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Part IV of an ASU recruiting analysis: Evaluating the Sun Devils' success recruiting junior college players

Arizona State has historically attracted many of the nation's top junior college prospects, and in his first five seasons in Tempe, head coach Todd Graham has attempted to capitalize on the Sun Devils' ability to nab immediate impact recruits from the junior college ranks.

Editor's Note: This is the fourth 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. The third part of the series highlighted the manner in which Erickson and Graham's strategies to recruiting evolved over the course of their tenures. 

When Arizona State and head coach Todd Graham announced the program's 2016 signing class, the Sun Devils were able to tout an impressive accomplishment: ASU landed the No. 1 class of junior college signees in the entire country.

With three four-star prospects among the eight junior college players the Sun Devils announced on National Signing Day, ASU believed it had secured an impressive group of immediate impact recruits, no small feat considering the program underwent significant turnover among its assistant coaches between the conclusion of the regular season and Signing Day. 

In the weeks following Signing Day, ASU rounded out its 2016 recruiting class with two more junior college additions, bringing the total number of JUCO signees to 10 and giving the Sun Devils their deepest class of junior college products in the Internet era. 

Signing a double-digit total of junior college prospects is a rarity at ASU, even for a school that has historically attracted junior college players and for a coach who is no stranger to mining the junior college ranks.

In Graham's first five seasons at ASU, more than 30 percent of all recruits he's signed hailed from the junior college ranks. That number is slightly inflated because of the priority Graham placed on raiding the JUCO level for top talent during as he was looking to make an immediate impact with his first two recruiting classes.

Despite signing 10 junior college players in 2016, only four-star recruit and Second Team All-Pac-12 selection Koron Crump started throughout the entirety of his first season with the program, as many of the other prospects ASU signed struggled to assimilate to the FBS level.

While center A.J. McCollum, safety J'Marcus Rhodes and cornerback Maurice Chandler all earned starts for the Sun Devils last season, the trio lacked the consistency to hold full-time starting roles. 

Furthermore, other junior college additions like offensive lineman Alex Losoya, defensive lineman Christian Hill and defensive back Deion Guignard didn't contribute regularly, but didn't merit a redshirt season either as ASU's coaching staff elected to use all three players in 2016 in lieu of holding the players off the field for an extra year of preparation.

The decision to use players like Losoya, Hill and Guignard in 2016 reveals a fatal flaw in the often boom-or-bust world of junior college recruiting, and it's a flaw all coaching staffs consider when they pursue junior college prospects. Should a junior college recruit arrive on campus ill-prepared to contribute or lack the necessary athleticism to develop into a starter-caliber player, coaching staffs face a decision regarding whether they should use a redshirt year to save up a recruit's potential contributions, or use the player in a limited role, which often amounts to an admittance of a failed recruiting evaluation. 

Instead of redshirting Losoya, Hill and Guignard, who all entered ASU with three seasons to play out their remaining two years of eligibility, the Sun Devils' coaches used the players in limited capacities, which will expedite the players' journey through the program and free up their scholarships sooner rather than later. 

Ultimately, though, most of the junior college recruits Graham signed in 2016 still have an opportunity to shape their individual narratives within the Sun Devils' program. While coaches prefer junior college prospects to make immediate contributions, a player's development and assimilation to major college football often takes longer than anticipated. 

Nevertheless, recruiting junior college athletes has been an important part of ASU's talent acquisition process for many years. In part IV of SunDevilSource's ASU recruiting analysis, we've evaluated the success rate the Sun Devils have managed in their pursuit of talent at the junior college level, and compared and contrasted the approaches taken by both Graham and his predecessor, Dennis Erickson.

Much like previous parts of our ASU recruiting analysis, SunDevilSource's results are data-driven based on Scout recruiting rankings and players' eventual impact within the ASU program. To understand how ASU has achieved its best recruiting results through the years, it's imperative to evaluate the Sun Devils' success adding prospects from the junior college level, which have accounted for just over a quarter of all ASU signees over the last decade. 

Varied approaches to junior college recruiting

Over the past decade, ASU has signed more than 60 players from the junior college ranks, with almost half of all junior college signees coming in Graham's three most prolific seasons recruiting junior college players, 2012, 2013 and 2016.

While Erickson and Graham took vastly different approaches to regional recruiting at ASU, they also applied different strategies to recruiting junior college players.

Even though Erickson signed 14 fewer junior college players during his five seasons at ASU than Graham did during his first five seasons with the program, Erickson (8) still landed four more commitments from four-star junior college prospects than Graham (4) did between 2012-2016.

