Editor's Note: This is the third of a multi-part serious examining Arizona State's recruiting operation and success. The first part focused on the significance of commitment dates for ASU signees over the last decade, and the second part focused on the importance of regionality in ASU recruiting under Dennis Erickson and Todd Graham.
Last Friday, Arizona State received its third high-profile commitment in a matter of two weeks, when four-star Devil backer prospect Tyler Johnson announced his pledge to the Sun Devils.
Johnson's announcement is significant for head coach Todd Graham for many reasons, not the least of which is Graham proving that he's able to keep the top local recruits home despite his program's recent struggles.
Johnson, a highly-touted athlete out of Highland High in Gilbert, reportedly possesses a long list of impressive scholarship offers including Alabama, Florida State and Michigan. Even with a collection of desirable programs to choose from, Johnson committed to ASU, becoming the sixth high school prospect from the state to join the Sun Devils' 2017 recruiting class.
With six local players among the 11 recruits ASU has received commitments from thus far, Graham and the Sun Devils have the chance to challenge the program's best marks in local recruiting since the dawn of the Internet era in 2002.
In his five seasons at ASU, Graham has never signed more than four local high school recruits, and has never nabbed more than a pair of four-star local recruits in a single class. Now, with Johnson and four-star Chandler (Basha) quarterback Ryan Kelley committed to the Sun Devils, ASU has a chance to close out the recruiting cycle by focusing on adding to its local haul.
With three of the top five prospects in the state, five-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson, four-star Bandit/Spur prospect Isaiah Pola-Mao and four-star safety K.J. Jarrell, all undecided and all still considering the Sun Devils, ASU has a strong chance of surpassing the program record for local four-star recruits signed (three) set back in 2002, when then-head coach Dirk Koetter added four-star safety Andre Bailey, four-star defensive end Nick Johnson and four-star safety Robert James from local high schools.
ASU's local resurgence reflects Graham's evolved approach to recruiting within the state of Arizona, while also showcasing the improved outreach Graham's staff has made to local programs since his hiring in December of 2011.
In Part II of our analysis of ASU's recruiting operation over the last decade, SunDevilSource examined the significance of regionality in recruiting, and compared and contrasted the approaches adopted by ASU's last two coaches, Graham and his predecessor Dennis Erickson.
In Part II, our research revealed that Erickson placed a much greater emphasis on recruiting the hotbeds for prospects lying within a 500-mile radius of ASU.
Erickson mined the state of Arizona and the talent-rich Southern California region for difference-makers, and more than 75 percent of Erickson's signees hailed from those two regions.
With most of his coaching roots planted in Texas and Oklahoma, Graham understandably began his tenure at ASU by taking a different approach. He de-emphasizing the program's hotbeds and establishing recruiting ties to regions such as Texas and Louisiana.
Graham's desire to push a broader, more national outreach into ASU's recruiting structure has resulted in a significant drop-off in the amount of players signing from the Sun Devils' traditional recruiting hotbeds, but has also allowed the program to make inroads in other areas of the country ripe with high school and junior college talent.
Though Erickson and Graham emphasized different recruiting tactics, they produced somewhat similar results on the recruiting trail, with Graham slightly edging out Erickson in terms of the Sun Devils' average class ranking and average star-ranking thanks in large part to two of the top classes ASU has ever signed, the 2014 and 2015 classes, which both ranked 17th nationally.
Following our regional breakdown of Erickson and Graham's tactics, SunDevilSource elected to look more closely at how and why Erickson and Graham's recruiting strategies evolved through the years, especially considering the Sun Devils have a chance to land one of the top local hauls in program history this season under a coach who struggled to recruit locally during his early years at ASU.
In this installment of our multi-part analysis, SunDevilSource looked at mapping data from the past 10 years, focusing closely on year-to-year shifts in Erickson and Graham's approaches by highlighting and evaluating emerging trends from the data.
