from college football powers such as Alabama, Texas, Penn State and SMU (when it was highly relevant before the NCAA death penalty wrecked the program).
Time will tell if former USC quarterback Jesse Scroggins will also join this elite list.
The highest-profile transfer to this point is defensive tackle Anthony Smith, who played three years at Alabama before becoming an All-Pac-10 selection in his senior season at Arizona in 1989. Smith reportedly transferred away from Bill Curry’s program at Tuscaloosa,Ala., because of disciplinary reasons that kept him out of spring practice in 1988.
While Smith is the most notable transfer — he was a first-round draft pick by the Oakland Raiders (11th selection overall) in 1989 — he is not the No. 1 transfer who starred at Arizona.
That distinction, in my book, goes to quarterback Nick Foles, who transferred from Michigan State after his freshman season and went on to become the UA’s career passing yardage leader with 10,011 yards from 2009-2011. Purdue transfer Cleveland Crosby, a third-team All-American as senior in 1979, is No. 2 and Smith is No. 3.
Foles played in only one game as a freshman at Michigan State in 2007, completing five of eight passing attempts for 57 yards, He transferred to Arizona because of his relationship with Sonny Dykes, the UA’s offensive coordinator at the time. Dykes recruited him while serving as the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech.
Foles originally verbally committed to ASU coach Dirk Koetter in 2006 but changed his mind after ASU fired Koetter. He enrolled at Michigan State, was placed behind junior starter Brian Hoyer and backup Kirk Cousins in the depth chart in 2007, and the rest is history.
Next in this list is defensive end Cleveland Crosby, who starred at Arizona in 1978 and 1979 after playing at Purdue for two seasons. Crosby, who earned All-Pac-10 and third-team All-American honors in 1979, originally transferred to USC from Purdue but never enrolled. Arizona coach Tony Mason, known as a devil-may-care players coach, welcomed numerous transfers, including Crosby, into the program.
Oklahoma State transfer Mike Robinson started at defensive tackle for Mason in 1978 and 1979. The largest contingent, which included some of the most talented players to compete at Arizona, followed Mason from Cincinnati, from where he was hired in 1977.
The list of Bearcats who moved to Tucson included defensive secondary standouts Dave Liggins, Marcellus Greene and Mark Streeter (all of whom are on my top 10 list). Others from Cincinnati included starters Gus Tucker (linebacker), Rich Roberts (tight end) and Robert Cobb (nose guard).
“I could’ve taken 10 more from Cincinnati, but I didn’t want to wreck their program,” Mason told reporters in 1979 during the now defunct conference skywriters tour.
ARIZONA’S TOP TEN PERFORMERS AFTER TRANSFERRING FROM ELSEWHERE[table “” not found /]
Mason’s Cincinnati connection came under scrutiny during the NCAA’s investigation into other recruiting violations, which ultimately led to UA serving a two-year probation in 1983 and 1984.
Liggins, who intercepted Pitt quarterback Dan Marino twice in the 1979 Fiesta Bowl, was an All-Pac-10 selection in 1980. Greene (sixth on this list) was a two-time All-Pac-10 second-team selection. Streeter (No. 10), one of Arizona’s best punt returners, was a fifth-round selection by Detroit in the 1980 NFL draft.
Two of Arizona’s best possession receivers — Brad Anderson (No. 5) and Jay Dobyns (No. 7) merit to be on this list.
Anderson, who transferred to Arizona in 1981 after his freshman season at BYU, was an All-Pac-10 selection in 1983. He caught 97 passes for 1,789 yards in his career. His most memorable reception was a breakaway 65-yard touchdown reception (about 50 of those yards coming after the catch) against blitzing ASU when “The Streak” (a nine-year unbeaten run against the Sun Devils) began in 1982.
Dobyns led the UA in receiving in 1983 with 50 receptions for 694 yards. The Sahuaro High School grad transferred after his freshman season with Arkansas.
Similar to Foles, Dan White emerged as a successful quarterback for three seasons after transferring from another major college program. White attended Penn State as a freshman in 1991. After playing third-string behind Kerry Collins and John Sacca as a freshman, White transferred closer to home to Arizona.
Bearing the same name as former ASU nemsis Danny White, the UA’s version was a thorn in the Sun Devils’ side. He was 3-0 as the starting quarterback against the Sun Devils, completing game-changing passes in the process. He was also was the efficient offensive leader of the UA’s 10-2 team that beat Miami in the 1994 Fiesta Bowl.
Brewer is the second Texas transfer to join Arizona’s program in the last four years. Dan Buckner (No. 8 on the list) became a reliable receiver for Arizona after transferring from Mack Brown’s program following his arrest for misdemeanor trespassing and resisting arrest in January 2010. He started six games in 2009 for the Longhorns.
He was a secondary target behind Juron Criner and Austin Hill in his two years of eligibility with Arizona. He still managed to catch 103 passes for 1,379 yards and seven touchdowns in his brief UA career.
Arizona coach Dick Tomey was a benefactor of SMU’s death-penalty sentence by the NCAA in 1987. That enabled him to welcome two high-profile transfers who started with the Mustangs — left guard Kevin McKinney and quarterback Bobby Watters.
