Mackovic left the cupboard bare

It was obvious that there was a rebuilding process at Arizona to undergo when Mike Stoops was hired two years ago. Everyone knew that the teams under John Mackovic, but it is not until you start looking at the poor retention rates of the Mackovic recruiting classes.

With fans already beginning to question Mike Stoops, We'll take a deeper look at the rebuilding process and why we shouldn't be shocked by the results. The rebuilding of a program that has been bowling shoe ugly since 1998 has been slower then most of us would have liked but the program has truly hit rock bottom. I only say rock bottom because I chose not to compare eras in most instances and there is no telling if these teams would have beaten those Oregon State teams of the 80's and early 90's that had a combined record of 44-161-5(1980-1998), although I'm sure we would have or at least would have liked to think they would.

At that time and Arizona was 132-75-7. Two totally different programs one was a doormat and Arizona was seemingly in bowl contention every year minus a few bad seasons and some mediocre six win teams that didn't get bowl invitations. Since 1999 Arizona has been to zero bowl games to Oregon States five. The record for Arizona since 1999 has been 25-44 and this can be attributed to the lack of talented players and the lack of bodies. A few short years ago, Arizona didn't even field a full squad of scholarships because so many of the players had failed out of school or left the program for various reasons.

The biggest problem is not the lack of talent (although that is a problem) it is the over all lack of bodies. Mackovic signed 73 players, but just 31 remain (four were JC players who graduated).

2001 Recruiting Class (38.8% retention rate)

FB Pedro Limon
*LB Kirk Johnson (1 season under Stoops)
LB Sean Jones
DB Darrell Brooks
RB Mike Bell
*DT Carlos Williams (1 season under Stoops)

All five players were starters and key contributors. Johnson and Williams played as true freshmen and have since graduated. Limon and Brooks have been key starters, while Jones have made spot starts after moving from FB to LB.

Non Contributors-
OL Brad Brittain

Brittain has never made a huge impact at Arizona. He transferred to Mesa CC early in his career and returned last season. He moved from TE to DE to DT to OL. He was injured against Utah and will try to return mid-year.

Left Team- (Various Reasons)
TE Isaac Watts (transferred to CC of San Fran/now at UNLV)
LB Bret Stray (transferred to Central Washington)
WR Robert Spells (never enrolled due to academics)
RB Gainus Scott (left team)
DT Matt Lam (left after first year)
OL Thomas Stevens (transferred to LA Harbor JC and is now at Nevada)
QB Nic Costa (transferred to Portland State)
OL Brandon Hopkins (left programs)
LB Antoine Singfield (left program)
DB Landon Kafentzis (transferred to Pima CC)
OL Matt Page (left program)

Stoops' first class sadly produced more players who left than stayed. Of the 18 players who signed in Mackovic's first class, only seven finished their career with the Wildcats. Not a single OL who was signed stayed past the first season.

2002- Recruiting Class (51.7% retention rate)

P Danny Baugher
OT Tanner Bell
K Nic Folk
RB Gilbert Harris
OG Kili Lefotu
DB Lamon Means
DT Paul Phillip
DE Marcus Smith
DT Carl Tuitavuki* (Graduated before Stoops' First Season)
DE Andre Torrey* (1 season under Stoops)

This is a solid group of players. All have been at least part time starters. Baugher, Harris, Means and Smith all played significant roles as true freshmen. Tuitavuki and Torrey were JC transfers. Torrey redshirted and played under Stoops.

Non Contributors-
LB Akin Akinniyi
WR Mike Jefferson (Hype Jury Still Out)
LB Spencer Larsen (Jury Still Out)
LB John McKinney
WR Juan Valentine* (1 season under Stoops)

Akinniyi and McKinney have been part time starters, but have not really been impact players. Akinniyi has moved from LB to FB and back to LB. Jefferson has seen significant time but has not lived up to his promise. Larsen was a starter as a true frosh, left the program to go on his Mormon mission and has been injured the bulk of this season.