In the following mapping data, please keep this key in mind:
Blue: 2-star recruit
Red: 3-star recruit
Black: 4-star recruit
Gray: 5-star recruit
The Erickson years
The map above features the locations Erickson signed his first recruiting class from in 2007. Though Erickson only signed 28 players outside of ASU's recruiting hotbeds during his five seasons with the program, nine of those players signed with his first class.
Most importantly, seven of the nine players Erickson signed outside of the Arizona and Southern California regions were two-star recruits, which suggests he and his staff had to scramble to complete their first recruiting class in 2007.
A coach's decision to pursue prospects outside of the 500-mile radius of the program they're recruiting requires more resources, because traveling back and forth to regions outside of a program's hotbeds obviously consumes more time. In the case of Erickson's 2007 class, he and his staff clearly didn't connect with top out-of-state prospects, as evidenced by the number of two-star recruits ASU signed out of its hotbeds.
Of the nine players signed outside of the Arizona and Southern California regions, only Portland's Bo Moos, a two-star recruit, would become a multi-year starter for Erickson at ASU. Did the Sun Devils' struggles to attract higher-caliber players in regions outside of Arizona and Southern California during Erickson's first season discourage ASU from expanding its recruiting map? Erickson's approach over the next four seasons suggests it may have been a deterrent.
In 2008, Erickson practically abandoned the strategy of pursuing recruits outside of ASU's hotbeds, as he signed all but four of his recruits inside of ASU's hotbeds.
Erickson's 2008 class featured one of ASU's strongest local hauls ever, as the Sun Devils signed eight high school players from the state of Arizona, including a pair of four-star players, wide receiver Gerrell Robinson and offensive lineman Zach Schlink. Though Schlink had to give up football due to knee problems, Robinson and three-star local prospects Deveron Carr (Chaparral) and Keelan Johnson (Mesa) all became multi-year starters at ASU.
Additionally, Erickson pulled together an impressive group of Southern California players in 2008, as his staff landed 15 signees from the region including five four-star recruits.
Erickson's 2008 class produced eight multi-year starters for the program, and of the four players ASU left the hotbeds to sign, two became multi-year starters. Both Lawrence Guy out of Western High in Las Vegas, Nevada and Andrew Sampson out of Overland High in Aurora, Colorado started in the trenches for ASU, which helped Erickson improve on his returns for leaving the hotbeds.
In 2009, the Sun Devils took a bit of a step back, signing more two-star recruits than they did in Erickson's second class in 2008. One of the factors that played into that was ASU keeping a high-profile in the Valley, as the Sun Devils signed nine recruits from Arizona high schools, which represents the most of the Erickson era.
After signing eight local prospects in 2008, all at least three-star recruits, Erickson took chances on four in-state recruits with two-star ratings, J.J. Holliday, Marcus Washington, Fred Thornton and Max Smith. Thornton didn't end up playing for ASU, while Holliday, Smith and Washington ended up serving as reserves for most of their careers. Though ASU found multi-year starters locally including Kody Koebensky and Jamal Miles, the 2009 cycle produced its best returns in Southern California.
What ASU's 2009 class lacked at home in Arizona, it made up for in the Sun Devils' other recruiting hotbed as Erickson found five multi-year starters in Southern California including two-time Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Will Sutton. With Sutton, tight end Chris Coyle, left tackle Evan Finkenberg, cornerback Osahon Irabor and linebacker Vontaze Burfict all becoming multi-year starters, Erickson's 2009 class proved just how important it was for his staff to maintain ties outside the state of Arizona, especially considering ASU gambled and lost on so many in-state players during this particular cycle.
Of the prospects Erickson signed outside the region, running back Cameron Marshall (San Jose, California) and quarterback Brock Osweiler (Kalispell, Montana) both developed into key starters, but safety Matt Tucker (Aurora, Colorado) and wide receiver Jarrid Bryant (Salisbury, Connecticut) didn't pan out.
