Friday Fix: High-profile recruit considering Arizona and Kentucky … in football





Usually the Kentucky and Arizona basketball programs share a battleground for high-profile recruits. The firing of head football coach Joker Phillips at Kentucky last Sunday might have an impact on Arizona’s recruitment of one of Phillips’ primary targets. Blake McClain, a cornerback from the fertile recruiting state of Florida, has now termed his verbal commitment to Kentucky as “soft” and plans to take an official visit to the Arizona campus in January, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

McClain, of Orlanda (Fla.) Winter Park High School, has already visited Iowa State and plans to visit Pitt on Dec. 7. The telling quote in the story is McClain saying that during his trip to Ames, Iowa, that the weather there was “kinda chilly.” Ames, Lexington, Ky., and Pittsburgh do not have the warm-weather climate that McClain (6-foot and 190 pounds) is accustomed to in Orlando. Tucson, of course, does. McClain is rated a three-star recruit by Rivals.com and 247sports.com. McClain told Scout.com that Arizona coaches have informed him they are in need of defensive backs. “The program seems to be doing good things,” McClain told Scout.com. “I would like to get down there and check out the school. We’re in the process of trying to set something up. They’re looking for defensive backs and they say there is an opportunity to compete for a job.” … The Wildcats’ two-deep roster released this week for the Colorado game does not list a senior starter at any defensive position. The two cornerback spots, bandit, spur and safety positions have four sophomores (spur Tra’Mayne Bondurant, bandit Jared Tevis, cornerback Jonathon McKnight and safety Jourdan Grandon) and one junior (either Shaquille Richardson or Derrick Rainey at the other cornerback spot). Although all these players are slated to return next season, the Wildcats still lack depth on defense and would welcome with open arms a player such as McClain. … In case you don’t know, the bandit and spur positions are hybrid linebacker/safety positions, similar to a nickel back in a 3-4 defense. …

Rivals.com believes UA quarterback recruit Anu Solomon can make the quickest impact in college football next season

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has already started a pipeline of Florida recruits, including Orlando’s Trey Griffey (son of ex-major leaguer Ken Griffey Jr.). Griffey, a wide receiver, is one of four freshmen from Florida. The others: Clive Georges, wide receiver from Key West; J.T. Washington, running back from Indialantic; and Shadow Williams, linebacker from Tampa. … Rivals.com reported recently that Arizona quarterback recruit Anu Solomon, of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, might make the quickest impact among newcomers in college football next year. Matt Scott will be gone and Rodriguez will have a group of untested and unproven quarterbacks to choose from (except for possibly senior-to-be B.J. Denker, who might get more snaps with Scott potentially out with a concussion). “The coaches have told me that they want me to come in and compete for the starting job,” Solomon told Rivals.com. “It is something that I want to do, and they want me to do it.” The 6-foot-1, 200-plus-pound Solomon is a four-year starter at Bishop Gorman, a national program that have played teams from Maryland, Hawaii, California and New Jersey this season. Solomon has led the Gaels to three consecutive state titles and they are on the brink of a fourth. They play a Sunset regional final game tonight against Las Vegas Palo Verde. A standing-room-only crowd in excess of 5,000 at Gorman’s Fertitta Field is expected. … Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said that Solomon is capable of being an instant starter at Arizona next season. “There are two major things to consider for guys playing as true freshmen,” Farrell said in a Rivals.com report. “You have to be athletically mature enough to do it, and you have to be a good enough decision-maker and to do what is asked of you. The quickest way to lose a quarterback battle is to be turnover-prone, and Solomon doesn’t turn the ball over.” …

