JUCO center A.J. McCollum decides to play for Sun Devils

Arizona State earned a commitment from CCSF center A.J. McCollum Monday, giving it a junior college option to replace Nick Kelly in 2016.

Two days after his City College of San Francisco team won the state's junior college football championship, A.J. McCollum decided to commit to Arizona State. 

McCollum, a 6-foot-1, 285 pound center, told SunDevilSource that he will sign scholarship paperwork with the Sun Devils on Wednesday, the first day mid-year junior college prospects can do so. 

McCollum had been committed to Cal, but ultimately decided it was in his best interest to make the switch, initially feeling that way with increasing confidence following his official visit to Tempe two weekends ago. 

"When I spoke with my (CCSF) coach (Monday) I think he could just tell from our conversation that I was really feeling like Arizona State was where my heart was and he just told me that I had to follow that and there was no reason to not go ahead and sign with ASU if that's how I felt," McCollum said. 

"With Cal, I really respect and appreciate the way they've recruited me and that makes this kind of hard but when I visited ASU it just cleared everything up for me. What I really like about it is how they do a great job of not only graduating their junior college players but preparing them to be successful after football as far as their careers. I think that was the concern about ASU, that academically it wouldn't be as good in that area but what they've done since coach (Todd) Graham got there has been great and I knew that I could success both on and off the field."

ASU is graduating senior center and two-year starter Nick Kelly, who was recruited to ASU out of the same Northern California junior college league in which McCollum played for CCSF, which finished its season 12-1 and state champions with a 26-14 win over Saddleback. In that game Saturday, CCSF running back Namane Modise carried the ball behind McCollum and the rest of his offensive line 37 times for 253 yards.

"Nick Kelly told me about his experience playing for ASU and (offensive line) coach (Chris) Thomsen and how it was nothing but good," McCollum said. "He also told me about the academics from his perspective and that he'd spoken with some other former players about how ASU did a good job helping them get jobs and things like that after they were done playing and graduated. That helped me with my decision. 

"Coach Thomsen I really can see myself playing for him. He's going to treat you like a man and coach you up. He's not a yeller, not going to tear you down but he's going to be serious and coach you hard and expect a lot from you and I just like his personality a lot." 

McCollum's girlfriend has an aunt who lives in Mesa and as a result she's also excited about the decision. His grandmother has a significant role in McCollum's life and was put at easy by the academic support and success rate of ASU with its football players. A conversation with ASU's new offensive coordinator just was the icing on top. 

"I got a chance to talk to coach Chip Lindsey today actually and he made me feel at ease about how things are going to be on offense," McCollum said. "They had the No. 9 offense in the country, two 1,000 rushers and were second in their conference passing the ball so they have not only a very explosive offense but one that is really balanced and he talked about bringing that to ASU without really changing much about their scheme and what they've done already that is successful. So I felt great about that."

ASU also received a commitment from Ventura College offensive lineman Tyson Rising on Saturday, which gives it two junior college offensive line additions who will be able to compete for the program in the spring. ASU is set to lose four starters from its 2015 offensive line. 

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