Arizona State Team Report
Arizona State coach Todd Graham brought in a big group of junior-college transfers to fill out his second recruiting class in Tempe.
Graham, who signed nine junior-college players in 2012, is bringing in 10 this time around, which seems like an unusually high number for a Pac-12 school. It’s hard to build long-term that way, but Graham did do well in his first class with transfers such as running back Marion Grice and linebacker Chris Young.
“We are going to recruit the best, brightest, the best character, and the best football players period,” he said in a response to the number of junior-college recruits in this class.
“I think we can sign the best junior-college players in the country. We have the opportunity and the ability to attract the best junior-college players in California and Arizona. I will just point to this year, and the success that we had being able to bring in those guys in and transition them. I don’t think every staff can do that. I’m looking for men that fit our program and have a burning desire to succeed and embrace what we are all about.”
It’s also a benefit that four of those 10 transfers have three seasons of eligibility remaining, not just two, so that will extend their usefulness at ASU. Graham also noted that he will lose 16 guys to graduation on defense after next season, so having more mature guys ready to step in is important.
Included in this junior-college group was defensive lineman Marcus Hardison (rated No. 5 among JC prospects by ESPN) and linebacker Antonio Longino (ranked the 32nd-best JC transfer by Rivals.com). On offense, transfer receivers Jaelen Strong and Joseph Morris should give that unit a needed boost.
Arizona State was 32nd overall in Rivals.com’s team rankings.
Top Of The Class
LB Chans Cox (Lakeside, Ariz., Blue Ridge High)—Tough, hard-nosed player who was rated as the nation’s No. 13 outside linebacker recruit by Rivals.com. The four-star recruit was a key early get for coach Todd Graham in this recruiting class, and Cox enrolled at the semester break, so he’ll be available for spring ball. Had offers from Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Nebraska in addition to a number of West Coast schools.
DE Marcus Hardison (Dodge City, Kansas, CC)—At 6-5, 290, he can play all over the defensive front, giving coach Todd Graham a lot of options on a line that features returning All-America defensive tackle Will Sutton. Hardison has a reported 4.7-second time for 40 yards and still has lots of upside on defense, as he was a high school quarterback in Florida before switching sides of the ball. He had reported offers from about half of the SEC. Hardison had 50 tackles and four sacks last season.
LB Viliami Latu (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. High )—At 230 pounds, he’ll project to be a middle linebacker. The four-star prospect had 107 tackles, including four sacks, as a senior. His twin, Alani, also a linebacker, joins him in ASU’s recruiting class. Viliami was rated the No. 13 inside linebacker by Rivals.com.
• The major disappointment on ASU’s signing day came at the quarterback position. Joshua Dobbs, who had been committed since last summer, signed with Tennessee instead, a late switch that precluded the Devils from rallying to get another quarterback, including a couple in their backyard—Tyler Bruggman (Washington State) and Ryan Finley (Boise State).
Arizona State has not signed a quarterback in its past two classes. “Obviously, that wasn’t the plan,” Graham said.
The Devils are still in good shape in the short term with junior starter Taylor Kelly and sophomores Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici, but they will need to make the position a priority next season.
• Coach Todd Graham hired Chris Thomsen in January as the new running backs coach. Thomsen was at Texas Tech last season, serving as interim head coach in the team’s 34-31 win in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Practice priorities: The Sun Devils have a decent passing game, thanks to ball-catching running backs and TE Chris Coyle, but they need to find better threats on the outside. Coach Todd Graham identified getting more explosive and dynamic at wide receiver as his No. 1 goal in recruiting. Some of the his efforts won’t be seen in the fall, when guys like junior-college teammates Jaelen Strong and Joseph Morris arrive. On defense, ASU will be searching for a productive player in the middle to replace Brandon Magee.
Quote To Note: “He’s the most dynamic receiver I’ve seen in a long time on film. Our fans will love this guy.”—Coach Todd Graham, on junior-college WR Jaelen Strong.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Key Losses: LB Brandon Magee, RB Cameron Marshall, WR Jamal Miles, WR Rashad Ross, P Josh Hubner
Players To Watch In 2013:
DT Will Sutton—He surprised many when he decided to come back for his senior season after an All-America junior campaign. Look for him to get bigger and stronger, while retaining his quickness, after a season in which he had 23.5 tackles for loss, including 13 sacks.
RB Marion Grice—Lived up to his billing last season after transferring from junior college, emerging as the team’s leading rusher in a three-man timeshare at tailback. That timeshare could be down to two in 2013. Grice carried 103 times for 679 yards and 11 touchdowns, finishing the season strong by being selected the MVP of the Territorial Cup rivalry game against Arizona and the Most Outstanding Player of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
RB D.J. Foster—As the gem of ASU’s 2012 recruiting class, he showed he has a chance to be one of the top weapons in the Pac-12 in the coming years. With speed and shiftiness, Foster is dangerous in the open field as a runner and receiver. He carried 102 times for 493 yards and two scores, also catching 38 passes for 533 yards and four touchdowns. He’ll have an even bigger share of the offense in 2013.
QB Taylor Kelly—He was not intercepted in any of Arizona State’s eight victories in 2012. He was picked off nine times in the five losses. He’s not the flashiest of Pac-12 quarterbacks, but ASU just needed him to manage the game well, not turn the ball over and make some plays with his feet, either extending passing plays or picking up yards himself. The rising junior had a passing efficiency rating of 159.91, completing 241 of 359 passes for 3,039 yards and 29 touchdowns. He also ran for 516 yards.
LB Carl Bradford—He gets to play on the edge and make all kinds of big plays. Bradford finished his junior year with 20.5 tackles for loss, including 11.5 sacks. He also forced three fumbles.
TE Chris Coyle—Coyle wasn’t as publicized as other top tight ends in the Pac-12, but he had great numbers: 57 catches for 696 yards and five touchdowns.
• RB coach Larry Porter left Arizona State after the bowl game to take the same role at the University of Texas.
• True freshman S Laiu Moeakiola, who played in three games in September, missed the rest of the season because of hamstring problems.
• Freshman LB Carlos Mendoza suffered a shoulder suffered against Illinois on Sept. 8 and missed the rest of the season. He is eligible for a medical redshirt.
• Sophomore CB Rashad Wadood (torn labrum) took a redshirt after missing the season.
• LB Israel Marshall, a redshirt freshman, sat out the 2012 season because of back and spine problems.