Starters Returning: (1) Pat Howard Sr.
Others Lost: (1) Matt Molina
Others Returning: Kirk Johnson Sr*, Dane Krogstad RS-Fr, John McKinney So, Justin Stewart Sr, Marquell Stinson Sr, Antoine Singfield So, Akin Akinniyi So**
*Johnson's status is not certain after legal troubles.
**Was moved to fullback in the middle of last season but expected to return to LB.
Arizona has a lot of linebackers returning, but other than Howard most are unproven. Johnson and McKinney have shown flashes of being solid players, but are not exactly proven guys to be counted on. Krogstad sat out all season, while Stinson, Singfield, Akkiniyi and Stewart are all unproven.
All of the newcomers will be given a chance to compete right away. By signing five backers it appears as if the coaching staff is not sold on all of the returners.
LB, 6-3, 215
East Jefferson High School, Metairie, LA
Alford came to Arizona after originally committing to West Virginia. He moved to Morgantown, but never enrolled and soon learned that Arizona was the place for him. He missed the majority of his senior year with a knee injury and has not seen significant playing time in over two years. He has great size and speed and had he not been injured he may have been a top-100 type recruit. Recorded 146 tackles, six interceptions and 10 forced fumbles as a senior on top of 75 tackles as a junior. He led his high school in tackles three years in a row. He earned 5A all-state honors and was a three-time all-district selection.
2004 Role: If healthy, Alford should compete for a starting linebacker spot. He will be very rusty after missing two years, but has enough athletic ability that he should make an impact. He is eligible to participate in spring drills.
Quote: "I am real excited about it. I feel like not many people get the opportunity to second guess their decision so I feel very fortunate to be able to do so." ---James Alford
LB, 6-3, 225
Spring (Texas) High School
Palmer is a big time linebacker prospect from Texas who had offers from a number of elite schools. Palmer had 70 tackles as a senior but is athletic enough to have played quarterback and wide receiver at times in his prep career. He's fast enough that he's a legit LB prospect, but some have speculated that he could bulk up and play DE if necessary.
2004 Role: Palmer has a shot to play right away. He has good size and excellent speed. It's never easy for a true freshman to come in and make an impact, but Palmer may very well be the guy.
Quote: "Sky's the limit for him. He's a great kid and he has a 3.7/3.8 GPA."—Spring head coach Sonny Karras.
LB, 6-2, 210
Cienega High School, Vail, AZ
Local product who pulled the trigger in September and then stayed with his commitment through the various coaching changes. Lopez played both running back and linebacker in high school, but despite rushing for over 1,600 yards he will begin his career on the defensive side of the ball. He has great speed and strength and is quite an athlete. The first D-I recruit from the brand new program south of Tucson.
2004 Role: Lopez is a likely redshirt candidate, although with his work ethic it wouldn't be a shock if he could play right away. With his athleticism, special teams are always a possibility.
Quote: "He is very excited to become a Wildcat. He's always wearing his Arizona gear."—Cienega coach Nemer Hassey.
LB, 5-11, 230
Community College of San Francisco
Sims is the second mid-year transfer backer for the Cats. The JC player had a very good career at CC of San Francisco, one of the better JC programs in California. He was named All-NoCal Conference and is well regarded by JC experts. He's on the short side but has a reputation as a solid hitter with good speed. He's consistently rated as a top-20 JC linebacker by a variety of services. He enrolled in January and is already working out with the team.
2004 Role: You don't bring in a JC player at midyear and not expect him to make an impact. Sims is on the short side, but we hear the Wildcat coaches really like him.
Quote: "Randy Sims is a guy we are looking at to make a splash in the spring."—Arizona head coach Mike Stoops.