Whether it be Todd Graham’s aggressive defensive style, the fact he often coaches the position in skill periods for Arizona State, or the success defensive backs have had under his leadership, ASU has become an attractive destination for defensive backs under Graham.
ASU will graduate three cornerbacks after this season and doesn't have much remaining in the cupboard. After signing day last February, the Sun Devils appeared set at the position for the immediate future, but then four-star Stanley Norman re-injured his knee in the summer and never enrolled; sophomore Armand Perry transitioned to field safety in the summer only to be knocked out for the season with an ankle injury in the season opener, forcing true freshman Kareem Orr to be moved to safety. So the Sun Devils needed to have a strong class in 2016 to keep the position well stocked.
The loss of Demarious Randall to the NFL left a hole at the field safety position that was never filled, perhaps due to the Perry injury, but only time will determine that. Perry will likely remain at safety next year but could be moved back to cornerback as needed. Despite a Pac-12-best five interceptions and ESPN Freshman All-American designation, Orr struggled enough in ASU's passing defensive collapse in the second half of the season that he was replaced by senior Solomon Means in the last two games. Orr has practiced at Bandit in recent weeks and it is unclear right now if Orr moves back to cornerback or stays at safety. ASU is very high on Orr, and understandably so, as he brings great versatility, impressive athleticism, and can play four defensive back positions. He figures to start somewhere next year.
ASU's other returning cornerback options are primarily redshirt freshman Tyler Whiley and running back-convert De'Chavon Hayes. At field safety, sophomore Chad Adams has taken first-team reps in the Sun Devils' recent bowl practices. It's a sign of how much the Sun Devils can use an infusion of athletes with its roster given the few and relatively unproven options it will return to its roster next season.
So far the Sun Devils have put together a very strong class, including two four-star prospects, and four commits in total who project to either cornerback of field safety. Junior College prospects J'Marcus Rhodes (four-stars) and Maurice Chandler (three-stars) are longer athletes who project to either boundary corner or field safety. Both have mainly played cornerback and would have to transition to safety. ASU previously was successful in transitioning Randall from cornerback to safety coming out of the junior college ranks. The two have signed with the program and will be practicing this spring, which is a big advantage in their assimilation.
ASU has two high school commits including local Scout300 standout Chase Lucas from Chandler High. The four-star prospect has mainly played running back for the Wolves but has the skill set to play either cornerback spot or field safety. Lucas has said that he may eventually see time on offense based on his conversations with ASU coaches, but initially he's got to learn a defensive position he can excel at.
Three-star Robbie Robinson is an aggressive undersized prospect who thrives in man to man coverage. He is intelligent and comes from a high profile state championship program, so he has the makeup of a prospect who could adapt well quickly to ASU’s system. We like him at the field side corner spot and he could factor as a nickel back. He's undersized though and could use additional strength.
Scottsdale Saguaro’s Byron Murphy is arguably the top uncommitted target on ASU’s radar right now. The four-star prospect officially visited the same weekend with Lucas and Chandler’s N’Keal Harry. The three are very close but Murphy also has Texas A&M and Washington under strong consideration. USC could also get an official visit in January. ASU had the last in-home visit with Murphy before the start of the dead period. If ASU added Murphy to the class it would be turn what is already a great haul into an epic, incredible result, likely unmatched in program history in terms of defensive back recruiting.