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October 11, 2011

Arizona's class is now up for grabs

MORE ON STOOPS: goazcats.com coverage

Coach Mike Stoops is out at Arizona and while many commits said they were stunned to hear the news Monday, some also admitted that it was not a complete shock, especially since the Wildcats lost five of their first six games, four of them by double digits.

It was not looking good in Tucson although Stoops and his staff - known to be strong recruiters - had pieced together a solid class (second in the Pac-12 according to Rivals.com team rankings) that had remained intact through Arizona's early season tribulations.

Things could soon change.

Most of the commits reached by Rivals.com in the hours since Stoops was fired have said it's too early to make decisions about their futures. Nearly all of them said it's important how Arizona handles the impending coaching search.

As that happens, be sure that other programs - and not only those in the Pac-12 - will attempt to pluck away commits. At the top of that list is four-star tight end Taylor McNamara, who committed to Arizona in June and has been considered the centerpiece of the Wildcats' recruiting class.

McNamara won't be the only prospect teams go after as sources have said others have already been contacted about possibly looking around.

There probably isn't one particular team that will exclusively benefit from the tumultuous situation Arizona now finds itself in but instate rival Arizona State must be smiling.

While the Sun Devils probably have no shot with McNamara, there are many other players on Arizona's commit list coach Dennis Erickson and his staff might take interest in. Wide receiver Julian Brooks, defensive back Devian Shelton, defensive end Kyle Kelley, offensive lineman Zach Hemmila and others could be high priorities.

And as things look bleak in Tucson, they are certainly looking up in Tempe as Arizona State is off to a 5-1 start with - and this cannot be understated - a convincing 43-22 victory against USC. Convincing wins against Oregon State and Utah in the last two weeks further cement Arizona State's legitimacy this season.

The Sun Devils have done a fantastic job recruiting Southern California this recruiting cycle (they have five commitments from Long Beach Poly alone) and now that Arizona's coaching situation is unresolved Arizona State could pick up the pieces.

At least expect it to try.

USC is still USC so the Trojans will land pretty much anyone the coaching staff desires - unless Oregon wants to have a say. But there are so many outstanding prospects recruiting by Arizona and ASU in the states of Arizona and California that the edge, clearly, must go to the Sun Devils now.

Uncommitted prospects such as running backs KeiVarae Russell, Byron Marshall and Ryan McDaniel, wide receiver Derrick Woods, Davonte Neal, Javon Williams, cornerback Brandon Beaver and many talented instate recruits were considering both schools, and still might be, but stability is no longer a question with the Sun Devils.

Deciding to fire Stoops midseason could be seen as waving the white flag on the 2011 campaign - the scheduling gods cursing Arizona with an insanely difficult stretch of games against Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC - but it actually could help salvage the recruiting class.

The final straw for Stoops came last weekend when Arizona dropped a 10-point decision to previously winless Oregon State.

The Wildcats, who named defensive coordinator Tim Kish interim coach, could patiently administer their coaching search and bring someone in with new direction and energy that could enliven Arizona's commits.

With their seasons continuing for at least another month, prospects will probably keep a close eye on the situation but also be too busy to make any serious, well-researched moves. Many of them will probably want to see Arizona's next move before they make theirs.

Waiting until the end of the season to fire Stoops could have instigated a mass exodus of prospects looking for any way out in that late hour.

In the short term, letting Stoops go cannot help Arizona's recruiting class.

By National Signing Day in February - when it all counts in recruiting - a new coach, a new vision could be in place and all the worries now encircling the Wildcats' recruiting class might be lessened.

At least this way, Arizona has given itself time to make what it feels is the right decision.

In this case, like many in the recruiting world, time will be the only determining factor in whether Arizona can keep its top recruits or if some will leave for what they consider to be more secure futures.

Time is crucial - and it's what Stoops ran out of in Tucson.



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