Ideal scholarship roster number: 7-8
Likely returning number: 4-5
2016 Commitments: 0-1 J'marcus Rhodes
Remaining ideal number: 1-2
The Skinny: The top three cornerbacks on Arizona State's spring roster and likely three starters from its 2015 season secondary will be departing after this year and as a result the program will want to give itself as much infusion of talent as possible in order to successfully transition to the following season and beyond.
ASU added two very promising cornerbacks in the 2015 class, Kareem Orr and Stanley Norman, but neither has practiced at the college level before much less become a proven entity. Also, the Sun Devils may need Armand Perry's athleticism at field safety instead of corner, and wide receiver convert Ronald Lewis hasn't fully assimilated to the position as yet.
Looking at the Sun Devil roster projecting into 2016, the decision to add a well-regarded junior college cornerback makes a lot of sense and is the right move. Securing targeted December-graduate junior college players is hard to do this early in a recruiting cycle and is a big coup for the program because of what it enables as ASU builds out the rest of its defensive back class. Ideally, ASU would ideally also add two high school cornerbacks in this class, just as it did last year.
J'Marcus Rhodes gives ASU an older cornerback who has great size, at 6-foot-2, and 200 pounds, and someone who has already been coached at a higher level than high school for three years at the time of his arrival -- as a two for two player -- and additionally is expected to be available for spring ball as a projected December graduate.
Beyond his age and experience level, there's a lot to like about Rhodes starting with his versatility. One of his strengths is his versatility, which ASU makes a priority in its defensive backs recruiting. Rhodes has the flexibility and skill level for his size to play either cornerback spot, nickel corner, and field safety in ASU's scheme.
Cornerback evaluations tend to be more difficult than other positions save quarterback, usually because of a lack of quality full field film. But there's a lot of good film on Rhodes, and his field awareness jumps off the screen. Rhodes has excellent play recognition diagnostics in zone coverages and has played in high school and junior college schemes which have enabled evaluators to get a real sense of his ability to physically and mentally handle a wide variety of coverages
In particular, Rhodes stands out as a cloud coverage cornerback, which ASU runs a lot of, as well as the quarter-quarter-half shell. This is true whether he has a deep third responsibility or is asked to sit on the flat. His vision, instincts and ability to read and anticipate offensive route combinations and his corresponding response within a coverage call is terrific.
Additionally, Rhodes has good line of scrimmage initial posture and technique in press, and does a good job with initiating and locating his hands and really using his length effectively, though sometimes he wants to grab too much even when he's well in-phase and has to break that habit.
Rhodes' ability to quickly orientate his hips and turn and run is a natural gift for his size, and what enables him from a physical standpoint to play cornerback at 6-foot-2 in the first place. This is especially the case because he doesn't have great foot speed and is a bit choppy in his lower half and high in his backpedal, so he doesn't cover as much ground facing the play as is ideal. He's better when he's able to run with receivers. That's part of what makes him a better press coverage corner, which is how ASU prefers to play its defensive backs.
Down the field, Rhodes is extremely disruptive when located properly due to his length and receiver-like ball skills, and his willingness to engage and make plays on the football.
Quick slants, posts and in-cuts are going to be the routes that test Rhodes at the college level because he's more of a fluid glider than a quick-twitch space-closer, and he'll have to make sure when he's playing inside leverage he maintains that and he shows the instincts to be able to do this. Length really helps.
One of the best things about Rhodes from a physical standpoint, is how well he bends and attacks tackle opportunities. He drops his pad level and squares to the ball very well, and also does a pretty good job using his length to get off block near the line of scrimmage. He's not been used much as a boundary side blitzer, which ASU does a lot with the position, but his length and range should help in this regard even if he's not particularly explosive.
This is a player who, given his anticipation and apparent zone coverage fluency, should be able to play field safety if need be. He appears to be capable of coming in and immediately competing for a starting spot at cornerback.