Arizona’s class of 22 newcomers is heavy on defense

TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez announced the signing of 22 football recruits to national letters of intent on Wednesday, and in keeping with the theme of the Wildcats’ off-season, the major emphasis is on the defensive side of the ball.

The class included 13 defensive players who should help fortify a defense that has been one of the nation’s most porous. Arizona will have an entirely new defensive coaching staff — defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, defensive backfield coaches Jahmile Addae and Donte Williams and a yet-to-be-named defensive line coach.

"I think we filled a lot of needs and wants with this class," Rodriguez said.

The 22 signees included four greyshirts who committed a year ago and are already enrolled in classes and participating in team functions.

Additionally, three other signees are mid-year enrollees: quarterback Khalil Tate, safety Isaiah Hayes and linebacker Kahi Neves.

Tate, from Gardena, Calif., offensive guard Michael Eletise of Honolulu and safety Chacho Ulloa of Corona, Calif., are the highest-rated of the incoming Wildcats — each with four stars, according to Scout.com.

As a whole, Scout ranked Arizona’s class 44th — ninth best in the Pac-12. Arizona’s average star ranking of 3.0 is tied for seventh among Pac-12 schools.

The positional breakdown on defense is five safeties, four linebackers, two cornerbacks and two defensive linemen. On offense, Arizona adds four offensive linemen, two wide receiver, one quarterback, one running back and one tight end.

Rodriguez announced that spring football practice will begin on Feb. 12 and run through March 25. Arizona will not play a spring game but will hold an open practice for the public at Arizona Stadium on March 4.

Best in class: QB Khalil Tate. While the Wildcats put a lot of focus on defense, Tate has a chance to be the game-changer in this class. The native of Gardena, California, is one of the nation’s top dual-threat quarterbacks and could be the prototypical quarterback for Rodriguez’s zone read offense.

Best of the rest: OL Michael Eletise. The 4-star recruit from Hawaii is considered one of the best guards in the country. At 6-foot-4, 295 pounds, Eletise should give the Wildcats some much-needed depth on the offensive line.

Late addition: WR Shawn Poindexter. Arizona got a last-second flip on this one. Poindexter, of Glendale Community College, committed to Marshall on Tuesday, but changed his mind a day later and signed with the Wildcats.

One that got away: QB Victor Viramontes whittled his decision down to Arizona and California, ultimately signing with the Bears on Wednesday.

How they’ll fit in: Arizona has had one of the Pac-12’s worst defenses over the past few years and the new recruits should help provide the Wildcats with some size and depth. The Wildcats also signed receiver Devaughn Cooper and running back J.J. Taylor, adding to their cache of offensive playmakers.

JJ Allen

DE

6-4

250

Long Beach, Calif. (West Torrance HS/Long Beach CC)

Lorenzo Burns

CB

6-0

165

Temecula, Calif. (Linfield Christian HS)

Bryson Cain

OT

6-4

270

Temecula, Calif. (Great Oak HS)

Jalen Cochran

LB

6-4

225

Canton, Mich. (Canton HS)

Jacob Colacion

LB

6-1

210

La Habra, Calif. (La Habra HS)

Devaughn Cooper

WR

5-11

175

Harbor City, Calif. (Narbonne HS)

Tristan Cooper

S

6-1

180

El Paso, Texas (Andress HS)

Michael Eletise

OT

6-4

295

Honolulu, Hawaii (Kaiser HS)

Isaiah Hayes *

FS

6-0

165

Calabasas, Calif. (Calabasas HS)

Justin Holt

DT

6-4

285

Tucson, Ariz. (Salpointe Catholic HS)

Francisco Nelson

LB

6-3

215

Lakeland, Fla. (Kathleen HS)

Kahi Neves *

LB

6-4

240

Provo, Utah (Timpview HS)

Jamie Nunley *

TE

6-5

205

Murrieta, Calif. (Vista Murrieta HS)

Antonio Parks *

CB

5-10

177

Reserve, La. (East St. John HS)

Shawn Poindexter

WR

6-6

210

Peoria, Ariz. (Centennial HS/Glendale CC)

Gavin Robertson

S

6-2

200

Auburn, Wash. (Mountain View HS)

Harper Sherman *

OT

6-5

260

New Westminster, B.C. (New Westminster School)

Khalil Tate *

QB

6-2

206

Gardena, Calif. (Junipero Serra HS)

J.J. Taylor

RB

5-6

155

Corona, Calif. (Centennial HS)

Chacho Ulloa

S

6-0

190

Corona, Calif. (Centennial HS)

Keenan Walker *

OT

6-5

266

Scottsdale, Ariz. (Chaparral HS)

Jarrius Wallace

S

6-2

180

Marrero, La. (John Ehret HS)

* — already enrolled