Todd Graham remains confident in ASU recruiting momentum

Arizona State head coach Todd Graham said he's excited about the recruiting momentum the Sun Devils have built up in the Phoenix area and throughout the state of Arizona.

It's been more than 100 days since Arizona State has received a verbal commitment, but Sun Devils' head coach Todd Graham isn't worried about the program's recruiting momentum.

Graham was candid on Tuesday when asked how he feels the Sun Devils are positioning themselves during the current recruiting cycle, and said that during the season, he's much more focused on his current team than he is on players who may help comprise future Sun Devil rosters.

"I think they're going good, but I'll be real honest with you, I don't focus a lot on that during the season," Graham said. "So much of the things that require you to be busy in recruiting don't matter, I just feel like during the season I should commit to my football team, that's what I tell recruits."

With less than three months to go until Signing Day, and less than a month and a half until the mid-year signing period, ASU has received just eight verbal commitments.

However, the Sun Devils are still in on the chase for high-profile local prospects like 5-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson (North Canyon High School), 4-star Spur/Bandit prospect Isaiah Pola-Mao (Mountain Point High School) and 4-star safety prospect K.J. Jarrell (Saguaro High School).

Three of Jarrell's Saguaro teammates, tight end Jared Poplawski, Devil backer prospect Kyle Soelle and offensive lineman Corey Stephens are among ASU's eight verbal commitments, and Graham said he's excited about the momentum the Sun Devils have built up with local recruits.

"Our focus I think, recruiting-wise, where we're at right now, I feel really great about how we're doing in this valley, how we're doing in this state, and that's the key to our success is here and a gas tank away in Southern California," Graham said. "I feel good about where we're at, but everything is speculative." 

Two other verbal commits, Basha quarterback Ryan Kelley and Mountain View wide receiver Curtis Hodges, also hail from local high schools.

With ASU on a bye last week and playing on Thursday night this week, the Sun Devils' coaching staff has a rare midseason opportunity to use back-to-back weekends to visit its recruiting targets.

Last weekend, offensive line coach Chris Thomsen was at Saguaro to watch three of ASU's commits as well as Jarrell, while ASU tight ends coach DelVaughn Alexander and defensive backs coach T.J. Rushing took in a Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nevada) game featuring a pair of ASU's most important targets for the Class of 2017, 4-star cornerback Alex Perry and 4-star safety Bubba Bolden. 

This weekend, ASU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson will travel to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to watch 3-star safety prospect Evan Fields play.

With just eight commits, ASU is 11th in the Pac-12 in Scout's updated recruiting rankings, sixth in the Pac-12 in average star rankings and 10th in the Pac-12 in total number of commits. To boost ASU's success on the recruiting trail, Graham said the Sun Devils need to take care of business on the field, where ASU has lost three consecutive games.

"The number one thing you can do for recruiting is win," Graham said. "It's so much overdone on the rest of it. And then recruit the right people, the people that fit what we do, does that make sense? I think you'll have a lot of success that way. I don't think it's some great sales pitch or because you send out enough twitters or cool edits." 

Aside from having to replace five assistant coaches from last year's staff this offseason, ASU replaced Assistant Athletic Director for Recruiting, Patrick Suddes, who left the program for a similar position with the Auburn Tigers.

ASU replaced Suddes with Donnie Yantis, formerly the coach at Arizona Christian University who spent much of his coaching career leading Paradise Valley High School. On Tuesday, Graham praised Yantis for his work to date, saying that Yantis has helped ASU's coaching staff develop strong relationships with recruits in the Class of 2017. 

"Donnie has done a great job in being diligent in making sure our coaches are staying on those phone calls, staying on all the things that you have to do because it's still personal," Graham said. "Talking to them on the phone, showing them a hand-written card, you have to check all of those boxes because at the end of the day, where your program is headed perception is a powerful thing and the main thing is recruiting the right guys." 

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