Once upon a time, college recruiters treated Arizona like it was a pit stop on the way to Los Angeles. So few elite players came out of the state that elite NCAA programs didn’t feel the need to spend much time here.
How times have changed. These days, coaches from all five power conferences do more than just drop by high school campuses. Arizona has become a breeding ground for great players.
I could list at least 25 players who will make an impact on Saturdays this fall but this is a top-10 list so, here’s 10 Arizona products to keep an eye on:
FOOTBALL FACTORIES: Arizona high schools producing college talent
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Arizona’s top HS football prospects – 2011
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Arizona’s top HS football prospects – 2012
Devon Allen, WR, Oregon
Allen, out of Phoenix Brophy Prep, is coming off a torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in the Rose Bowl against Florida State, but if he’s healthy, he’ll be one of Oregon’s main targets in the passing game. Last year, he caught 41 passes for 684 yards (a 16.7 yards per catch average) and seven touchdowns.
Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M
Allen didn’t begin the 2014 season as Texas A&M’s starting quarterback, but he ended it that way. The Scottsdale Desert Mountain product threw for nine touchdowns in four starts and then was named MVP of the Liberty Bowl. He’ll face some stiff competition this fall in incoming five-star freshman Kyler Murray.
Arizonans on college football rosters – 2015 season
Qualen Cunningham, DE, Texas A&M
Cunningham, a Chandler Hamilton product, may not start because Texas A&M has a couple of dynamic pass-rushers in Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall, but he’ll definitely play on what could be one of the best five teams in the country. As a freshman, Cunningham had eight tackles, including 2½ tackles for loss, and 1½ quarterback sacks.
Cam Denson, CB, Arizona
It takes a special athlete to play at cornerback as a true freshman. Denson proved to be that and more for Arizona last season, intercepting two passes, breaking up two others and starting two games. The former Tucson Salpointe great has the potential to be a shutdown corner for Arizona.
Ryan Finley, QB, Boise State
The Paradise Valley standout came out of spring ball as Boise State’s No. 1 quarterback and the likely successor to Grant Hedrick. He was one of Arizona’s best all-around athletes, throwing for 3,442 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior and leading Paradise Valley to the Division II state basketball championship.
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D.J. Foster, WR, Arizona State
Foster was ASU’s Swiss army knife the past three years — seeing time at both running back and receiver — but the former Saguaro standout has been switched full-time to receiver, where he projects in the NFL. Don’t be surprised if Foster emerges as ASU’s No. 1 wideout; he has few peers in terms of the combo package of catching the ball and running after the catch.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk was the state’s best player the past two years at Saguaro, and Texas A&M won a recruiting war for the five-star recruit. Kirk will play as a true freshman, returning kicks and seeing time when Texas A&M goes to three- or four-wide-receiver sets. Expect Kirk to show up on ESPN’s Top 10 plays at least once; he’s that dynamic.
Paul Perkins, RB, UCLA
Perkins’ former Chandler High running mate, Brett Hundley, got all the attention last year at UCLA but that won’t be the case this season. UCLA is making noise about promoting Perkins as a Heisman Trophy candidate and why not. All he did last year was rush for 1,575 yards and nine touchdowns and catch 26 passes for 201 yards and another two scores.
Arizonans on Pac-12 football rosters – 2015 season
Luke Rubenzer, S, California
Yes, you read that right. Rubenzer, the former standout Saguaro quarterback, had a choice this season: Continue to be the backup QB to starter Jared Goff, redshirt or move to defense, where he could contribute. Rubenzer, who played safety at Saguaro as well, decided he wanted to be on the field and he produced immediately, intercepting Goff twice in spring ball.
Christian Westerman, G, Arizona State
Things didn’t work out at Auburn for Westerman, who was the state’s most highly decorated lineman during his years at Chandler Hamilton, but he’s found a home on the interior of ASU’s offensive line. The 6-foot-4, 301-pound Westerman is a run-blocking beast, which isn’t a surprise given he can bench-press more than 500 pounds.