Dec. 23, 2008
TUCSON--University of Arizona coach Mike Stoops has signed two mid-year junior college transfers to join the Wildcat football program next semester.
Defensive back Marcus Benjamin of New Iberia, La., and Arizona Western College in Yuma, and offensive lineman Jack Julsing of Moreno Valley, Calif., and College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif., have signed national letters of intent and will enroll for the spring semester.
"Signing these two guys will help us immediately," Stoops said. "We don't bring junior college players in unless they'l make us better. The fact they'll be able to play in spring ball will give them a better opportunity to acclimate in both physical improvement and academically," he said.
Benjamin, 21, a 2008 preseason National Junior College Athletic Association first-team all-American had 67 tackles a year ago with two interceptions against then-second-ranked Snow College. He returned one 55 yards for a touchdown. He led the conference in punt returns. He initially signed with LSU out of Westgate High School in 2006. Julsing, 20, played at Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater before returning to play in his home state at College of the Desert. He is considered a top prospect at tackle.
Both players will participate in UA's spring practice, expected to start on campus in early March. "Jack will give us depth at tackle. He's a big, long guy who fits the profile of what we want in that position. At corner, we knew about Marcus for some time. He has size, will bring more competition and make us more flexible in the secondary," Stoops said.
National Signing Date for the bulk of the incoming 2009 class is in early February, for August arrival. UA coaches are expected to sign around two dozen players in the class including Benjamin and Julsing.
Football Notes...Arizona will return 15 starters from its 2008 club including the entire defensive front of end Brooks Reed and Ricky Elmore, tackles Earl Mitchell and Donald Horton, linebacker Xavier Kelley, safety Cam Nelson and cornerback Devin Ross. On offense returning starters include tackle Eben Britton, receivers Delashaun Dean and Terrell Turner, running back Nic Grigsby, Rob and Chris Gronkowski at tight end and H-back, center Colin Baxter and guard Mike Diaz. Also, D'Aundre Reed brings back some starting experience at DE, as does Sterling Lewis at linebacker, while Adam Grant should contend for the right tackle role where he started five games in 2008 before an injury... Losses include All-Pac-10 performers Mike Thomas (WR-returns), QB Willie Tuitama and kicker Jason Bondzio, plus LB Ronnie Palmer, safety Nate Ness, cornerback Marquis Hundley and guard Joe Longacre. Junior left tackle Britton, a first-team all-league pick, is said to be considering the 2009 NFL draft as an underclassman. He graduates in May but has a year of eligibility left... The talk around some back hallways is the looming competition between sophomores-to-be 6-foot-3, 210-pound Matt Scott and 6-foot-5, 235-pound Nick Foles at quarterback. Scott will earn a letter for his true freshman season this past year, while Foles redshirted after transferring from Michigan State. They'll also face competition from sophomore Bryson Beirne, who saw duty in a few games in 2008... Tight end Rob Gronkowski clearly will be a focus for the Cats in 2009. He earned third-team AP All-America honors in 2008 with a 47-catch, 10-touchdown performance - and equally as much for his blocking value in the running and passing attack...