History shows JC transfers necessary for Arizona Wildcats’ success



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The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 26 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.

Arizona’s recruitment of junior college players is a logical move by coach Rich Rodriguez, especially considering he needs these transfers to provide a quick fix to some deficiencies early in his tenure with the Wildcats.

On Saturday, Santa Ana (Calif.) College defensive tackle Jeff Worthy, a former Boise State signee (video above), became the third junior college player to commit to Rodriguez’s program in the last three days. The others are high-profile linebacker Antonio Smothers from Scottsdale Community College on Thursday and former Texas Christian safety Jamie Byrd, a sophomore with Iowa Western Community College, on Friday.

Six of Arizona’s 22 Class of 2014 verbal commitments are junior college players who fill the Wildcats’ needs and will likely experience valuable playing time next season.

The other junior college recruits who have verbally committed are defensive end Jerod Cody of Glendale Community College, cornerback Patrick Glover of Scottsdale Community College and offensive lineman Kaige Lawrence of Chaffey Community College in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Rodriguez had only one junior college recruit in his first class in 2012 (quarterback B.J. Denker) mostly because he was hired less than three months before his first signing period at Arizona. His second class signed this February included two junior college transfers: Jesse Scroggins, a quarterback who began his career at USC, and offensive lineman Steven Gurrola.

Brant Boyer, now the assistant special teams coach for Indianapolis, led the UA in unassisted tackles in the two years after he transferred from a junior college

Brant Boyer, now the assistant special teams coach for Indianapolis, led the UA in unassisted tackles in the two years after he transferred from a junior college

Relying on an abundance of junior college transfers can carry a negative connotation, such as when former Stanford coach Bill Walsh said somebody could “hose off” Arizona because he believed the Wildcats had too many JC transfers.

Arizona, however, historically has featured a healthy mix of junior college recruits with high school prospects. The results generally are favorable from the JC transfers, some of whom are legendary Wildcat figures. The following is an alphabetical list of some of the standouts who transferred to Arizona after at least a year in junior college:

John Barthalt, defensive end (1982-84): Led Arizona with six sacks in 1983

Brant Boyer, linebacker (1992-93): Unsung Desert Swarm leader who led UA in unassisted tackles in his two years

Charlie Dickey, offensive lineman (1983-84): All-Pac-10 second-team selection in 1984 and 12-year member of UA coaching staff

Troy Dickey, receiver (1992-93): Led UA with 28 receptions for 395 yards in 1993

Mike Heemsbergen, center (1991-92): All-Pac-10 second-team selection in 1992

Julius Holt, linebacker (1981-82): One of UA’s top defenders early in Larry Smith’s tenure

Keshon Johnson, cornerback (1991-92): All-Pac-10 selection in 1992

Michael Johnson, safety (2005-06): Three of team-high four interceptions in 2005 at Oregon State

Mark Keel, tight end (1981-82): Second (behind Rob Gronkowski) in career receptions (59) for a tight end

All-American cornerback Chris McAlister joined the UA after a year at Mt. San Antonio College near Los Angeles

All-American cornerback Chris McAlister joined the UA after a year at Mt. San Antonio College near Los Angeles

Chris McAlister, cornerback (1996-98): Unanimous All-American in 1998 and three-time All-Pac-10 selection

Jeremy McDaniel, receiver (1996-98): Holds UA record for most receptions (14) and yards (283) in a game (against Cal in 1998)

Frank Middleton, offensive lineman (1995-96): All-Pac-10 second-team selection and third-round NFL draft pick

Josh Miller, punter (1990-92): All-American and All-Pac-10 selection in 1992

Darryl Morrison, safety (1991-92): Led UA with three interceptions in 1991 and was sixth-round NFL draft pick

Edwin Mulitalo, offensive lineman (1997-98): All-Pac-10 second-team selection and fourth-round NFL draft pick

Nate Ness, safety (2007-08): Led Wildcats with five interceptions in 2007

Glenn Parker, offensive lineman (1988-89): All-Pac-10 selection in 1989 and Arizona Sports Hall of Fame member

Ruben Rodriguez, punter (1985-86): All-Pac-10 second-team selection in 1986 and fifth-round NFL draft pick

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The best Arizona player to wear No. 26, according to TucsonCitizen.com’s Anthony Gimino, is safety Dave Liggins (1978-80). He was an All-Pac-10 selection who intercepted Pitt’s Dan Marino twice in 1979 Fiesta Bowl. A transfer from Cincinnati, he was one of Arizona’s top 10 transfers, as rated by this site.

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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. 26: UA upsets ASU from Fiesta Bowl consideration in program’s best stretch

No. 27: Trung Canidate rushes for record 288 yards and three long TDs in ’98 shootout against ASU

No. 28: UA dominates No. 3 SMU, highest ranked non-conference foe to lose to Cats

No. 29: Arizona stuns second-ranked Oregon in most significant victory in Mike Stoops era

No. 30: Arizona’s win on last-second FG over ASU ends Frank Kush’s dominance in the series

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.


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