The Arizona Wildcats were on pace for their highest rated recruiting class to date. That is, before Donte Williams left for a Nebraska opening and that neon school up in the Pacific Northwest managed to raid the Wildcats recruiting cupboard. A class that was once nationally ranked as a top 15 class saw its best recruiter (Williams) flee for greener pastures and with him, several top recruits flipped as well. 4 star athlete Greg Johnson flipped to USC. 4 star QB commit Braxton Burmeister flipped to Oregon, as did 3 star DB Darrian McNeal and UA's top OL commit Cody Shear. Other commits switched at the last minute to schools such as Iowa State and Illinois. One year with Donte Williams, who came to Tucson as a highly regarded recruiter, lifted Arizona to a top 15 class before his exit and the recruiting "withdrawal" thereafter decimated the school's incoming class.
Even with losing out on all the aforementioned players, there is still some talent coming to Tucson this year. Here is a look at some of the players to keep an eye on, both immediately as well as further down the road.
Nathan Tilford: RB from Southern California, Tilford is the Wildcats highest rated recruit. He comes to town with a College ready physique (6'1, 205 lbs) and is already enrolled at Arizona, so he will partake in spring practice. With the decimation that occurred at the running back position for the Wildcats last year, having a freshman like Tilford step in is huge. He should have an opportunity for early playing time, even behind Nick Wilson and JJ Taylor.
Jalen Harris/My-King Johnson: These defensive ends are coming in at a time when Arizona has absolutely minimal pass rushing talent. They should both get the chance to get on the field early and often. Harris will need to gain weight (only listed at 205 lbs), but has elite athleticism and could see time at OLB if DE is not an option. Johnson has a chance to be special. The 6'4, 225 pound specimen from Tempe, is the type of under the radar player that could shine for the Wildcats. Committed to UCLA at one time, Johnson is the top DE recruit out of AZ this year.
Colin Schooler: Schooler comes from national powerhouse Mission Viejo. While lacking the athleticism that seems to be sought out in LBs nowadays, Schooler is as seasoned as they come. A local Defensive Player of the Year as well as League POY, Schooler was a 2-way star for his highly regarded high school. Don't go comparing him to Scooby just yet, but hopes are high for a player of Schooler's stature.
Drew Dixon: A local kid, the 6'4, 200 pound Dixon projects as both a QB and a WR. The #1 rated Athlete out of AZ this year, Dixon joins a receiving group that lost most of its production from last year to graduation. It also never hurts to have another young, athletic prospect at the QB position.
It is impossible to project exactly what different recruits will end up being or how they will each adjust to the college game, but Arizona certainly has plenty of talent coming in. After a season like last year, no spots on the depth chart are locked right now, so everyone has a chance. For Arizona, in order to get back into the top tier of the Pac 12, it will need big years from some of these young men.