Could ASU's success in Southern California in 2009 and its struggles in Arizona in 2009 have critically influenced the Sun Devils' recruiting approach in 2010?
It's entirely possible that Erickson and his staff realized early on that the players the program signed in Southern California were beginning to become more impactful than the players ASU signed in-state, but it's almost impossible to draw a definitive conclusion on a one-year basis within recruiting cycles.
Still, ASU took a Southern California-heavy approach to its 2010 cycle, as Erickson signed 17 players from the region that year while signing just four recruits from the state of Arizona.
Though all four of the signees from Arizona, Ramon Abreu, Jordan McDonald, Josh Fulton and Taylor Walstad boasted a three-star rating, none of the four players ended up earning playing time for the Sun Devils. As a result, a class that was already heavy on Southern California players needed those players to become productive assets, and ASU wound up with five players from the region who became multi-year starters.
Additionally, the 2010 class also produced out-of-hotbed signees such as four-star junior college safety Eddie Elder (San Mateo, California) and three-star quarterback Taylor Kelly (Eagle, Idaho) who became multi-year starters for the Sun Devils.
A year after gambling on two-star recruits within the state of Arizona failed to work out for Erickson's staff, a few of the chances the Sun Devils took on two-star players in Southern California, namely Alden Darby and Brice Schwab, ended up as quality assets at ASU.
After setting and developing a clear foundation for his recruiting strategy during the first four years of his tenure, Erickson broke from the strategy in a rather surprising manner with his final signing class in 2011.
Much like he did with his first signing class, Erickson left the hotbeds to pursue multiple recruits from the state of Florida, a region Erickson possessed experience recruiting thanks to his days as head coach of the Miami Hurricanes. Still, instead of zeroing in on high-profile talent, Erickson wound up signing three recruits from the state of Florida, including a pair of two-stars, Joe Eason and Stanley Absanon.
While Erickson's venture into Florida didn't pay dividends for the program, his willingness to sign a pair of two-star junior college recruits outside of the hotbeds netted ASU a pair of eventual starters, Rashad Ross and Davon Coleman.
Nevertheless, Erickson's 2011 recruiting class produced less overall value for the Sun Devils than any of his previous four classes, as just six of the 20 players signed ever became full-time starters, with only three of those players, Coleman, offensive guard Vi Teofilo and punter Josh Hubner representing the only multi-year starters of the signees.
After attempting to sign the majority of his players from Arizona and Southern California during the previous three recruiting cycles, Erickson still followed that approach in 2011, but didn't end up as successful in either region as he was previously during his tenure. Of the eight players Erickson signed from Southern California in 2011, only quarterback Mike Bercovici started a full season at ASU, highlighting the severe drop off the Sun Devils experienced in the region in Erickson's last recruiting class.
The Graham years
Much like Erickson's first class in 2007, Graham's first signing class in 2012 needed to be constructed quickly as the Sun Devils' coach was hired in December of 2011, with less than two months remaining until National Signing Day.
Though Erickson's 2007 class didn't provide much of a blueprint for his recruiting strategy in the coming years, Graham's 2012 class offers a window of insight into the recruiting approach he would use down the line at ASU.
After Erickson signed just two players from the state of Texas during his tenure, Graham signed three in his first class including four-star junior college running back Marion Grice and three-star linebacker Laiu Moeakiola.
Additionally, Graham entered the state of Florida to land the brother of Erickson recruit Devin Goodman, four-star offensive tackle Evan Goodman.
Still, needing to construct a class in a limited amount of time, Graham couldn't expand beyond ASU's recruiting hotbeds too far. As a result, Graham and his staff ended up signing four high school players from Arizona, including the landmark signee of Graham's early years, four-star recruit D.J. Foster, and five junior college players from the state, including three from Arizona Western College.
Most of the remaining parts of ASU's 2012 class came from Southern California, where Graham signed 11 players, but didn't enjoy much success. Of the Southern California signees, only linebacker Salamo Fiso became a multi-year starter at ASU, while five of the players from the region didn't end up playing for the Sun Devils.
