National Signing Day Part 2: Arizona adds Preferred Walk-On’s

Following the hustle and bustle of a busy Signing Day yesterday, head coach Rich Rodriguez said the class is not done, as he hopes to add-on more players in the coming days.

As you were hopefully following along yesterday, Arizona Football fared well on their National Signing Day officially signing 23 commits to the 2017 Class finishing 43rd in the country.

Yeah, maybe it’s not the most impressive as far as ranking, but considering all the de-commitments the Wildcats suffered, and the departure of former coach Donte Williams, perhaps the result wasn’t so bad. Arizona filled some positions of need like on defense and a star running back. Also, Rich Rod brings in a nice combination of talent and depth.

The challenge moving forward for the coaching staff is to see how well these guys adapt early and develop into solid contributors at the start of the season.

Rodriguez in his press conference acknowledged some woes he saw in the class regarding de-commits, he also acknowledged the need for more size on his team. After all, a coach can technically take just 25 scholarship players in a given class, so the staff has to be quite selective in who they pick.

The job of figuring out who gets the scholarships can be tricky for Arizona’s head coach, as he tries to continue to build on his class, does he give it to someone in a position he needs to backfill or one he doesn’t want to lose.

Nov 12, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez (left) and Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre talk during warm ups at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 12, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez (left) and Colorado Buffaloes head coach Mike MacIntyre talk during warm ups at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Rodriguez mentioned 16 names in his press conference, most presumably will be preferred walk-ons. Being a preferred walk-on means these athletes are desired by the coaching staff, and they made the team, but they will not get a scholarship up front, they will have to earn one.

Rodriguez wants more competition at each position but only has so many scholarships to grant. These athletes are talented enough to be on a Division One College Football roster, have similar offers from other powerhouse schools and the coaches feel they can perhaps develop them into good players down the road.

Additionally, PWO’s train with the team and are a part of the 105-man roster the NCAA allows from the beginning of fall practice to the teams’ first game. Some these young men being offered by Rodriguez want to play for Arizona more than other schools who have offered including smaller schools. Acceptance of the offer to be a PWO is up to the player, the school wants them, but the player will be paying for his education, so they weigh the benefits and pitfalls.

A few of those athletes had their opportunity yesterday to sign their paperwork, here is a list of future PWO Arizona Wildcats (Note we list 11 total announcing their commitment and one waiting on his announcement. Of the 11, nine are from Arizona):

DE- Dante Blissit (Desert Edge HS- Goodyear, AZ)

DT- Paige Birdine (Cathedral HS- Los Angeles, CA)

OL- Tyrell Aponte (Peoria HS- Peoria, AZ)

S- Rourke Freeburg (Desert Mountain HS- Scottsdale, AZ)

OL- Tyson Gardner (Queen Creek HS- Queen Creek, AZ)

S- Azizi Hearn (Oceanside HS- Oceanside, CA)

WR/RB- D.J. Hinton (Tucson HS- Tucson, AZ) *Father played at Arizona

WR- Isaiah Lovett (Mountain View HS- Tucson, AZ) *Father played at Arizona **also he has not officially confirmed he will be coming to Arizona but is a heavy lean.

RB- Noah Pittenger (Brophy HS- Phoenix, AZ)

LB- Rexx Tessler (Brophy HS- Phoenix, AZ)

WR- Trevor Russell (Casa Grande HS- Casa Grande, AZ)

LB- Ken Samson (Ironwood Ridge HS- Tucson, AZ)

A nice haul of athletes, as it bodes well for Arizona football to bring in a large amount of talent and depth. Also, as you may recall, Rodriguez has had a soft spot for walk-on’s, as he was a former one himself while at West Virginia University who changed his position once he landed on campus.

At Zona Zealots, we would like to welcome the additional incoming players and wish them the best as they continue their football careers. Bear Down, Arizona!

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