One-third of the 24 junior college players Erickson signed during his five-year tenure at ASU ranked as four-star recruits, with nearly half of his junior college recruits ranking as three-star prospects. Even though roughly 80 percent of the recruits both Erickson and Graham signed from the junior college ranks carried at least a three-star rating, the average star rating of Erickson's junior college signees (3.125) outpaced the average star rating of Graham's junior college signees (2.97).

So while the average overall star rating of Graham's signees between 2012-2016 is greater than the average overall star rating of Erickson's signees between 2007-2011, Erickson was able to secure higher-rated recruits at the junior college level.

Additionally, Erickson didn't pursue as many junior college recruits as Graham, with just 20 percent of Erickson's signees hailing from the junior college ranks while more than 30 percent of Graham's signees played at the junior college level.  

As Erickson prioritized signing higher-caliber players at the junior college level, Graham prioritized finding more overall talent from junior colleges than his predecessor, which demonstrates an obvious contrast in the coaches' approaches to junior college recruiting.

The impact of a JUCO-heavy class

Though Erickson never signed more than six junior college players in a single class, the number of junior college signees Graham has secured has changed significantly over his first five years in the program.

In Graham's first two seasons at ASU, he signed a total of 19 players from the junior college ranks, with nine signing in Graham's inaugural class in 2012 and 10 signing in the following class.

Following 10-win seasons in 2013 and 2014, however, Graham pulled back on his hyper-aggressive approach to signing junior college talent, as the Sun Devils nabbed just five junior college players in 2014 and a Graham-era low four junior college prospects in 2015. 

After experiencing his first sub .500 season at ASU in 2015, however, Graham returned to his JUCO-heavy approach, tying the program record for junior college signees by securing 10 commitments in ASU's 2016 recruiting class.

After a precipitous drop off in the amount of junior college recruits Graham signed in 2014 and 2015, the Sun Devils' 6-7 finish in 2015 coupled with the turnover of five assistant coaches likely pushed ASU toward another JUCO-heavy signing class in 2016.

Even though Graham had been trending toward taking more high school recruits as he settled in at ASU, the Sun Devils experienced some of their greatest success in finding immediate impact contributors from the junior college ranks in Graham's first two seasons with the program.

While Erickson has signed a greater percentage of multi-year starters from the junior college ranks, of the 38 junior college players Graham has signed from the JUCO level, 10 became multi-year starters. Of those 10 players, eight joined the program in the 2012 and 2013 signing classes, which helps demonstrate why Graham found immediate success at ASU.

Even though many of the starters on Graham's 10-win teams in 2013 and 2014 were recruited by Erickson and his staff, eight key players including running back Marion Grice, linebacker Chris Young, wide receiver Jaelen Strong and safety Damarious Randall signed out of junior college in 2012 and 2013, which helped the Sun Devils to two of their most successful seasons since the program's 1996 Rose Bowl run.

The raw statistics pitting Erickson's success with junior college recruits against Graham's success with junior college prospects reveal Erickson has a slight edge -- likely as a result of pursuing higher-caliber recruits -- but the impact Graham's junior college signees had during his first three seasons with the program is undeniably significant.

In fact, if we look solely at the results of Graham's junior college recruits from his first two classes, which produced 19 signees, against the results of Erickson's recruits from all five of his classes, Graham enjoyed a much greater success rate of finding multi-year starters.

Graham found remarkable success with recruiting, signing and developing recruits from the junior college level in his first two cycles at ASU, as seven of the eight multi-year starters from those two classes wound up signing contracts with NFL teams, including two -- Strong and Randall -- who were selected within the first three rounds of the NFL Draft.

The only multi-year starter signed out of junior college between 2012 and 2013 who didn't earn a shot with an NFL team was center Nick Kelly, who even came back to ASU as a graduate assistant this fall. 

Nevertheless, ASU's reliance on landing immediate impact contributors from the junior college ranks in the early years of Graham's tenure was likely to prove unsustainable, especially because the period also coincided with a multi-year stretch in which the Sun Devils failed to secure commitments from defensive backs capable of playing Graham's desired defensive scheme.

By the time Graham had established a culture of success and largely reduced ASU's need to rely so heavily on junior college signees, though, the Sun Devils were forced to return to the strategy that proved so fruitful in 2012 and 2013. Following the departure of offensive coordinator Mike Norvell who left ASU to become the head coach at Memphis as well as four other assistant coaches, Graham was tasked with hiring five new coaches charged with helping the Sun Devils fill out their 2016 recruiting class.

