Fizzling 4-stars: Recent rare recruits haven't worked out for Arizona

OL Michael Eletise, RB Nathan Tilford still trying to find their way

The Arizona Wildcats football team doesn't sign many four-star recruits, and the ones they have recently have mostly fizzled.

Since the Class of 2014 -- guys who would potentially by fifth-year seniors, the Wildcats have signed nine four-star recruits, as rated in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

Only one has been a sure-fire hit: Quarterback Khalil Tate.

Running back Nick Wilson came close, but injuries derailed a promising career after a 1,000-yard season as a true freshman.

For a while, one of the most popular questions to those who covered the team was, "How are Jamardre Cobb and Marquis Ware doing?" The four-star linebacker teammates from Los Angeles Salesian High School were big gets for coach Rich Rodriguez in the 2014 class, but neither recruit made the expected impact, other than Cobb for a couple of plays as a fullback.

Now, there's a new question:

What's up with running back Nathan Tilford and offensive lineman Michael Eletise?

Both of these former four-stars look the part physically, but Rodriguez's coaching staff didn't think they were ready for playing time ... and neither does the staff of new head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Five running backs got carries against Southern Utah, but not Tilford, a second-year sophomore.

"He's just not where these guys are right now. That's here he is," Sumlin said at his Monday press conference.

"It's just like anything else. We play guys based on performance in practice, and consistency. You're going to make mistakes, but if that happens, let's make sure we're going where we need to go and we can put you on the field. This is a performance-based business.

"That's not to say that Nate is doing anything wrong or anything like that, but we play the guys who perform in practice the best. That's how you earn playing time. That's the only fair way I know how to do it."

Eletise, a redshirt sophomore, has seen a bit of playing time this season, but he's not part of a short rotation, officially listed as a backup to right guard Bryson Cain.

"Our job, my job, is to get the best players on the field to give us the best chance to win," Sumlin said. "That's earned, not given. ... There's no conspiracy theory. There's no anything. It's just, 'Hey here are the guys are doing the best in practice. ...

"Believe me, we want to play as many people as we can because that makes us a better team."


2017: RB Nathan Tilford -- Did have a 65-yard run last season among his 13 carries as a true freshman.

2016: OL Michael Eletise -- Was rated the top prospect in Hawaii.

2016: QB Khalil Tate -- RichRod made a good decision in recruiting Tate as a quarterback and not just a four-star "athlete."

2015: OL Keenan Walker -- Coming off a knee injury in high school, he redshirted a year then had an arrest in his hometown of Scottsdale in the summer of 2016. He never played for the Wildcats, with Rodriguez often citing conditioning issues, and left the team in April 2017.

2014: WR Cam Denson -- He was a brilliant all-around star at Salpointe Catholic High School, with a seemingly bright future on offense. But the coaches moved him to defense as a true freshman because of a need at cornerback. He intercepted five passes in two seasons before moving back to offense, catching 15 passes as a junior but suffered a foot injury in scoring 2017 and left during the season. Now at NAU for his final season, he has made one catch.

2014: LB Marquis Ware -- Dogged by a shoulder injury from his high school days, Ware made one tackle at Arizona before medically retiring in September 2016.

2014: LB Jamardre Cobb -- He bounced among linebacker, fullback and even defensive tackle, but he ended up leaving the team this spring before his final season. "Pork Chop" notably made some nice lead blocks as a fullback in a 2015 game against Oregon State and contributed on special teams.

2014: RB Nick Wilson -- He ran for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns as a true freshman as Arizona won the Pac-12 South. Hounded by injuries, Wilson never regained that freshman level, although he did finish his UA career with 3,038 rushing yards.

2014: OL Jordan Poland -- Arizona fans were excited when the mammoth tackle and one-time USC commit picked the Wildcats. He never saw the field, redshirting as a freshman and booted from the team following a July 2015 arrest.

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Outstanding story and research. How many four and five star guys were on the desert swarm defense? More homework needed? Getting the right guys not the right stars are needed.