Coupled with an underwhelming haul from Southern California in 2011, Graham's 2012 class of Southern California signees may have influenced the coach's approach to recruiting at ASU, as the Sun Devils began to expand their national reach, especially in Texas and Louisiana, in the coming seasons.
Graham's first opportunity to coach and recruit through a complete cycle at ASU highlighted the trend that began to emerge following the completion of his 2012 signing class.
Though ASU would still comb the program's natural hotbeds for talent, Graham and his staff would take a broader approach on a national scale in an effort to find players that fit his particular schemes.
In 2013, the Sun Devils signed four players from the state of Texas, two from Louisiana and six players from Northern California, a region Erickson didn't recruit heavily during his tenure at ASU.
Of the four players from Texas and two from Louisiana, only kicker Zane Gonzalez, a post-Signing Day addition to the program, became a multi-year starter, but nevertheless, ASU's struggles in the region didn't deter Graham from returning to his roots in the coming years.
Of the six players ASU signed from Northern California, five hailed from junior colleges, which demonstrated an effort to build upon the junior college success Graham found in his first class at ASU when he signed players like Grice and Spur linebacker Chris Young from the junior college ranks.
In total, ASU signed just three high school players from Arizona and four high school players from Southern California in its 25-man signing class in 2013. Instead of relying on the same tactics Erickson used to recruit at ASU, Graham and his staff began to construct their own approach, relying heavily on junior college transfers --the Sun Devils signed eight in 2013-- to fill out the depth chart and make up for weaker overall classes in 2011 and 2012.
Ultimately, the tactic paid off for the Sun Devils as Graham found junior college players from ASU's hotbeds, like Damarious Randall from Mesa Community College and Jaelen Strong from Los Angeles' Pierce College, as well as JUCO recruits from around the country, like Antonio Longino from Hutchinson College in Kansas and Marcus Hardison from Dodge City College in Kansas to fill immediate needs and help the Sun Devils to back-to-back 10-win seasons.
In 2014, Graham enjoyed his greatest success yet at ASU, building off the success of a 10-win campaign and a Pac-12 South title in 2013 thanks in large part to the play of immediate-impact junior college transfers.
After signing eight junior college players in 2013, ASU could afford to reduce that number in 2014, but the Sun Devils still pulled in six junior college transfers during this cycle.
With an influx of talent at the top of the program thanks to players like Randall and Strong and a highly successful season to build upon, ASU wound up attracting an impressive slew of high school players in 2014. In total, ASU signed seven four-star recruits, six of which came from the high school ranks.
Still, the Sun Devils struggled to attract the top in-state talent at the high school level, as ASU signed just three in-state high school players, defensive back Tyler Whiley, defensive end Ismael Murphy-Richardson and offensive lineman Quinn Bailey in its 2014 class.
During that recruiting cycle, top in-state recruits like quarterback Kyle Allen (Desert Mountain), Mark Andrews (Desert Mountain), Jalen Brown (Mountain Pointe) and Casey Tucker (Hamilton) all opted to leave the state, leaving the Sun Devils without high-profile talent to collect.
Graham and his staff made up for the lack of top-end in-state talent, though, as the Sun Devils snagged four-star running back Demario Richard from Southern California, four-star quarterback Manny Wilkins from Northern California and four-star defensive tackle Tashon Smallwood from Central California.
ASU also made a more significant push east of the Great Plains in 2014, as the Sun Devils secured the commitment of four-star defensive lineman Renell Wren from Missouri, as well commitments from three three-star junior college transfers, Dalvon Stuckey, Darrius Caldwell and De'Chavon Hayes.
Though Stuckey and Caldwell never made it to campus for ASU, Graham's initiative to expand the pools from which the Sun Devils could draw their talent was clear. While ASU may not have had much success east of Texas in 2014, the Sun Devils did do a good job elsewhere on the map, especially in terms of finding impactful three-star recruits like running back Kalen Ballage and offensive lineman Sam Jones from Colorado as well as three-star safety Armand Perry from Nevada.
