Cornerbacks / Field Safeties
Ideal scholarship roster number: 11-12
*can also play Bandit
^grayshirt who is expected to enroll at ASU in the spring
Likely returning number: 6-7
Remaining ideal number: 1-2
The Skinny: With their latest addition of Maurice Chandler on Monday, Arizona State's coaches have done an excellent job of replenishing a secondary that will be severely depleted after this season.
The Sun Devils have been much-maligned for their pass defense in 2015, which in the regular season gave up more yards per game in the air than any other team in the Pac-12 (321.3), and more 40-plus yard plays than any team in FBS.
ASU will lose starting senior cornerbacks Lloyd Carrington and Kweishi Brown as well as starting nickel corner senior Solomon Means, and starting senior Bandit Jordan Simone.
At the cornerback/field safety positions which have some interchangeability, ASU returns just three players in 2016 who saw the field with any degree of regularity this season on defense: freshman Kareem Orr, sophomore Armand Perry -- who will likely get a medical hardship year -- and sophomore Chad Adams.
Perry was ASU's starting field safety before suffering an ankle injury that ended his season against New Mexico. Orr replaced him and showed flashes of high level potential and tied for the Pac-12 lead with five interceptions. He was also, however, prone to critical errors that contributed to ASU's struggles in the secondary. Adams played sparingly, and mostly at the end of the season after Simone was injured.
Perry and Orr have the capacity to be very good Pac-12 players, and probably will in their careers. But ASU is profoundly in need of additional speed and playmaking capability throughout its secondary. At cornerback, there is nobody slated to return who is a known reliable option unless Perry was moved back from field safety, but that's probably not the route ASU will take.
Instead, the Sun Devils have earned commitments from two junior college cornerbacks, J'Marcus Rhodes and Maurice Chandler, and they are good ones. Both have great size -- 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds each -- and have played in a part of the country with some of the best competition at the level.
In the ASU defense, cornerbacks don't need to have elite speed. As an example, senior Lloyd Carrington is an above average Pac-12 corner at worst and is probably a 4.6 40-yard dash player. Rhodes and Chandler are both more athletic than Carrington, and yet also bigger. Either player is capable of moving from corner to field safety as needed, which provides a level of flexibility and redundancy.
The Sun Devils have also received commitments from two high school players who are well-regarded athletes who project to cornerback and/or field safety: Chandler High standout Chase Lucas and Dematha Catholic state champion Robbie Robinson. Both players are likely to start out at cornerback, with Lucas having not played the position before and probably in need of a redshirt season to learn and get bigger and stronger, though Robinson may be able to see the field early if needed.
ASU's second-team corners in bowl practices -- with Means playing field safety as a starter but would be the team's No. 3 corner in a bowl game if needed -- have been redshirt freshman Tyler Whiley at boundary and converted offensive player De'Chavon Hayes at the field position. Athletically, they have the movement skills to play the positions, but they are not ready to do so as yet from a preparedness standpoint. Only time will tell if bowl and spring practices get them to that point by the time ASU again has a preseason camp.
Another possibility for the Sun Devils would be playing Orr at cornerback if another player emerges as a strong candidate at Bandit and ASU coaches don't feel the need to start Orr and Perry together at the safety positions. 2015 class member Stanley Norman remains a grayshirt candidate who could enroll in January, but he's coming off his second ACL tear and how ready he'd be to contribute at cornerback this year remains unclear.
With the commitment of Chandler on Monday, ASU is getting a player whom its coaches have targeted for four years, since he was a high school junior in Lawton, Oklahoma. With his addition, the Sun Devils now have six junior college recruits among their 17 total commitments, and three of those players -- Rhodes and pass rushers Dougladson Subtyl and Koron Crump -- are four-star recruits.
Though just a three star designation by Scout, Chandler may not take a backseat to anyone and we have him evaluated except perhaps Subtyl among ASU's junior college players in terms of overall potential.
The combination of size and speed presented by Chandler on film is that of a high end college prospect capable of reaching into the elite tier as a prospect and as such it makes sense that he was formerly an Oklahoma commit before re-opening his recruitment. He's a recruit who would not be a reach at any program in the country as a big cornerback recruit.
Chandler can be a bit mechanical at times opening up out of press man coverage but has very good recovery speed and is excellent in phase with his back to the play. He pins to the hip and uses his size as a weapon, utilizes the boundary relatively well, and mirrors receivers on fades and go routes.
One of the best things about Chandler as a prospect is his ball arrival anticipation. He has a rare ability to maintain composure and understand when and how to get his head around to the football. He does a great job at picking up tip off cues from receivers' eyes as an aid in this regard, and Chandler has impressive ball skills as well in these types of situations.
Playing closer to the line of scrimmage, Chandler is physical at circumventing blocks on screens and boundary runs and does a much better than average job at making tackles with his arms extended than most cornerbacks. Before Carrington and Brown, ASU struggled for a period of years with lighter corners who were moved off the ball more easily, but that's not going to be the case with either Chandler or Rhodes.
Another positive attribute of Chandler is how well he played in relaxed man and zone coverage situations. He's just as effective if not more so at getting unhinged and driving to the ball. That's one of the reasons he could easily convert to playing field safety in the ASU scheme, particularly with his coverage ability. He eats space well and doesn't tend to get separated from in coverage.
Chandler also has a very good feel for when to slide off his man and make plays on throws intended for other receiving targets, though this is a double edged sword because it also hints at some eye discipline issues that better offenses will exploit on double movement routes. He's going to have to work on stemming vertical lines better with his backpedal and not commit or be quite as mechanical, but when he gets his hips flipped with purpose he does so well for a cornerback of his size. ASU coaches will stop some of the bad habits he has with his hands and posture at the line of scrimmage rather quickly and easily, so that's not going to be much of a concern.
Overall, this is perhaps the best cornerback prospect ASU has signed under Todd Graham. His success will come down to how quickly he assimilates, but he has all the tools to be very successful and play after college.