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January 23, 2006

Stoops bringing talent to Tucson

Mike Stoops is aggressive in everything he does.

He's coached an aggressive, attacking defense during his time at Kansas State, Oklahoma and now at Arizona.

That aggression has paid dividends on the recruiting front, too.

Arizona under Stoops hasn't been afraid to battle anybody and everybody - including Pac-10 powerhouse USC - and in the end the Wildcats have won their fare share of battles, quickly become one of the hottest destinations for top talent in the Pac-10.

This year the Wildcats, who are currently sitting with the No. 3 class in the conference, according the Rivals.com team recruiting rankings, are one of the nation's biggest surprises.

After landing a commitment on Friday from three-star defensive end Braylon Broughton, the Wildcats now have 23 pledges are poised to finish in the top 20 nationally for the second consecutive year under Stoops. While the Wildcats struggled this season on the field with a young group of players, there were no such struggles on the recruiting front.

This Cat class is full of difference makers, but it doesn't get any bigger than the pledge and the signing of the nation's No. 1 juco player Louis Holmes.

Holmes, a five-star prospect, is a perfect example of Stoops' aggression and ability to recruit. Heading down the stretch, it looked like USC would be where Holmes ended up at, but Stoops and company. came from behind to pull in the monster pledge.

"When you talked to coach Stoops and the players on the team, you could tell they're on the brink of something special there," Holmes said. "After watching how they beat UCLA and did a lot of great things with some young guys, you can tell they're going to be a very good team next year. They have a great recruiting class coming in, too. They're on their way up, and I want to be part of it."

Holmes' message is one that's often repeated by other Wildcat recruits.

With last year's strong class laying the foundation and this year's group full of difference makers, the future definitely looks bright in Tucson.

"Coach Stoops has that fire inside him and can really get you going," four-star defensive end and Wildcat pledge A.J. Simmons said. "Coach Stoops has made me buy into the fact that we're going to turn the program around. We just need some more pieces of the puzzle to do it.

"I really bought into that. I felt like I could be another big piece of the puzzle that would help make him to (turn it around)."

Along with Long and Simmons, the Wildcats have landed four-star recruits Gabe Long (DT), Derke Robinson (RB), Jovon Hayes (OL) and Mike Turner (CB). But what's maybe the most impressive thing about this group of Wildcats is that it's deep from top to bottom.

There isn't a single UofA recruit ranked lower than the three-star level.

What's also striking is that it's really been collective effort to assemble this class. Almost everybody on the staff had a hand of it. Many people point toward Tim Kish as being the Wildcats' top recruiter, but Mike Canales, Mark Stoops, Mike Tuiasosopo, Charlie Williams and Eric Wolford have all done masterful jobs this season.

Each one of the coaches has never let a door shut in their face, and their efforts and hard work have been rewarded with an elite recruiting class. One that is sure to make Stoops smile on Feb. 1.


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