Without long-term relationships with high school recruits to rely on, ASU wound up signing 10 junior college players in 2016, including three defensive backs and three offensive linemen, positions at which the Sun Devils struggled to recruit successfully earlier in the Graham era.

While the Sun Devils were likely headed for a larger junior college class than the ones in which they had signed in 2014 and 2015 because all 10 of the 2013 JUCO signees had departed the program by the end of the 2015 season, ASU's coaching turnover and sub .500 season essentially created the perfect storm for another JUCO-heavy class. 

Just as Graham and the Sun Devils had reached the point in his tenure where ASU hoped to escape what can sometimes devolve into a never-ending cycle of needing to sign junior college players, ASU ended up inking a record-tying 10 junior college prospects in its 2016 signing class, and could only hope to match the type of success Graham found earlier in his tenure when he hit on a goldmine of ready-made contributors.

The junior college cycle

As Erickson and Graham took different approaches to recruiting the junior college level, only Graham has had to adapt to the challenges associated with becoming so reliant on junior college prospects.

While Erickson made certain recruiting missteps, such as being too reliant on signing borderline Pac-12 caliber players from ASU's recruiting hotbeds -- especially in Arizona -- Graham encountered a difficult situation because of his focus on achieving immediate success with junior college athletes.

Because Erickson failed to produce a Top-25 recruiting class in his final three cycles with the program, including his final season in 2011, when he signed the nation's 63rd ranked class, Graham entered ASU with a difficult decision to make. ASU's newest head coach could attempt to revive the program through building and maintaining relationships with high school recruits, or he could try to expedite the rebuilding process by securing commitments from immediate impact contributors from the junior college level.

Both paths Graham faced brought inherent risks. Should he have chosen to prioritize high school recruits, Graham would have needed patience from ASU's administration and fanbase, because it would likely take multiple years to develop high school recruits into capable, Pac-12-caliber contributors. Instead, Graham opted to infuse the program with junior college talent, a risky venture considering that for various reasons, many junior college players never pan out at the FBS level. 

Additionally, with the challenges of putting a full staff in place in a matter of just two months, the Sun Devils likely wouldn't have been able to sign enough high-quality high school recruits at ASU, especially given Graham's previous recruiting experience.

In part II and part III of our ASU recruiting analysis, we noted that Erickson and his staff had stronger ties to the west coast, which allowed his staff to sign more recruits from the Sun Devils' recruiting hotbeds in Arizona and Southern California earlier in his tenure. Graham, in contrast, spent much of his coaching career in Texas and Oklahoma, and as a result, the Sun Devils' first recruiting class under Graham in 2012 featured three recruits from Texas, nine recruits from the junior college ranks, and just one four-star recruit, running back D.J. Foster, from one of the program's recruiting hotbeds.

Even though he incorporated a disciplined, no-nonsense approach at ASU that doesn't necessarily translate easily to players coming from traditionally more relaxed junior college programs, Graham elected to pursue a high quantity of junior college players early in his tenure to help ease his transition to the program and to give the Sun Devils a more immediate shot at winning early. 

The strategy produced immediate results -- back-to-back 10-win seasons in 2013 and 2014 that included a Pac-12 South title in Graham's second season at ASU -- but it was also a strategy destined to backfire if ASU needed to rely as heavily on junior college recruits later in Graham's tenure.

Signing fewer high school recruits creates and extends challenges associated with building depth over the long-term, because without a large quantity of highly-rated high school athletes to fall back on, a need to rely on junior college talent arises and persists. 

Based on the graph comparing Graham's 2012 and 2013 junior college classes with Erickson's five junior college classes and the graph comparing all of Graham's junior college classes with all of Erickson's junior college classes, it's clear that the success Graham enjoyed recruiting junior college players in 2012, and especially in 2013, was an outlier. 

In part I and II of our ASU recruiting analysis, we showed that about one-quarter of all signees in the past decade have developed into multi-year starters, while just under 30 percent of signees didn't end up playing for the Sun Devils. While ASU's junior college signees have been slightly more likely to contribute in some form or another compared to high school signees, the rate of junior college signees and high school signees who become multi-year starters is almost equivalent. 

With that in mind, the rates produced by ASU's junior college class in 2013, where six of 10 signees became multi-year starters, one of 10 became a one-year starter, two of 10 became reserves and one of 10 didn't play reveal a significant break from the overall trend.