Left Team- (Various Reasons)
DE Marlon Brisco (never enrolled, played for Fresno)
RB Beau Carr (academic casualty)
WR Biren Ealy (dismissed from team)
OG Keith Jackson (dismissed from team)
OL Matt Lamatsch (left program)
DB Jason Martin (transferred to Mt. San Antonio College, now at Idaho)
DE Javier Martinez (left program)
RB Ra'Shawn Mosley (never enrolled, academics, now playing for Washburn)
DB Louis Nunez (left program midway through senior season)
QB Ryan O'Hara (transferred to Scottsdale CC)
TE Matt Padron (transferred to Texas State)
OL John Parada (left program)
DB Gary Shephard (left program)
DE Tim Volk (transferred to Boise State after UA doctors failed to clear him)

Of the 29 HS and JC players brought in in 2002, only 15 have a chance to finish their careers with the Wildcats. Players like Ealy, Carr, Jackson, Parada and Nunez made a small impact before leaving the program.

2003 Recruiting Class (50% retention rate)

DT Lionel Dotson
DB Wilrey Fontenot
OL Peter Graniello
DB Marcus Hollingsworth
WR Anthony Johnson
QB Richard Kovalcheck
LB Dane Krogstad
DE Jason Parker
WR Syndric Steptoe
DB Zeonte Sherman* (1 Year under Stoops)

His last recruiting class seems to have been Mackovic's best. There are a number of players who are contributing to the team of the nine players above who are still on the squad all are either first or second teamers. Even the three players down below listed as "non contributors" are all on the travel squad and have seen action in most of the games.

Non Contributors
DB Michael Beach
TE Ryan Kilpatrick
RB Chris Henry

Left Team- (Various Reasons)
RB Brenton Bolden (never enrolled)
TE Tommy Briggs (never enrolled, now at Sacramento State)
OL Phillip Clark (left program)
DT Cedric Cofer (transferred to Northwest Mississippi Junior College, now at East Central U.)
OL Ishmael Garcia (left program)
TE Ray Gurley (never enrolled, now at Northeast State)
QB Kris Heavner (left program, now playing baseball)
DB Ryan Patterson (never enrolled)
OL Tom Robinson (left program)
DT David Sharp (academics)
DT Cliff Stanford (academics)
LB Marquell Stinson (left program)
ATH Marcus Thomas (never enrolled due to academics, now at UTEP)

The Cats signed 26 players, but just 13 remain. The real problem with the class was that five players never played a down for the Wildcats. Academics were the real problem. Bolden, Briggs, Gurley and Thomas never enrolled, while Sharp left the program during fall camp. Robinson, Stinson and Stanford all played, but Stanford was an academic casualty. Robinson left that spring and Stinson left right before fall camp in 2004.

Frankly, Mackovic's best success came from walk-ons. Copeland Bryan and John Abramo are seniors who contribute that have been awarded a scholarship after walking on. Erick Levitre and Adam Austin are also walk-ons who are now under scholarship.

All told just 35 of the 73 players Mackovic signed finished, or can still finish, their careers with the Wildcats. As of now 31 are still on the roster, but two (Brittain and Larsen) left the program and returned.

This lack of player retention is startling. Even most of the inept coaches out there can recruit and retain players better than that.

Although it is still early we can look at Mike Stoops' class for a comparison. In Mike Stoops' two recruiting classes eight players (including Paul Nichols this week) have left the team or not made it into school for various reasons. Wide Receiver B.J. Vickers and defensive end McCollins Umeh were expected to crack the starting line ups there first year at the University but Vickers had transcript issues and Umeh, unfortunately, passed away during a voluntary work out before his freshmen season.

In addition to Umeh, four other players from Stoops' first class have departed but three of them were players who verbally committed to the Mackovic/Hankwitz staff. Kiel McDonald was a Stoops recruit, but Chris Wilson, Justin Walsh and Chris Kolone all committed early and had their scholarships honored by the new staff. Other than Vickers, the only other player from the 2005 class to not make it in was Jordan Lowe, who failed to get in academically.

Stoops has attracted talent to the program but of the players in his first two recruiting classes only Antoine Cason, Michael Thomas and Yaniv Barnett have had more then a one or two spot starts. Since he is trying to redshirt young players who are not ready to play right now, Stoops has been battling a monster uphill climb since arriving at the U of A and the 2005 season appears to just be one more mountain Stoops and staff has to manage to climb before more of his puzzle pieces receive the opportunity to crack the line ups on a full time basis.

Brad Allis contributed to this story.

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