Ideal scholarship roster number: 4-5
Likely returning number: 3
2016 Commitments: 1 (Dillon Sterling-Cole)
Remaining ideal number: 0-1
The Skinny: Before getting into an evaluation of Dillon Sterling-Cole, it's absolutely essential that we properly contextualize just how impressive Arizona State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Norvell has been at recruiting high level signal-callers for the Sun Devils.
Talent acquisition is the most important part of the equation of success at the college level, and nowhere more so than at quarterback. With the commitment of Sterling-Cole to ASU Tuesday, Norvell has now remarkably landed a four-star Scout300 prospect at the position in each of the last three recruiting classes.
In the 2014 class, Norvell and ASU signed Elite-11 finalist Manny Wilkins, the nation's No. 14 quarterback prospect (No. 3 in the West) and No. 241 overall prospect in the country. In the 2015 class, the Sun Devils signed Elite-11 member Brady White, the nation's No. 12 quarterback prospect (No. 6 in the West) and No. 143 prospect overall nationally. Now, ASU has earned a commitment from Elite-11 finalists Sterling-Cole, the nation's No. 16 quarterback (No. 4 in the Midland region) and No. 297 prospect overall.
That's three quarterbacks, each of whom was an Elite-11 finalist or better, and additionally ranked among the Top-20 in the country at the position. It also doesn't even count Joshua Dobbs, who was committed to the Sun Devils as the No. 12 quarterback and No. 136 overall prospect in the 2013 class before switching his pledge to Tennessee at the eleventh hour and leaving ASU in the lurch.
Additionally, Norvell managed to finesse things in the 2014 and 2015 classes in a way that allowed him to sign two quarterbacks in each year, with redshirt freshman Coltin Gerhart -- who has since switched to defense -- and incoming freshman Bryce Perkins providing additional options at a position that requires a large pool of talent to draw from.
Look no further than Ohio State, a program where its third-string signal caller helped lead it to a national title last season. The way elite programs are successful is to stockpile talent at the all-important quarterback position. Norvell is now doing that at a very high level, about as well as could be reasonably expected.
Things are setting up quite well for the Sun Devils. Senior Mike Bercovici will be the team's starter this year and in the spring of 2016 ASU will have Wilkins with two years in the program and White and Perkins with one year apiece all competing for the starting nod, and Sterling-Cole will be thrown into the mix in the summer. Odds are very good at least one of those players is going to be able to keep ASU operating at a high level well into the future, especially because the scheme is smartly designed to be very user-friendly for quarterbacks; a factor which has very likely contributed to the recruiting successes.
Make no mistake, while Norvell may be one of the highest paid offensive coordinators in the country, he's earned it not only for his job on game days, but his full service productivity which includes tremendous recruiting of the most important position on the field.
In Sterling-Cole, the Sun Devils have landed the second-highest ranked uncommitted quarterback in the country and an Elite-11 finalist we were able to watch very carefully over the course of a four day period at The Opening earlier this month. This is a quarterback with a very high ceiling because his tools are great and he's not spent as much time being developed by gurus like a lot of guys are. Even though that's the case, and recruiting was newer to Sterling-Cole because of how he jumped onto the scene a year ago after his transfer to Houston Westfield, he is a quarterback who doesn't have any skill deficiency.
At a legitimate 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, Sterling-Cole is bigger-framed in person than I expected he'd be from his film, and is still a thin young man at his current weight. He's going to be play well north of 200 pounds when he gets into a college strength program and as he continues to mature physically, and do so without any loss of athleticism, so size is not a limitation in any way. He's taller and bigger-framed than Taylor Kelly, Mike Bercovici, Manny Wilkins or Brady White, for comparison's sake.
What really jumps off the screen with Sterling-Cole though is his pocket feel and ability to deliver the ball accurately in a wide variety of applications. He has great and borderline elite potential with his footwork given how well he feels movement in the pocket and is able to get balanced prior to releasing the ball even on challenged throws where he's had to move and do so quickly. The way he's able to quickly get the ball out hot or on throws with no drop is also pretty remarkable. He does this with great decision making as well, as his touchdown to interception rate was an impressive 4-to-1 last season.
Along with all this, Sterling-Cole has ample arm strength to play at the highest level of football. One of his high school teammates is Scout100 wide receiver Tyrie Cleveland, a player with a legitimate 4.32 40-yard dash. Cleveland is about as fast as anyone in the country at the high school or college level and yet on vertical shots he rarely if ever on film was out-running Sterling-Cole's arm, even on unexpected pocket resets.
Sterling-Cole can run the complete ASU playbook. He's considered a dual-threat type quarterback, but is much more on the passer side of the scale than the runner side. While he's relatively mobile and can competently handle read option and designed draw plays, he's not an elite athlete for a quarterback -- not nearly as quick as Wilkins for example -- and would much rather be a play extension quarterback who is looking to find someone to deliver the football too. That's better than someone who isn't as comfortable in the pocket in terms of the process of skill development, anyway.
Short-range touch and accuracy are probably the biggest skill question at this stage, as he's had a tendency to be high or behind receivers he's not as familiar with from a timing standpoint. But that's not a big flaw at all. There really is no big obstacle to Sterling-Cole's success from a physical or tools standpoint. Ultimately, he can play as high as his ability to think the game and process the field allows him. That's really what separates good quarterbacks from great quarterbacks and great quarterbacks from elite quarterbacks with guys who have the kind of tools Sterling-Cole has to work with.
Sterling-Cole hasn't even worked as long with experts to polish his skill set as a lot of his peers have, and he's already among the best in his class. He's the highest ranked high school commit in the class for the Sun Devils at this stage, and deservedly so.