As a result, when the junior college signees from the 2013 class departed the program following the 2015 season, ASU needed another outlier-type of recruiting class to sustain recruiting momentum and fill the program with the requisite depth it needs to compete in the Pac-12 on an annual basis. 

While ASU did manage to sign the nation's No. 1 junior college class, it's a class that isn't likely to produce more than one multi-year starter (Koron Crump). While signees like four-star Devil backer prospect Doug Subtyl, Chandler and Rhodes still have a chance to lock down full-time starting roles in the future, ASU doesn't have a chance of replicating the type of success it found in the junior college ranks in 2013. 

ASU's over-reliance on recruiting junior college prospects helped the program significantly early in Graham's tenure, but at this point, the 2016 junior college signing class threatens to set the program back over a multi-year period. Because the Sun Devils now have a high volume of players unlikely to develop into multi-year starters taking up valuable scholarships, ASU is unable to stock the program with enough high school recruits, especially at certain position groups.

Within the junior college cycle ASU has experienced under Graham is a developing trend of needing to be over-reliant on junior college recruiting at certain position groups, particularly along the defensive line and in the defensive backfield.

In the past 10 years, 28 of the 62 junior college players the Sun Devils have signed have played either defensive tackle, defensive end, cornerback or safety. ASU's recruitment of junior college defensive backs spiked last season, as a result of the Sun Devils' failure to recruit quality high school cornerbacks and safeties early in Graham's tenure.

In 2016, the Sun Devils signed Chandler, Rhodes and Guignard, all of whom ASU hoped could become immediate contributors in the wake of recruiting misses that led to Graham's defense finishing last in average passing yards allowed in 2015. Though Chandler may earn a starting spot in 2017, the Sun Devils didn't find a junior college player capable of stepping in and plugging a hole in the defensive backfield this season, a campaign in which ASU produced the nation's worst passing defense for the second straight year. 

With Chandler, Rhodes and Guignard all taking up a scholarship in 2017, ASU can't replenish the defensive backfield with high school talent the way it needs to in the 2017 recruiting cycle without shortchanging other position groups. 

While the Sun Devils' reliance on recruiting junior college defensive backs has existed for the better part of the last decade, so too has the program's reliance on finding defensive linemen within the junior college ranks.

Aside from the program's recent struggles to recruit high school defensive backs who project to ASU's defensive scheme, the Sun Devils have also been challenged to find big-bodied defensive linemen with the athleticism to hold their own against Pac-12-caliber offensive linemen. 

Under Graham, ASU has missed on evaluations of players like Chans Cox, Kisima Jagne, senior Corey Smith, junior Connor Humphreys and junior Emanuel Dayries, and as a result, the Sun Devils have attempted to make up for their shortcomings with junior college talent. 

The cycle of attempting to plug ASU's roster with junior college defensive linemen actually began under Erickson, who recruited more junior college players at this position than at any other spot on the roster. From 2007-2011, more than one quarter of Erickson's junior college signees played defensive line, but only two of those players, Louis Vasquez and Davon Coleman, developed into starters for the Sun Devils, as the remainder either didn't play at ASU or spent their career as reserves. 

Erickson's failure to stock the defensive line with capable high school and junior college talent spurred a cycle of junior college signees at the position group, as Graham signed at least two JUCO defensive linemen in each of his first three seasons at ASU. Even in 2014, when the Sun Devils signed just two junior college players, Graham made a late push to add to the defensive line when he secured commitments from Dalvon Stuckey and Darrius Caldwell, a pair of junior college players who never ended up at ASU.

After graduating just two players along the team's defensive front this year, Viliami Latu and former junior college transfer, defensive end Edmond Boateng, ASU may not secure a commitment from a junior college defensive lineman in the current recruiting cycle. Though the Sun Devils are still interested in three-star Snow College prospect and Oklahoma State commit Fua Leilua, missing out on Leilua could mean ASU would finish a recruiting cycle without a junior college addition at the position group for the first time since 2010, the only year in the last decade that's happened.

ASU's failure to sign more impactful contributors along the team's defensive line has hurt the team's overall depth in recent seasons, especially over the last three recruiting cycles, as only two of the team's five signees along the defensive front wound up playing for the Sun Devils. Stuckey, Caldwell and junior college transfer Deonte Reynolds never panned out for ASU, while Boateng was a career reserve and 2016 signee Christian Hill appears destined to meet the same fate.

