Stewart: Saguaro commits push ASU closer to in-state goals

Arizona State has four in-state commits now in the 2017 class and it's still just June.

Friday, in an unprecedented move, three local recruits -- Corey StephensJared Poplawski and Kyle Soelle -- from Scottsdale Saguaro committed Arizona State. It is the first time, at least in the Internet era, that three prospects from the same Arizona high school committed to the same Division I program. Assuming all three sign, it will be the second time (2009) that three Sabercats signed with ASU in a class.

Last month we discussed the overall strength of the 2017 in-state recruiting class, the opportunity Arizona State has this cycle and what we thought would be a good indicator of a good result for ASU when the class signs next February.

The commitments also come after ASU missed out on high profile Saguaro targets Christian Kirk and Byron Murphy in 2015 and 2016, respectively. Today's development, to some degree, will help challenge the message board narrative which has developed in recent years and posits that Saguaro prospects no longer held ASU in high regard, and/or are being steered away from the program. The Sun Devils could still land another Saguaro prospect as four-star safety K.J. Jarrell is also considering ASU.

ASU has a good history with Saguaro recruits it has signed. Since 2003 when Kyle Caldwell signed with ASU, five Saguaro prospects -- Corey Adams, Max Smith, Kody Koebensky in 2009, Jordan McDonald in 2010, and D.J Foster in 2012 have signed with ASU out of high school. 

Foster, now with the New England Patriots, was a four-year starter. Caldwell and Adams battled injuries but were starting defensive linemen when healthy. Koebensky was lightly recruited but developed into a starter at center. Smith and McDonald were backups who ultimately didn't complete their eligibility. 

In the last decade the ASU-Saguaro relationship has probably been better know for the recruits who did not pick ASU. There are six players whom ASU offered that signed elsewhere: Chris Merrill in 2008 (Arizona); Kody Innes in 2010 (UCLA); Cyrus Hobbi and Brock Haman in 2011; Kirk in 2015 (Texas A&M) and Murphy in 2016 (Washington). 

The recruitments of Hobbi, Kirk and Murphy were the cause of much angst for ASU fans. All three were all high level national recruits, were highly publicized and ASU was considered a possible pick as late as the morning of their announcements. All of the recruitments extended later in the their respective cycles, building the anticipation over many more months. 

Currently there are 15 Arizona high school prospects with offers from ASU but one of those, Kayden Lyles, has left Saguaro and moved to Wisconsin where he has been committed since last year. 

Friday's commits join Chandler Basha four-star Ryan Kelley as four of the five members of the ASU’s 2017 recruiting class. 

With four in-state commitments and seven more prospects undecided, the Sun Devils are much closer to reaching the seven local high school commitment target that we set forth as a good goal. 

While none of the three who committed today is a four star prospect, it is a notable day for ASU head coach Todd Graham’s goal of building a proverbial fence around the state. The three prospects all chose ASU over Power-5 conference offers. Soelle also had offers from Cal, Utah, and Washington State. Poplawski had offers from from Colorado, Illinois, Louisville and Oregon State. Stephens chose ASU over Louisville and Memphis offers, as well as the Ivy League. 

The three commitments will garner a lot of local publicity for ASU. We are probably two to three years away from knowing how well the group do on the field. The group, unfairly to a degree, will also probably be judged by how well ASU recruits in-state moving forward. 

In 2015 ASU landed Chandler’s Bryce Perkins who was an important recruit because a year later it played a major part in the Sun Devils landing Chander four-stars N’Keal Harry and Chase Lucas. Building pipelines at local powerhouses like Chandler and Saguaro is key to sustained in-state success but the goal in the end for ASU is to land more four-star or higher in-state prospects.

For this day to be some kind of seminal moment for in-state recruiting under Graham, ASU will need to recruit better moving forward than it already has since he arrived in 2012, or even in the years leading up to his arrival. That would mean landing more of this year’s four-star in-state prospects including the lone remaining uncommitted Saguaro target. Currently including Jarrell, there are four in-state prospects rated four-stars or higher. Those are the prospects who move the meter with fans and in the recruiting rankings. Those are fence post type prospects who allow you to build a wall around the state over time.


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