Wide Receiver Eric Lauderdale
Todd Graham said that he was a little upset with the Saddleback College standout being one of the last ones to fax his Letter of Intent, but we believe that when it's all said and done the wide receiver will put a smile on your face much more often than a frown. Yes, Arizona State is returning one of the best wide receivers in the conference in Jaelen Strong. But let's face it, his fellow wide receivers didn't really step up to the task last season putting more of the passing game onus on the tight ends and running backs. This year's group is largely inexperienced and the offense won't have the services of running back Marion Grice and tight end Chris Coyle anymore, which could make adversely affect Strong's productivity.
At 6-2 Lauderdale is a physical wide receiver which complements Strong's skill set. The Sun Devil newcomer often makes his living catching receptions over the middle and gaining a lot yards after the catch. Overall, he's more versatile with his routes and plenty explosive to make opposing defenses think twice about double teaming Strong. He totaled 114 receptions for 1,616 yards and 16 touchdowns during his two seasons at Saddleback College. The fact that he's one of only four junior college wide receivers in the nation for the 2014 class ranked with a four-star rating or higher by Scout.com speaks volumes.
In short, ASU now has a bona fide playmaker at wide receiver which should considerably elevate the passing game.
Defensive MVR (most valuable recruit)
Defensive lineman Dalvon Stuckey
When you lose your entire starting front four, you have to exercise your due diligence to ensure that your newcomers aren't just warm bodies filling out a depth chart but actually talented players who will hit the ground running. The Pearl River Community College lineman certainly fits that description and is slated to fill in the very big void that Will Sutton has left in the Tiger position on the line.
He's billed as a taller and quicker Sutton, who probably plays the run better than the outgoing senior. His addition really allows the rest of the defensive line to form around him and more importantly allow incoming freshmen Tashon Smallwood and Connor Humphreys to develop at their own rate and not be thrown to the fire out of necessity. Another home run signing for ASU not only because of his sheer talent but the vital role that he plays.
Dalvon Stuckey for the reasons mentioned above.
Immediate impact on offense (aside from MVR)
Running back Demario Richard
The depleted depth chart at running back is quite evident, so much like defensive line you couldn't just take a flier on a prospect but rather needed to make sure that you were going to get a player who will contribute as a newcomer. This is one skill player I know the coaches are absolutely gushing over, and why not?
He carried 503 times for 4,251 yards (8.5 avg.) with 63 rushing touchdowns over his three-year varsity career. Possesses just the right balance of strength and speed, and has the tree trunk like legs to get the tough yards between the tackles. Not a home run hitter but one that showcases a quick and powerful burst which is essential for the short yardage situations and inside zone schemes in general. He's also a good receiver out of the backfield a trait that every tailback in the Mike Norvell offense has to possess.
Immediate impact on defense (aside from MVR)
Linebacker D.J. Calhoun
He's National Recruiting Analyst's Brandon Huffman's favorite player of the 2014 class, so I guess I was obligated to give him some kind of award…all jokes aside the El Cerrito four-star prospect is one of the best defensive players in California and has the necessary tools to follow in the footsteps of Brandon Magee and recently Chris Young and be successful at the WILL position.
Even at just 6-0 213 lbs. Calhoun is a fierce hitter and that trait doesn't overshadow his range is coverage. He will prove to be one of the toughest players on the team despite being a true freshman. The linebacker is poised to be one of the best blitzers on the team, and one that is intelligent enough that he doesn't have to heavily rely on his athleticism. Was excellent when paired with and against some of the best players nationwide in his class in the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Game, where he was voted as the captain of his team.
The icing on the cake here is the fact that Calhoun is a mid-year transfer so his acclimation to college football should be that much smoother. Being already on campus for nearly a month now and having the benefit of a spring practice under his belt as the season nears, puts Calhoun in a great position to be a force in a linebacker position generally starving for talent.
Steal of the Class
Spur Jamal Scott
It seems that whenever you talk about the Anaheim Magnolia product that the phrase "under the radar" keeps on popping up. Yet, you can mention that saying every other sentence and it wouldn't be an overstatement. He wasn't on the board of any school when they conducted their spring evaluations last year, but once his highlight film hit the Internet ASU (and Utah) for that matter didn't waste any time pouncing on him before several other programs followed suit.
We've said this ad nauseum last year – as great as the ASU defense was in 2013, the Spur position was a noticeable Achilles heel. With Scott you have a fierce hitter and someone who raises the level of physicality at linebacker up quite a few notches. Yet, much like Calhoun, Scott is rangy enough to be the hybrid safety when needed in coverage. Todd Graham has mentioned numerous times how important the Spur position is in his defense and feels that Scott is one who can carry out those duties to the highest degree.
Cornerback Kweishi Brown
OK, not a surprise to those in the huddle but I guess the fact that the Grossmont standout never publicly announced his commitment until today would qualify as a revelation.