If not for the dependability of high school recruits like senior Tashon Smallwood, junior Joseph Wicker, junior Renell Wren and sophomore George Lea, the Sun Devils likely would have to pursue lower-rated junior college defensive linemen during the 2017 recruiting cycle, as a result of their failure to land meaningful contributors from the junior college ranks and failure to draw interest from higher-rated junior college linemen in this cycle.

The give and take is clear: When ASU misses on evaluations of high school recruits like they did in the cases of players like Smith, Humphreys and Dayries, the Sun Devils need to hit on a higher percentage of junior college players. When junior college signees aren't able to contribute, the Sun Devils have to hit on a higher percentage of high school players. A failure to recruit effectively at both levels for multiple years is a death sentence for a position group, and along the defensive line and in the defensive backfield, the Sun Devils have nearly met such a fate.

With an ideal scholarship number of defensive linemen for a college roster with a scheme like ASU resting around 10-to-11 players, and an ideal number of cornerbacks and field safeties for the Sun Devils sitting in the same range, ASU cannot afford to sign poorly evaluated players at either the junior college or high school level during the next few recruiting cycles. If the Sun Devils make more mistakes on the recruiting trail, the cyclical nature of needing to rely on junior college players will continue, when over the course of the last five years, Graham has enjoyed nearly equivalent success recruiting high school talent.

Can recruiting junior college talent provide long-term stability?

As Graham has learned over the past five years, recruiting junior college talent is often a risky, boom-or-bust strategy. 

In 2013, the Sun Devils' decision to hit the junior college ranks netted ASU recruits like Strong and Randall who helped change the trajectory of the program under Graham, and provided immediate help at position groups in desperate need of an infusion of talent.

Because ASU struggled to recruit quality defensive backs and wide receivers in the early years of Graham's tenure, the two-year tenures of Strong and Randall at their respective positions helped ASU mask recruiting errors with All-Pac-12 caliber talent that helped lead the Sun Devils to a pair of 10-win seasons.

However, the Sun Devils' 2016 junior college signing class, a unit ranked No. 1 in the country thanks to the addition of 10 JUCO transfers, won't end up with the ability to mask similar errors. While ASU's wide receiver recruiting has improved and doesn't need a game-changer like Strong, the Sun Devils are still experiencing setbacks in the defensive backfield stemming from recruiting failures that continued even after Randall arrived in Tempe.

Of the three defensive backs ASU signed from the junior college ranks last season, only Chandler should have a strong opportunity to start in 2017, likely leaving Rhodes and Guignard in reserve roles. Along the offensive line, ASU also signed three junior college prospects in its last recruiting cycle, and only McCollum will likely earn an opportunity to start this season. With signees like Losoya and offensive tackle Tyson Rising probably resigned to reserve roles, ASU doesn't have enough scholarships available to hand out to high school recruits during the 2017 recruiting cycle, which could mean the Sun Devils are headed toward a scenario where they must take chances on junior college players who can contribute more immediately when players like Rising and Losoya ultimately graduate.

Because Erickson and Graham approached junior college recruiting with decidedly different strategies, it's difficult to determine one streamlined conclusion regarding whether or not recruiting junior college talent can provide long-term stability for ASU as a program. Even though on the surface it would appear as though recruiting a high volume of junior college players is a volatile option for a program, both Erickson and Graham have enjoyed slightly greater success with junior college talent compared to high school talent.

In evaluating all of ASU's signees over the last decade, SunDevilSource outlined five categories to place players into based on their overall production during their time with the program: 1) Multi-year starters, 2) One-year starters, 3) Reserves, 4) Didn't play at ASU, 5) Incomplete resume.

High school signees have an inherent advantage over junior college players because high school players have five years of eligibility to become a one-year starter, or start for two or more seasons and become a multi-year starter. However, a coaching staff's main initiative in recruiting junior college talent is for prospects to be able to step in and start or contribute immediately, so though players often have a maximum of three seasons of eligibility --and in many cases, just two seasons-- they are expected to be more developed than high school recruits when they arrive on campus. 

In the case of Erickson's recruits, the coach's junior college signees were slightly less likely to become multi-year starters than his high school signees, but junior college recruits were much more likely to develop into one-year starters than high school recruits. While 27 percent of Erickson's high school recruits became multi-year starters, just 16 percent became one-year starters. In comparison, 25 percent of Erickson's junior college recruits became multi-year starters, while one-third of his JUCO signees (33 percent), developed into one-year starters. 

