Alamo Bowl 'a kickoff' for Big 12-bound Arizona Wildcats

Dec 10, 2023 Updated 1 hr ago Michael Wiley runs in the win over Oregon State in October. Wiley is one of five current UA players from Texas, a number that will increase in coming years. Like a Beatles hit song, the Valero Alamo Bowl will be a hello to the Big 12 for one team, a goodbye for the other.

The team bidding farewell is No. 12 Oklahoma, which will bolt to the SEC in tandem with Texas in 2024. The team saying hello to the Big 12 is 14th-ranked Arizona, one of four teams splintering from the Pac-12 along with Arizona State, Colorado and Utah.

In some ways, the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio is a welcoming party for the UA to the Big 12. Not only will the red-hot Wildcats, riding the longest winning streak for the program since 1998, play on ESPN, they’re displaying the program in a state — and time zone — that is in the heart of their new conference. A state that is home to one-fourth of the Big 12 between TCU, Houston, Texas Tech and Baylor.

More importantly for Arizona’s concern, a state that is a hotbed for football talent. Some of Arizona’s key contributors this season are from the Lone Star State, including running back Michael Wiley, kicker Tyler Loop and breakout strong safety Dalton Johnson. “In our transition from the Pac-12 to the Big 12, it’s really important for us to start making more of a presence in Texas,” said Arizona coach Jedd Fisch.

“If you look at our team, we have five players on our roster from Texas. We know that as the years progress, starting next year when we’ll be playing in the Big 12, we’re going to have to add more players from Texas into our program. “We’ll have more of a recruiting opportunity because of the fact that we’ll be playing in the state against TCU and Baylor and Houston and Texas Tech.

” Arizona has already jump-started its recruitment of Texas prospects in the 2025 and ’26 recruiting cycles. When the Wildcats had a bye week in October, UA coaches trekked to “Big 12 country,” according to Fisch. Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita, with coach Jedd Fisch in the win over ASU, could be a Heisman contender in 2024.

Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star Recruiting Texas isn’t a revelation at Arizona. It’s a tactic used by previous regimes in the pre-transfer portal era to bring size and length to the roster. Former UA boss Mike Stoops made Texas players a staple for Arizona, especially on defense.

Stoops’ successor Rich Rodriguez shied away from recruiting Texas until the latter years, when the Wildcats lacked size on the defensive line. Everything is bigger in Texas, right? Former Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin and his staff used their Texas A&M connections to recruit east Texas and the Houston area, where they landed Wiley, four-star quarterback Grant Gunnell and wide receiver Boobie Curry, among others. Since Fisch was hired, the Wildcats have signed two high school players from Texas, with three-star Katy, Texas, defensive end Eduwa Okundaye committed for 2024.

The Wildcats, for the most part, have dedicated their recruiting efforts in the California and in-state markets. As long as Fisch is at the helm, “We’re never going to not recruit Southern California,” the UA coach said in August. “That is a baby of ours,” he said.

“As long as I’m the head coach here, we are going to dig deep in Southern California and do everything we possibly can. You know what? It’s a lot shorter flight from L. A.

to Houston than L. A. to (the Newark, New Jersey) airport.

” As Arizona prepares for its move to the Big 12, the Wildcats will have to face a departing member that’s been one of the flagship programs in the conference for decades. In its program history, Oklahoma has won seven national championships and produced seven Heisman Trophy winners; Arizona doesn’t have one in either category. Since 2000, Oklahoma has just one losing season; UA has 14.

“I have a ton of respect for (OU coach Brent Venables), for Oklahoma,” said Fisch. “Oklahoma has won 10 games or more 19 of the last 23 years. We’ve won 10 games three times in a hundred years.

So Oklahoma football (is) something I look up to. ” The winningest head coach in Oklahoma history, Bob Stoops, introduced Fisch to the Arizona coach’s wife, Amber Fisch, at the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) convention in 2000. “That’s about the extent of my real experiences with Oklahoma,” Fisch said.

“But I certainly have a ton of respect for them. ” Oklahoma indirectly helped Fisch kick off his marriage. The Sooners will have a hand in Arizona’s transition to the Big 12 when they square off in a state the Wildcats will have connections with in the future.

“It will probably be a kickoff for us into the Big 12, this game, and really being able to see and show our players and let the state of Texas see the type of energy that our players play with,” Fisch said. “Hopefully the high school coaches in the state will be excited about sending their players to us. ” This weekend was a busy recruiting period for Arizona, with the Wildcats hosting several transfer portal prospects and future recruits for official visits.

Arizona hosted former Oregon State linebacker Easton Mascarenas-Arnold, who finished second in the Pac-12 in tackles (107). Mascarenas-Arnold, a Mission Viejo, California, native who signed with Oregon State over Arizona as a four-star recruit in 2021, is the son of former UA softball third baseman and All-American Toni Mascarenas. The Wildcats also hosted former Indiana cornerback Jordan Shaw, a 6-foot, 170-pounder from Downey, California, and former Utah Utes slot receiver Mikey Matthews, who attended top-ranked Arizona’s win over Wisconsin in men’s basketball at McKale Center.

In one season at Utah, Matthews had 29 catches for 261 yards. Shaw had 12 tackles and a pass breakup in one season for the Hoosiers. Arizona is targeting Chubba Maae, a 6-2, 347-pound defensive tackle transfer from UC Davis, Missouri edge rusher DJ Wesolak and San Diego State offensive tackle Drew Azzopardi in the transfer portal.

Extra points Former Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who started two seasons for the Sooners after transferring from UCF, announced on Saturday that he will transfer to Oregon for his final season and succeed Heisman Trophy finalist Bo Nix. Oklahoma starting center Andrew Raym and right tackle Tyler Guyton declared for the NFL Draft and are expected to miss the bowl game. Arizona quarterback Noah Fifita was among the names mentioned in ESPN’s way-too-early Heisman candidates for next season.

Three-star 2024 Texas defensive end Jaedon Langley announced on Sunday that he’s decommitting from the Wildcats. The 6-3, 230-pound is the fourth decommit for Arizona this month. Arizona currently has 17 players committed for 2024, with the Dec.

20 early signing period approaching. Arizona had three in-state ’24 commits up for the Ed Doherty Award, an annual accolade given to the top high school football player in Arizona. Four-star Chandler Basha quarterback Demond Williams, Glendale Apollo running back Adam Mohammed and American Leadership Academy wide receiver Brandon Phelps, who owns state records for most career receiving yards (4,475), touchdowns (60) and receptions (271).

Peoria Liberty quarterback Navi Bruzon won the Ed Doherty Award. The Pride of Arizona marching band was named the recipient for the Sudler Trophy, a biannual award given to the top college band nationally. The Pride of Arizona is the 34th band all time to receive the award.

Said UA band director Chad Shoopman: “It is my great joy to be able to share this recognition with the school, the college, the university and the Tucson community. ” The Pride of Arizona will travel to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl. .

Justin Spears
Filed 12.11.2023

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