Former Arizona tight end Mark Keel, who played during Larry Smith’s early years at Arizona, is the head coach at Silverdale (Wash.) Central Kitsap High School. Keel’s team lost last week in the Washington state playoffs and finished the season 8-2. The topic of concussions in football includes Keel, who lost his top running back for half of a game because of the injury this season. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott likely will not play against Colorado because of a concussion suffered against UCLA and linebacker Rob Hankins was forced to give up football before the season started because of a serious concussion. A state law in Washington enacted in 2009 prevents young athletes — high school age and younger — with suspected concussions from returning to the playing field without the authorization of a licensed health care provider, which includes doctors, physician’s assistants, nurse practitioners and athletic trainers. Similar legislation has been adopted by 39 other states, including Arizona. … The law passed in Washington, which Keel must abide by, requires school districts and the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) to formulate a plan to educate coaches, parents and players on the risk of head injuries. Before every season, coaches must take a concussion training test on the WIAA website, and players and parents are required to sign a concussion information sheet prior to each season. Coaches and trainers can no longer make judgement calls about a player’s health. “I’m glad it’s out of my hands,” Keel told the Kitsap Sun. …

Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez was not born in November like athletic director Greg Byrne, basketball coach Sean Miller and baseball coach Andy Lopez, but he was hired by Byrne last November.

November is a month to remember for some of Arizona’s hierarchy. Sean Miller turns 44 next Saturday. Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne will be 41 on Nov. 29. Andy Lopez celebrates his 59th birthday on Nov. 30. Rodriguez, 49, was born on May 24 but he was hired at Arizona on Nov. 21 of last year. It is feasible — probable can be argued — that these four figures will still be affiliated with the Wildcats by the time Lopez turns 70 in 2023. When Rodriguez was hired, he mentioned that he was at Arizona to stay. “This is my final coaching stop,” he said at his introductory press conference. “I hope to be able to do this another 12 or 15 years.” … If Rodriguez coaches 15 years at Arizona, he would be — get this — the longest tenured football coach at Arizona since J.F. “Pop” McKale, who coached 16 years from 1914-1917 and 1919-1930. The UA did not field a team in 1918 because of World War I. Rodriguez is the 18th permanent head coach hired since McKale coached his last football game at Arizona. Dick Tomey coached the UA 14 seasons from 1987-2000. In a 79-year span (not including 1944 and 1945 when the UA did not play because of World War II), that means the average length of service for a permanent UA head football coach is only 4.4 years. No wonder a majority of UA fans will believe it when they see it concerning Rodriguez still coaching the Wildcats in 2026. ….

CollegeInsider.com, which sponsors a postseason hoops tournament, names its national player of the year award after Lute Olson. CollegeInsider.com released last week its list of All-American candidates that are nominees for the Lute Olson Award and not one Wildcat is mentioned. Not Solomon Hill. Not Mark Lyons. Two former Olson recruits, Mike Moser (UNLV) and Jeff Withey (Kansas), are listed as well six underclassmen from mid-major programs, including North Texas sophomore forward Tony Mitchell. Wonder if Olson approves of the Hill snub? … Miller’s decision to offer Sean Rooks’ son, Kameron, a scholarship is a sound one. Kameron is a wide body — 7-foot and 270 pounds — who can become a force with a major-college coaching system and conditioning program. Furthermore, Sean Rooks was the most fundamentally sound center in the Olson era. He was hired by the Suns this season to be a player-development coach. He concentrates mostly on the post players. Combine the coaching of Miller and his staff, the Wildcats’ training program, and the elder Rooks’ tutoring, and the UA has a potential all-conference player in Kameron Rooks by the time he is a senior. … Sean Rooks, a 12-year NBA veteran, has long been a respected figure in NBA circles. A prime example of how Rooks relates well to others is the way 17-year pro Jermaine O’Neal feels rejuvenated with the Suns. Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com wrote an article last month about O’Neal. In the piece, he mentions that Rooks and O’Neal joked before tip off of an exhibition game that O’Neal could still put the ball in the hole. O’Neal, a post player behind center Marcin Gortat and power forward Luis Scola, swished his first attempt seconds after the game started and smiled Rooks’ way on the bench. Rooks is part of the Suns’ plan to bring more instruction to workouts to create more of a learning atmosphere for the players to improve. “We run a lot. We run a lot, but they teach a lot here because we have a really young team, which I’m not quite used to,” O’Neal told Howard-Cooper. “Some teams I’ve been with, they teach, but they roll the ball out and we play. We would play through the teaching part. Here, they have to be able to teach technique. There’s a lot of new guys. That’s been the biggest difference, adjusting my body and trying to be smart about it. More than anything, to be quite honest, I’m having a lot of fun.” …

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



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