Those statistics reveal that even though Erickson only signed 24 junior college recruits during his five-year tenure at ASU, that more than 50 percent of those players started for at least one season during their careers. The most staggering difference in Erickson's recruits is the number of high school recruits that didn't end up playing for ASU, compared to the number of junior college recruits that didn't end up playing. 

In total, nearly 40 percent of Erickson's high school recruits never saw the field for the Sun Devils, while less than 20 percent of his junior college recruits didn't pan out at ASU. While the statistics of junior college signees who became starters is likely reflective of the higher star rating of Erickson's junior college prospects compared to his high school signees, he was also able to identify more players who qualified and stuck with the program out of the junior college level than he was from the high school ranks.

From the outset of his tenure, Graham made junior college recruiting a much greater priority than Erickson, signing at least nine junior college transfers in three of his five seasons on the job while Erickson never signed more than six junior college prospects in a single recruiting cycle.

Compared to Erickson, Graham hasn't enjoyed the same type of bump from junior college players over the long haul, despite pulling in a once-in-a-career type of class in 2013. Over time, Graham's prosperity recruiting junior college talent has regressed toward the mean, as his recruits from the high school level and the junior college level have enjoyed roughly the same rate of success at ASU. 

Even though Graham has placed a larger emphasis on scouring the junior college ranks for talent, 26 percent of his junior college signees became multi-year starters for the Sun Devils, while an equivalent 26 percent of his high school signees became multi-year starters at ASU.

While the rate of junior college and high school multi-year starters produced under Erickson is similar to the rates produced by Graham, Erickson produced one-year starters from junior college players at a much better clip. Only 10 percent of Graham's high school players became one-year starters, while 11 percent of his junior college signees became one-year starters.

Once again, the greatest difference is derived from the number of players who became reserves and the number of players who didn't play at ASU under Graham, as only 13 percent of Graham's high school players became reserves at ASU while 29 percent of high school recruits never played. In comparison, 21 percent of Graham's junior college signees became reserves while only 18 percent of the junior college players who have signed with ASU in the last five seasons didn't end up playing for the Sun Devils. Because Graham signed 10 junior college players last year, most of whom will struggle to break into the starting lineup on a full-time basis, the number of players with an incomplete grade will likely hurt Graham's overall numbers with junior college talent in the coming seasons.

Does an ideal strategy for recruiting a mix of junior college players and high school talent exist for ASU? While it's difficult to pinpoint an exact approach geared for success, it probably lies somewhere in the middle of the different strategies Erickson and Graham brought to the table.

Though Erickson never became reliant on recruiting junior college talent, ASU's recruiting rankings suffered during his final three seasons in Tempe, as the Sun Devils failed to notch a top 25 class and even registered the 64th-rated recruiting class in Erickson's final cycle, 2011. 

As a result, Graham believed the program needed to find immediate impact players to ensure early success, so the Sun Devils signed 19 junior college players over Graham's first two seasons as a head coach. 

Though the decision to recruit junior college players so heavily proved fruitful on the field in 2013 and 2014, it helped create a cycle of over-reliance on junior college talent that ASU should probably attempt to avoid in the coming seasons. Even with the No. 1-rated junior college class in the country in 2016, the Sun Devils still weren't able to fill all the gaps that existed on their roster, in part because needing to rely on such a high volume of junior college players isn't a truly sustainable strategy.

It also leads to fewer high school recruits being signed, which perpetuates the roster challenges. There's rarely enough talented high school players being acquired and developed to not need to also sign a large class of junior college players. Only when a higher-than-normal percentage of enrolled high school recruits at a position group pan out can the reliance on junior college players subside. 

It's important to consider that without the remarkable success of Graham's 2013 junior college class, the rate of Graham's high school players developing into multi-year starters would outpace the rate produced by his junior college signees. 

As Erickson focused on a higher-caliber of junior college recruit to sign, Graham focused on higher quantities of junior college recruits, which has forced the Sun Devils into a challenging situation. Continue to recruit junior college players and risk clogging the roster with scholarship players who are resigned to careers as reserves, or pursue more high school talent, and hope that the program has enough depth to sustain itself while the high school players mature and develop. 

Though Graham doesn't necessarily need to make a choice between the two paths, he hasn't yet proven during his first five recruiting cycles that there's a path of compromise ASU can and should pursue. 

Editor's Note: This is the fourth 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. The third part of the series highlighted the manner in which Erickson and Graham's strategies to recruiting evolved over the course of their tenures. 


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