Alphonse Oywak promises things aren’t as unsettled as they seem.
By college football’s signing day in February, the Kentwood cornerback expects to ink his commitment to Arizona. It would cap a confusing winter when Oywak opted not to sign his letter of intent as planned during the early signing period in December. And in January he boasted via social media about receiving an offer from Washington State, also going on an official visit.
Update: Oywak announced Monday he’ll play for Washington State.
“Everything is really the same,” Oywak said. “It looks different with me not signing early and another offer coming in. To everybody else it looks like some changes have already been made. But really, to me, there are no changes being made. I’m still committed to Arizona. I’m really taking time to make sure everything is correct and how I want it to be the next four years.”
It’s college football’s unstable coaching scene that had Oywak searching for solid ground. Weeks before he was set to sign with Arizona, coach Kevin Sumlin overhauled his entire staff.
“It was new to me in my recruiting process,” said Oywak, a three-star defensive back according to 247Sports.com. “When coaching fires happen, you’ve also got to be aware of that. You’ve got to know who you’ll be with (because) it’s really a business all around. So I had to take some time back and review more than just the football aspects and the relationships. The atmosphere and education, I started to emphasize that more.”
According to reporting by Tucson.com, none of the seniors on Arizona’s 2019 roster had the same position coach through their duration with the Wildcats. The defensive backs had two coaches last season alone. And most had two head coaches in Sumlin and Rich Rodriguez.
“I’ve pushed through many obstacles in my (time) with the program here,” fifth-year senior defensive tackle Finton Connolly told the publication. “You build a relationship with a guy for a few years, and he understands your skill set, you understand his coaching philosophy. And then it changes and there’s a new guy, and you just have to adapt to his coaching philosophy and build a whole new relationship with another coach.”
Demetrice Martin is the sole assistant from Arizona’s defensive coaching staff who is expected to return for the 2020 season. Dubbed “Coach Meat,” he initiated the recruitment of Oywak and is who the latter called to accept the scholarship offer last summer.
Oywak, who’s 6 foot 3 and 180 pounds, is part of a UA recruiting class rated 60th in the nation by 247Sports. It’s a group pegged to help turn around a defense that finished last in the Pac-12 in scoring defense at 35.8 points per game and allowed 471.4 yards per game.
Oywak had four interceptions and five fumble recoveries as a senior. He also played receiver, totaling 550 yards on 27 catches and scoring six touchdowns as the Conquerors season ended in a Class 4A football state tournament loss to Bothell in the opening round.
“He started playing corner last year and fell in love with it,” Kentwood coach Michael Bush said of Oywak, whose first passion is basketball. He dedicated himself to football after his junior season and was named to The Associated Press’ all-state team in December.
“We preach to our kids to play multiple sports,” Bush said. “Being who Alphonse is, he wants to compete against the best. It turns out for him, it’s in football. … He’s long, he’s athletic. He’s a quick twitch guy who can cover with tenacity and plays the ball really well in the air like a receiver.”
Sumlin, who completed his new hires earlier this month, had an in-home visit with Oywak and his family this week in Covington. The coach also had the opportunity to watch Oywak play guard for the Kentwood basketball team.
“(Sumlin’s) whole emphasis was where I’ll be at Arizona and the coaches I’ll be around and to let me know that I’m wanted,” Oywak said.
In addition to advice from his older brother and parents, Oywak said sage words from Bush eased the recruiting process. Bush was a standout football and basketball player at WSU.
“He always explained to me that you never know what can happen,” Oywak said. “So, whatever coach reaches out to you, whether it’s a school you want to go to or maybe a school you don’t want to go to, keep the communication and don’t burn any bridges because you honestly don’t know what could happen.”
An example is Oywak’s offer from WSU. The Cougars hired Nick Rolovich from Hawaii to replace Mike Leach earlier this month. Rolovich was recruiting Oywak to play for the Rainbow Warriors, a school Oywak didn’t view as a good fit.
Days after Rolovich accepted the WSU position, Oywak was his first in-home visit.
“It’s time for me to really hone in on a place and that’s stressful,” Oywak said of finalizing his commitment. “It’s more than just football. It’s where I want to build my foundation the next four years.”