In McKinney’s lone season with the Wildcats in 1987 Tomey bestowed upon him a captain’s role because of his leadership qualities. Tomey pegged Watters to be the starting quarterback to run his run-and-shoot offense in 1987, but Watters broke his thumb three games into the season. He was granted a medical hardship by the NCAA and concluded his career with the Wildcats in 1988 sharing the quarterback duties with freshman Ronald Veal.
Vincent Smith, the behemoth offensive guard who transferred to Arizona from Colorado after his freshman season. At 6-foot-6 and 360 pounds, Smith was big and played that way for Tomey when Arizona was building toward the Desert Swarm era.
Another transfer of note who played at Arizona is fullback Chris Gronkowski, Rob’s brother who originally played at Maryland.
Some notable players have transferred to Arizona but never played a down for a variety of reasons.
They include two high-profile running backs Fred Sims (a Sunnyside High School grad who played originally at Oklahoma and did not communicate with UA coaches after announcing his intentions to transfer to Arizona) and Leon Blunt (a Notre Dame transfer who was not a good fit for Tomey’s program).
Tennessee transfer John Rattay never took a snap at quarterback despite high accolades out of high school. Akron’s leading tackler in 2011, linebacker Brian Wagner, surprisingly quit football before playing with the UA last year and quarterback Tom Savage was a former Rutgers starter who left to Pitt after Mike Stoops was fired in 2011.
The most high-profile case in which potential transfers never played at Arizona — aside from the Sims’ situation — was Iowa starting quarterback Larry Lawrence and fullback Tom Smith denied the chance to move to Tucson by coach Bob Weber in 1970.
Lawrence and Smith announced their intentions to transfer to Arizona after Iowa’s offensive line coach Gary Grouwinkel was fired by head coach Ray Nagel over personal differences. Grouwinkel ironically was a former UA offensive coordinator. Weber denied Lawrence and Smith the opportunity to transfer reportedly because of his relationship with Nagel and other members of the Iowa staff.
“We don’t accept transfers and we will not take them into our program,” Weber was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.
Lawrence and Smith ultimately transferred to Miami. Lawrence later played in the NFL for three seasons for Oakland and Tampa Bay.
Weber never enjoyed a winning season at Arizona in four years as head coach. He was fired in 1972.
Another high-profile Iowa transfer, nose guard Paul Glonek, played for Arizona but not without controversy.
He was suspended indefinitely by Tomey on Aug. 15, 1989, after the school learned Glonek was charged with assault in Iowa City, Iowa. Glonek, who committed to Notre Dame out of high school but did not qualify academically, was charged with punching an Iowa student in the face following an argument earlier that summer. Glonek missed the entire 1989 season but was reinstated the following year and completed his career with the Wildcats in 1990.
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The best Arizona player to wear No. 31, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino, is linebacker Mark Arneson (1969-71). The Palo Verde High alum was an All-American in 1971 and went on to a nine-year NFL career. He also is a member of this site’s All-Time All-WAC era team.
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Last year, this site and TucsonCitizen.com ran a Top 50 Games in the history of Arizona football series. I will relive that list here with less than 50 days to kickoff and add one game to it: Arizona’s improbable 49-48 win over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl last December, which landed as No. 38 on the list. Note, after clicking on the link, you will notice last year’s ranking. The list on this page is the current ranking.
No. 31: Arizona reaches its zenith under Mike Stoops with victory over Brigham Young in Las Vegas Bowl
No. 32: Arizona owed Cal a couple, knock Bears out of BCS title, Rose Bowl run
No. 33: Arizona’s 10-9 loss at Oregon in 1994, derailing its Rose Bowl hopes, still hurts
No. 34: ASU ripe for picking in banana uniforms for “The Streak” to reach eight
No. 35: Arizona tries risky fake PAT to beat California but loses in epic 4 overtime game
No. 36: Veal to Hill “Hail Mary” pass highlights “The Streak” reaching seven games against ASU
No. 37: USC outlasts Arizona 48-41 in one of most wild games played in Tucson
No. 38: Arizona Wildcats’ comeback against Nevada No. 38 in Top 50 games list
No. 39: Arizona shows signs of life under Mike Stoops with rout over No. 7 UCLA
No. 40: Art Luppino “The Cactus Comet” rockets toward 38 yards per carry and five touchdowns
No. 41: Fumblerooski enables Arizona to sweep USC, UCLA in L.A. for first time
No. 42: Sun Devil nemesis Dan White quarterbacks Arizona into Fiesta Bowl with win over ASU
No. 43: Struggling UA gets improbable win against ’83 Pac-10 champ UCLA
No. 44: Closing chapter of “The Streak” includes Arizona’s dramatic fourth-quarter heroics
No. 45: Arizona overcomes rival Texas Tech with unfathomable late-game rally
No. 46: Dick Tomey, the Desert Fox, does a number on UCLA by changing offense in midseason
No. 47: “The Streak” reaches three games, UA achieves best Pac-10 finish
No. 48: Arizona’s first game at Arizona Stadium in 1929, a 35-0 win over Cal Tech
No. 49: Underdog Arizona’s 2011 thriller over arch-rival Arizona State
No. 50: Arizona’s first win over arch-rival Arizona State, then known as Territorial Normal
Dropped out: Arizona’s first win in program’s history: 22-5 over Tucson Indians
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WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.