The 2014 and 2015 maps help demonstrate the differences in Erickson and Graham's approaches at roughly the same junctures during their respective tenures.
During the middle three years of Erickson's time at ASU, he and his staff slowly but surely began to take more chances on two-star recruits in Southern California after the tactic of gambling on two-star and many three-star recruits didn't pay off in-state in Arizona in 2008 and 2009.
Graham, meanwhile, used Southern California to look for highly-touted players with the potential to impact the program immediately in 2014 and 2015, as evidenced by the average star-rating of his recruits in the region. Of the 16 players ASU signed out of Southern California in 2014 and 2015, nine boasted four-star rankings while the remaining seven were rated as three-star recruits. Graham's average star-rating in Southern California during the two-year stretch of 3.56 far outpaces the 2.92 average star-rating of Erickson's recruits in the region between 2009 and 2010.
Graham's 2015 recruiting class ranked 17th nationally and set the program record for average star-rating with an average mark of 3.43 among the 25 signees, a mark elevated thanks to the program-record nine four-star recruits ASU landed during that cycle.
However, even though ASU enjoyed statistical success with excellent recruiting rankings, many of the highly-touted recruits have yet to, or won't have the chance to, develop into contributors for the Sun Devils. Four-star outside linebacker recruit Bo Wallace (Louisiana) and four-star running back recruit Jason Lewis (Virginia) have already left the program, while five-star junior college transfer Davon Durant (Kansas) and four-star defensive back Stanley Norman (Southern California) didn't even make it to fall camp. With four-star wide receiver Terrell Chatman (Louisiana) still looking for a role on offense and four-star inside linebacker Khaylan Thomas (Southern California) coming off a knee injury that forced him to redshirt in 2016, ASU is hoping the 2015 recruiting class will be able to improve its perception as time moves along.
After finishing 6-7 in 2015, ASU took a step back on the recruiting trail in 2016 and finished with the 30th ranked class in the country.
The Sun Devils' on-field struggles offered a sharp contrast to the program's 10-win seasons in 2013 and 2014, as ASU appeared short on depth at a handful of position groups, but most noticeably in the defensive backfield.
Further complicating ASU's recruiting approach in 2016 was the significant staff turnover Graham experienced for the first time during his tenure. When offensive coordinator Mike Norvell departed to take the head coaching job at Memphis, he brought tight ends coach Chip Long and defensive backs coach Chris Ball along with him. Additionally, defensive line coach Jackie Shipp left ASU for the same position at Missouri, while running backs coach Bo Graham resigned in the middle of the 2015 season.
With five new coaches on staff, ASU didn't have time to build off of long-lasting relationships with prospects cultivated over a one-to-two year period, and the Sun Devils went from late December to the end of January without receiving a commitment, a reflection of the challenges faced by breaking in an almost entirely new staff. Ultimately, the Sun Devils took a step back in the national recruiting rankings, but still finished 30th because ASU finished with the top-rated junior college class in the country.
After experiencing an immediate boost from an outstanding crop of junior college transfers in 2013, Graham and his staff once again elected to hit the junior college ranks hard in 2016 in an effort to steer the program back on course. Ultimately, the Sun Devils wound up signing 10 junior college transfers, but ASU's insistence on searching the country for impact recruits failed to pay dividends the same way it did in 2013.
Of the 10 junior college recruits ASU signed, nine came from programs outside the state of Arizona including two from Texas, one from Kansas and one from Oklahoma. While the Sun Devils hoped the three junior college signees in the defensive backfield, Maurice Chandler, J'Marcus Rhodes and Deion Guignard would lead an immediate turnaround, none of the players became a regular starter for ASU in 2016.