Perhaps less heralded than some his fellow junior college transfers in this class, but just like those newcomers he is expected to see the playing early and often in 2014. A physical corner who is prefect in ASU's bump and run as well as press scheme and a player who can handle being on the proverbial island every snap. As Todd Graham said, Brown is someone who can cover the plethora of big receivers in the Pac 12. Brown recorded 62 tackles, 16 pass breakups and four interceptions in 2013 and had a team-high seven interceptions as a freshman in 2012.
Brown was coached at Grossmont by former ASU defensive back Brett Hudson who raved about his player's high motor, tenacity, fearlessness, and ball hawking skills. An added bonus for Brown is getting once again to cover Lauderdale, albeit in practice, after some fierce matchups the last two year during their junior college careers.
Linebacker Ismael Murphy-Richardson
Versatility and yes potential are two words that are a lock to be in any evaluation of the local Goodyear Desert Ridge athlete. He will contend for the Devil backer role on the ASU defense but will obviously need to considerably fill in his 6-4 215 lbs. frame and might take some time. But the wait will be worth it.
In any other year, Murphy-Richardson who be hailed as one of the state's top recruits. Nonetheless, judging by his list of offers he is probably underrated compared to his in-state peers despite the impressive quality of prospects in the 2014 class.
While he has some current physical limitations, namely getting stronger, his nose for the ball, field vision and overall football I.Q. that goes hand in hand with his exemplary work ethic are intangibles many players his age don't have or at least don't possess a high level of. All in all, Murphy-Richardson seems like he will well be worth the wait."
Patience is a virtue
Tight end Brendan Landman
Well if Scott was under the radar (albeit not for that long) then the Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista High School was product was totally off the grid, and his commitment to the Sun Devils caught many by surprise. At 6-5 242 lbs. he's considered an exceptional blocker who has enough athleticism to make plays in space (both blocking and receiving), although don't be surprised if he does end up as an offensive tackle down the road. After all that it what he mainly played in high school.
Yet, with the need to bolster the talent level at the tight end position, at ASU Landman will be counted to perhaps contribute a little earlier than some expected although I wouldn't put him as a shoe-in to not redshirt. Nonetheless, if he can prove to effectively carry over his blocking skills to the next level and perhaps prove to be one the best blocking tight ends for the Sun Devils he could play as a true freshman. Either way it will a couple of years or more where we can start to entertain the idea of Landman playing at a level Chris Coyle did, but that notion while very farfetched now could become more feasible let's say by the time the Sun Devil Stadium renovations conclude."
Best recruit to exemplify "High Octane"
Running back De'Chavon "Gump" Hayes.
As we all know by now, we need to get our stop signs out when the Lackawanna College playmaker taken the field, because much like the classic Hollywood character of Forrest Gump, Hayes won't stop running just because he scored a touchdown and possesses the ball at the back of the end zone. Many of us have already seen his eye-popping highlight film that tells you that he is already one of the most dynamic and explosive players on this ASU team, even though he has yet to suit up.
First and foremost, he is already the prime candidate to assume one of the sore spots on the Sun Devils' special teams – punt return. Furthemore, his style of play is erringly similar to that of D.J. Foster and is slated to bounce back and forth between running and receiver and yet being effective at both roles. Simply put, give Hayes the ball as often as you can at various parts of the field and he will likely to produce a big play for the offense.
Best recruit to exemplify "All In"
Quarterback Manny Wilkins
This award is normally he would be given to a player who may not all that gifted athletically but his spirit and character are what truly define him. The Novato (Calif.) San Marin High School signal caller, a four-star prospect ranked 14th nationally in his position is obviously much more than just a player who has an exceptional personality.
However, how could anyone deny Wilkins this award? We all know by know how instrumental he was is fostering relationships with nearly every prospect who signed with ASU today. True, a lot of his efforts were viable on Twitter but we're guessing that twice as much communication was done in private, and judging by the caliber of the class Wilkins' efforts were hardly unfruitful.
Obviously very recruit, especially a quarterback and team leader, wants to be surrounded by talent. Someone like Wilkins didn't wait for the recruiting process to take its course, he made sure he was going to influence the process as much as he could without coming across as intrusive.
Wilkins lived and breathed the philosophy of the program and the team culture ever since he pledged to ASU (and perhaps even before that) and did a masterful job conveying that in terms that his fellow 17,18-year olds would understand.
It's no surprise that Many Wilkins has already become a fan favorite before playing even one snap for the maroon and gold.
Favorite recruit to interview
I tried very hard not to award two awards for the same player, and almost made it through the whole article…but in reality every commit I interviewed paled in comparison to Wilkins. Always thoughtful and through with his answers. His personality just oozed maturity and leadership. If he's not named most likely to succeed in his high school yearbook that would be a total sham…in all seriousness, there is very little doubt in my mind that the ASU beat writers will truly enjoy interviewing him for the next four, five years.
Describe ASU's 2014 recruiting class in 140 characters or less
Not only one the best recruiting classes in Arizona State's history, but also one packed with immediate impact players.