TUCSON - On signing day two years ago, Arizona coach Mike Stoops groused about the negative information that rival schools used to lure recruits away from his program.
Last year, Stoops made headlines when he said archrival Arizona State had “turned into a J.C.”
On Wednesday, all Stoops did was unveil a 24-player recruiting class led by two-way standout Adam Hall, a product of Tucson’s Palo Verde High School. No controversy this time.
“It’s actually kind of an uneventful day, to be honest with you,” Stoops said at a McKale Center news conference. “I don’t have to attack anybody. I’m not getting attacked. I’m not under siege myself. I’m not as defensive today as I’ve been in the past, that’s for sure.
“I guess winning cures all ills,” Stoops said with a chuckle.
When Stoops arrived in 2003, he was mainly selling hope for a program coming off a 2-10 season. This year, Stoops could sell success — the Wildcats finished 8-5 and ended a 10-year postseason drought with a Las Vegas Bowl victory over Brigham Young.
In recent years, Stoops has had to counter speculation that he was on the hot seat. That wasn’t an issue this time after he agreed to a three-year contract extension through 2013.
“Everyone wasn’t telling all our (recruits) I’m going to get fired,” Stoops said. “That was probably the best part of it. I didn’t have to explain how long I was going to be there. That’s always a good thing.”
The class includes six junior college transfers and is heavy on defense, with five linebackers and four linemen.
The 6-foot-4 Hall, who is listed as an “athlete,” is likely to play safety, Stoops said.
“He plays at such a violent speed,” Stoops said. “He likes collisions and he attacks people in different ways.”
Hall is among only four players from Arizona — Hall, linebacker Jake Fischer of Oro Valley, offensive lineman Chris Putton of Glendale and defensive back Ryan Milus of Chandler. Arizona State signed nine in-state players.
Apparently, news of the Wildcats’ revival hasn’t resonated close to home.
“Obviously, Phoenix is an area that we’d like to develop and get more players,” Stoops said. “For whatever reasons, we struggled at certain times. But again, I think we have to see years down the line how some of these kids pan out. To just take kids to take them because they’re from the state is not necessarily fair to them or fair to our team.
We’re trying to get the best players that fit our particular needs, and we have to look all over the country for those needs.”
The class is dominated by players from two of the nation’s top talent-producers — nine come from California and six from Texas.
Three of the 21 players — defensive back Marcus Benjamin and offensive linemen Jack Julsing and Shane Zink — have already enrolled.