The junior-college heavy approach in 2016 still has an opportunity to pan out for ASU if Chandler can become a full-service corner in 2017, if Koron Crump can build off a successful campaign and if signees like center A.J. McCollum and defensive lineman Christian Hill make a jump next season, but the strategy could have done more harm than good by compromising ASU's depth.
The silver lining for ASU with its 2016 recruiting class is the re-emergence of a strong presence with top talent in the program's hotbeds. After missing out on five-star receiver Christian Kirk (Saguaro) in the Class of 2015, ASU landed a massive commitment from the state's top player, four-star wide receiver N'Keal Harry (Chandler) who went on to re-write ASU's freshman record books and become a Freshman All-American.
Additionally, the Sun Devils signed four-star cornerback Chase Lucas (Chandler) and three-star offensive lineman Marshal Nathe (Centennial) giving ASU three of the state's top recruits. With the signings of three-star offensive lineman Cohl Cabral and three-star wide receiver Kyle Williams out of Southern California, the Sun Devils made up for a handful of questionable junior college signings with a strong mix of high school recruits from key regions.
Contrasting approaches lead to contrasting maps
ASU signees from 2007-2016
Over the past 10 years, ASU has signed more than 240 recruits from all over the country, giving the impression that the Sun Devils have an allure to recruits as far north as Montana, as far east as New Jersey and as far south as Florida.
However, as SunDevilSource has covered in each of the last two parts of our analysis of ASU's recruiting operation, the different manners in which Erickson and Graham have approach recruiting skews the program's national map over the last decade. While it's fascinating to see all of the locations the Sun Devils have drawn from in the last 10 years, it's far more informative to view and draw conclusions from the individual maps of the locations Erickson and Graham signed recruits from over their respective tenures.
Erickson's signees from 2007-2011
Graham's signees from 2012-2016
What becomes quite obvious from comparing and contrasting Erickson and Graham's national maps is that Graham has typically been able to attract a much higher-caliber of recruit outside of ASU's hotbeds than Erickson did, which likely helped Graham embrace a broader approach to recruiting.
When Erickson first arrived at ASU in 2007, he and his staff signed nine players outside of ASU's recruiting hotbeds, but seven of those players were rated as two-star recruits. Though Erickson may have hoped to build inroads in particular locations such as Florida, where he recruited four players from in 2007 and had previous coaching experience, the caliber of player his program attracted from those locations wasn't strong enough for ASU to consider devoting more time and resources to that region.
After failing to land difference-makers outside of the 500-mile radius surrounding ASU's campus in 2007, Erickson significantly altered his approach in the coming years, focusing the vast majority of his attention on Arizona and Southern California, with the occasional venture into Nevada and Colorado.
Erickson's recruiting strategy continued to evolve beyond 2008, though, as he often had to accept commitments from two-star players to fill out his classes. Of the 40 two-star players ASU has signed in the last decade, three quarters signed between 2007 and 2011 while just one quarter signed between 2012 and 2016.
Where Erickson looked for and accepted commitments from two-star recruits evolved through the years, as Erickson shifted his approach from attempting to fill out his classes with local prospects to trying to find more undervalued two-star talent in Southern California.
Graham, meanwhile, entered ASU with much deeper roots outside of the Sun Devils' traditional hotbeds, spending much of his coaching career in Texas and Oklahoma. Even if Graham didn't adopt a broader approach to recruiting in his first cycle, he was still likely to pursue recruits in locations like Texas and Louisiana because that's where he's experienced past success.
Furthermore, Graham didn't find himself having to settle for two-star recruits the way Erickson did when the coaches first expanded beyond Arizona and Southern California, which likely made Graham more inclined to open up ASU's recruiting map.
Though Graham and his staff still focus heavily on landing recruits in Arizona and Southern California, the Sun Devils' haven't been as dependent on doing so in the last five seasons because their coaching staff possessed a more diverse background than it did during Erickson's tenure with the program.
To provide additional perspective on the coaches' contrasting styles, SunDevilSource created more localized maps focusing on how Erickson and Graham recruited in the Valley, in Southern California and in the South.
