Progress evident, Patience Still Needed

With potentially six slots to fill in Arizona State’s 2015 recruiting class and only 72 hours prior to National Letter of Intent Day, suffice to say that these are anxious times for anyone who is invested or follows Sun Devil recruiting. Yet, as you sit back and examine this topic it’s hard to ignore the gains that have been made on this matter.

Granted, unless a program has landed its bevy of proverbial blue chippers, the voice of dissent will often drown the voice of reason. And usually, that is an unfair characterization of the recruiting landscape reality as it relates to each school.

Even though Arizona State’s 2015 recruiting class isn’t a finished product and its last handful or so of pieces will be added over the next few days. Nonetheless, the improvement over previous years is quite apparent.

The 2015 recruiting class will mark Todd Graham’s third full recruiting cycle, so for purposes of this column we will examine the 2013-14 recruiting classes and the improvement that has been made since then.

In the 2013 recruiting class ASU landed just one four-star recruit and finished with a ranking of no. 30 and a 2.92 average star ranking. Coming off Graham’s inaugural season in Tempe and an 8-5 record, it was probably a logical outcome.

A sizeable leap took place in the 2014 recruiting class where ASU’s no. 17 ranking matched its highest ever in the Internet era (2008 being the other year). The number of four-stars signed was significantly higher at seven and consequently the average star ranking considerably improved to a 3.27 average. This class followed one the best ever Pac-10/12 seasons for the program where ASU captured the Pac-12 South and sported a 10-4 record.

Even though the 2014 season culminated with the same number of victories as the 2013 campaign, ASU’s recruiting stature continues to elevate. With currently six four- star recruits committed, the Sun Devils are in a good position of eclipsing the 2014 class mark of seven when the 2015 class is completely inked.

Furthermore, the 2015 recruiting class marks the first five-star prospect signed in the Graham era, junior college linebacker Davon Durant, who is already enrolled in classes and will participate in spring practice next month.

The success to date of this class is also manifesting itself in a 3.37 star average which presently is the highest ever in any recruiting class under Graham (and even higher than the aforementioned 2008 class), and has a realistic chance of growing that much more as the finishing touches of this class are implemented.

This recruiting class is currently at no. 24, yet with a few more four stars it could conceivably add to this group, matching the no. 17 ranking, if not eclipsing it, is undoubtedly within reach. Keep in mind that the final rankings are also dependent on those schools that are the vicinity of ASU in their own rankings and that can skew the final result, let alone the perception on this matter.

There is no question that ASU has swung for the fences in this class. When you look at all of their recruiting visit weekends that took place, it hosted three five-star prospects after being void of such caliber of visitors in the last two recruiting cycles. Even though it won’t end up landing any of those recruits, it still signifies the tireless work this Sun Devil staff invests in recruiting and how the program’s perception resonates to the degree that these caliber of prospects are seriously considering ASU and are willing to spend one of only five allowed official recruiting visits (to any program) in Tempe.

There is also no debate that ASU has been doing better on the local recruiting scene digging itself from the virtual abyss the previous coaching regime has placed them just three years ago. This class has one prospect in the top 5 and four in the Top 12. You may view that success as modest, yet still unheard of compared to the last several years of recruiting in-state prospects.

The fertile recruiting grounds of Southern California thus far yielded four prospects from that region with a four-star rating and more could still be added. Compare that to just one four-star prospect from that region in the last two recruiting classes and it would be hard to ignore the advancement made in this significant territory .

There are very few walks of life that are judged, and at times perhaps too harshly, by instant success as much as college football is. ASU fans want the recent and remarkable success on the field, to translate into higher quality recruiting classes and as shown the progress is evident here.

Whether the rate of progress is satisfactory is where many ASU fans will probably differ. The Sun Devils are one of only 12 programs to win 10 or more games in the last two years, and some may think that as a result this 2015 class should already be ranked in the Top 15 as it deservedly needs to be and that its current placement of no. 24 is a disappointment in light of the prosperity this program is enjoying.

That’s simply the byproduct of success and a reflection of the constant unquenched thirst fans have to see its program as an established juggernaut on the national scene let alone in the Pac-12.

Well, Rome wasn’t built in one day and to get to a place where ASU constantly has a Top 15 recruiting class, finishes yearly in the Top 15-20 in the final AP Poll and contends for a Pac-12 championship every year will simply take time and patience. That’s the obvious reality of the situation.

Is this program closer than it has ever been to that juncture? Absolutely.

It the program’s progress in recruiting happening at a reasonable pace? Without a doubt.

When all is said is done, the patience that is now needed is the same patience that will ultimately be rewarded.

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