Recruiting season ain't over until the last hat has been pulled from a grubby high school backpack. And there is hope in Tucson that the final name hasn't been inked on Rich Rodriguez's first recruiting class with Arizona. Specifically, hope that the Wildcats' new coach still has a shot at landing five-star athlete Davonte Neal.
Neal, from Chaparral High in Scottsdale, is the last player remaining on the 2012 ESPNU 150 list not to have committed to a team. He's reportedly going to make a decision next week. Among the schools still in the hunt for his services are Notre Dame, Arkansas, North Carolina and Arizona.
This could be a huge get for Rodriguez. Aside from the obvious on-field contributions that a wide receiver with 4.4 speed brings to a pass-happy offense, or a potential lock-down corner, it would go a long way in Rodriguez setting up stakes in his new home state.
New coaches love to come in and make promises -- that they are going to put up fences to keep top-flight athletes in and out-of-town poachers away. It's a cliche I hear all too often in Southern California, where it seems like you can pick up a four-star player next to the cereal aisle at Vons.
But nabbing a top-10 prospect like Neal would go a long way in winning the hearts and minds of a fanbase still sour after a 4-8 season.
Consider the signing of D.J. Foster at Arizona State. No new coach in the country entered his new digs with as much animosity in his wake as Todd Graham. But just a few weeks later, when one of the top prospects in the state spurns 15 other schools -- nine of them from within the conference -- and opts to stay at home, it's a big deal. Suddenly people start singing a different Graham tune. Graham promised to hit Phoenix and the surrounding areas hard. And he did. He goes from oath-breaker to promise-keeper. Now Graham looks like a guy that can get the job done.
The same can happen for Rodriguez. He's hired former Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle to be his in-state recruiting liaison and he's locked up a pair of Chaparral recruits already. If the Wildcats don't land Neal -- who some think is headed to Arkansas or Notre Dame -- it won't be the end of the world. The fact that Rodriguez is still in the hunt for the last remaining five-star is promising.
And he's already signed a pretty respectable class -- given the time crunch-- headlined by quarterback Javelle Allen. But if Rodriguez can reel in the 5-foot-10, broad-shouldered fish, it will alleviate concerns that his Big East/Big Ten ties are tough to overcome and that despite a shortened recruiting season, he can be a major player in Arizona recruiting.