Erickson in the Phoenix-area
Graham in the Phoenix-area
Erickson in Southern California
Graham in Southern California
Erickson in the South
Graham in the South
The significance of Erickson and Graham's approaches
Near the end of Part III of our analysis of ASU's recruiting tactics, it's obvious that Erickson and Graham applied contrasting styles to the recruiting trail based in large part on their prior coaching experience and on the success each coach had recruiting particular regions.
Erickson's strategy of signing the majority of his recruits from Arizona and Southern California allowed the Sun Devils to establish meaningful relationships and deeper roots in the two regions the program has historically relied on to provide it with the talent to compete in the Pac-10/Pac-12.
Graham's strategy of signing half his players from ASU's hotbeds and half of his recruits outside the Sun Devils' top two regions allowed he and his staff to play on their prior experience as coaches, raise ASU's profile on a national scale, and give the program a greater presence in regions like Texas and Louisiana that have traditionally been ripe with Power 5-caliber talent.
While the strategies each have their pros and cons, the staff's evolving approaches over time demonstrated that a program like ASU is unlikely to secure enough commitments from three and four-star prospects within a 500-mile radius of the program to keep the depth of the program at a sufficient level to compete in the Pac-10/Pac-12.
On average, Erickson was typically five to six recruits short of filling out ASU's classes with three and four-star prospects, so he made the decision to round out his classes with two-star prospects from ASU's hotbeds after failing to experience success outside of the Sun Devils' main recruiting regions in his first class in 2007. As a result, Erickson wound up signing 30 two-star recruits during his five-year tenure at ASU, which is three times that amount that Graham signed during his first five recruiting cycles.
Though Graham has signed just 10 two-star recruits to date, he also hasn't been able to round out his classes with three and four-star talent from Arizona and Southern California. In fact, a much lower percentage of Graham's overall signees come from these regions, but Graham has compensated for that by signing more three and four-star recruits than Erickson did.
In an ideal world for an ASU coach, the Sun Devils wouldn't have to leave their 500-mile radius to find the requisite depth needed in each signing class. For a handful of seasons, Erickson rarely left that radius, instead electing to sign a lower-caliber of recruit from regions ASU felt most comfortable in. Graham, on the other hand, chose the opposite approach, and was better served to do that because of a demonstrated ability to recruit in Southern states based on his previous coaching stops.
Entering the sixth season of Graham's tenure at ASU, the Sun Devils are following a similar approach to the one they've employed for the first five seasons under Graham. While ASU has already received six commitments from in-state high school prospects for its 2017 class, the Sun Devils likely won't receive as many commitments as they traditionally have under Graham from high school prospects in Southern California.
Of the 11 players currently committed to ASU, only Alabama transfer and four-star quarterback Blake Barnett qualifies as a Southern California prospect, leaving the Sun Devils largely devoid of top-end talent in a critical recruiting region.
Will ASU experience a late-in-the-cycle spike in Southern California commits? Likely not. Instead, the Sun Devils will do as they've typically done under Graham, and play to their coaching staff's strengths. With assistants like offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey, defensive coordinator Keith Patterson and running backs coach John Simon who all have experience recruiting in the Great Plains and in the South, ASU will continue to make inroads with three and four-star prospects from those regions in order to complete its 2017 recruiting class.
With a greater number of recruits coming from Arizona in this particular cycle, ASU hasn't focused as much on Southern California. Ultimately, the number of players Graham signs from the hotbed regions averages out to about 12 per cycle, and with ASU expecting to bring in a slightly smaller recruiting class this year, the final numbers should reveal that Graham and his staff are continuing to pursue the same strategy they've used for the past five seasons.
Because of his coaching staff's ties to outside regions and his reluctance to round out classes with lower-rated recruits from local regions, Graham appears intent on continuing ASU's broad-based approach to recruiting, remaining hopeful the Sun Devils can entice a higher-caliber of prospect to journey out west and join the program.