Arizona football head coach Jedd Fisch just completed his first recruiting class ever as a college head coach, and he’s doing so with the Arizona Wildcats.
Fisch started at a disadvantage after being hired and not compiling his staff until December — a few months after the majority of the 2021 recruits have already committed and signed to other schools. Arizona’s incoming class ranks No. 77 in the country and No. 11 in the Pac-12 according to 247Sports. Those numbers are not great but it is a starting point.
The Wildcats are bringing in 18 players out of high school and nine transfers along with them. Fisch said that Arizona still has three scholarships left, leaving the door open for some late commitments or decision changers.
Fisch held a press conference on Zoom Thursday, Feb. 4 and took some time to break down the incoming 2021 class. Here are a few important players to note.
Anthony Simpson, defensive back and wide receiver
The coaching staff on both sides of the ball are not hiding their excitement about Simpson as Fisch noted that offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll and defensive coordinator Don Brown are having a “tug of war” between the offense and the defense to decide who gets to use him.
Simpson is a heck of an athlete, so the discussion of how to use him is certainly justified. Simpson is ranked as the No. 6 best “athlete position” in the whole country, playing wide receiver and corner in high school. In his official Arizona announcement, he is listed as a corner, so that may give a hint where he will start his development.
Simpson is 5-foot-10, 180 pounds and was also a track and field sprint star in high school. He finished his senior season with over 1000 rushing and 1000 receiving yards, piling on 45 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as well.
Simpson doesn’t necessarily have the length Fisch is looking for in their defensive scheme to play as an outside corner. If he finds his role on that side of the ball, it will most likely be as a slot corner. Simpson seems like the perfect guy to be an explosive playmaker for Fisch in his first year.
Isaiah Rutherford, defensive back
Rutherford is one of Fisch’s most prominent transfer portal pickups from this class. He is a former four-star recruit and is still a sophomore with eligibility to play immediately.
Fisch gave some insight Thursday afternoon on what they want to do with the secondary on defense. He stressed his desire to play man coverage on the outside with post-high safeties on each hash. Fisch noted they want length on the outside with their corners and he feels like Rutherford is just that. At 6-foot tall, 192 pounds and long arms, Rutherford has the quick hip traits to play on the man coverage outside as Fisch and Brown want. Rutherford has been known for his great instincts and can be a versatile piece on Brown’s chessboard.
Jason Harris, linebacker
Harris is a former four-star recruit as well and was at fellow Pac-12 school, Colorado before Fisch nabbed him away. His brother, Jalen Harris, is a current Wildcats player and, aside from his deep family ties to the U of A, was probably the most important piece in swaying Jason to return to his home state.
“I don't know why he wasn't here when we got here, so now we have to make sure those types of scenarios don't happen again,” Fisch said.
Harris is a 6-foot-7, 220 pound athletic freak of nature off the edge who displays length and power to mix up his pass-rushing tendencies. Harris fits Brown’s idea of a pure pass-rushing edge and is someone Brown and the rest of the staff will count on to be impactful pretty early. Harris comes in with plenty of years left as well, committing to Colorado originally in 2020.
Treshaun Hayward, linebacker
Any depth chart projections will have one starter locked in pretty easily and his name is Treshaun Hayward.
Hayward is a transfer linebacker from Western Michigan and was the 2019 MAC Defensive Player of the Year and also earned All American team honors in 2019. Hayward is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds and extremely quick for an inside linebacker.
He is expected to play a role similar to how Brown used former Michigan linebacker and current Pittsburgh Steeler, Devin Bush, who excelled in Brown’s defensive system during his years at Michigan. Hayward comes in as an experienced and accomplished college veteran and will most likely be the defensive anchor to this team. Fisch described him as a “true plug-and-play,” — basically locking his spot in the first 11.
The Quarterback Battle
There will be a battle for the most important position in football this spring and head coach Fisch confirmed it.
“We’re gonna roll the balls out and may the best man win,” Fisch said when asked about his quarterback room.
Arizona has two returners in Will Plummer and Kevin Doyle that Fisch mentioned briefly in his presser. Neither QB lit it up on the field in a pretty disastrous 2020 for Arizona football but both have shown their fair share of bright spots and potential.
The decision will also include incomers Jordan McCloud and Gunner Cruz. McCloud is a dual-threat QB transferring from Southern Florida and has multiple years of starting experience already. McCloud might fall behind early in the quarterback race as Fisch said he is finishing his degree at USF and will not be on campus until May.
Cruz is a pro-style QB transferring from another Pac-12 school in Washington State. Cruz got integrated and molded under Mike Leach’s famous air-raid offense. He is a 6-foot-5 with a rocket arm who will read the field from the pocket.
Arizona's first spring practice will begin on March 23 and will conclude April 24.
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