Blake Barnett (Stuart McNair)

Arizona State 2017 offensive recruiting overview

Despite losing offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey with less than two weeks until National Signing Day, the Sun Devils have held their recruiting class together on the offensive side of the ball.

Quarterback

Ideal scholarship roster number: 4-5

Potential returning number: 4 (Manny WilkinsBrady WhiteBryce PerkinsDillon Sterling-Cole)

Likely returning number: 4

2017 commitments: 2 (Blake BarnettRyan Kelley)

Remaining ideal number: None. ASU is done recruiting quarterbacks in 2017.

Super Skinny: ASU earned a commitment from four-star Basha (Chandler) quarterback Ryan Kelley early in the recruiting cycle, but when the opportunity to land former five-star prospect and Alabama transfer Blake Barnett presented itself, the Sun Devils had to jump at the chance. Assuming Kelley redshirts in 2017, he and Barnett will be separated by two full classes. Kelley's recruitment solidified with ASU head coach Todd Graham and other members of the staff visiting with him and discussing their plans for 2017 and beyond in recent days. Due to his transfer, Barnett isn't eligible for the first four games of the 2017 season, but could make a significant push to win the starting job by the middle of the season, especially because ASU's 2016 starter, junior Manny Wilkins, failed to create much separation between him and the remaining quarterbacks on the roster last year. 

Running back

Ideal scholarship roster number: 5-6

Potential returning number: 4 (Demario RichardKalen BallageNick RalstonTre Turner)

Likely returning number: 4

2017 commitments: 2 (Eno BenjaminTrelon Smith)

Remaining ideal number: None. ASU is done recruiting running backs in 2017.

Super Skinny: Following the 2016 season, Kalen Ballage explored the idea of leaving the program and declaring for the NFL Draft, but conversations about his potential 2017 role with then-offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey helped solidify Ballage's decision to remain at ASU for his senior season. The lone remaining pro-style back on the roster, Ballage boasts a different skill set than his senior counterpart Demario Richard, who's built to flourish as an inside zone runner in a spread scheme. The players ASU has recruited behind Ballage and Richard, especially the two 2017 commits -- Eno Benjamin and Trelon Smith -- are spread backs possessing quick-twitch athleticism and impressive change of direction skills geared for spread offenses. Benjamin is a mid-year enrollee who has already begun taking classes at ASU while Smith will enroll in the fall after committing to ASU in June.

Tight end/3-back

Ideal scholarship roster number: 5-6

Potential returning number: 4 (Jay Jay WilsonGrant MartinezThomas HudsonJared Bubak)

Likely returning number: 4

2017 commitments: 2 (Jared Poplawski, Mark Walton)

Remaining ideal number: None. ASU is done recruiting tight ends/3-backs in 2017.

Super Skinny: Under Lindsey, ASU de-emphasized the importance of the tight end/3-back role in the team's scheme as the Sun Devils utilized 11-personnel sets more frequently than they did under former offensive coordinator Mike Norvell. As a result, the Sun Devils felt they didn't need as much depth at the position as they used to, and they largely stopped recruiting the position after securing a commitment from Saguaro (Scottsdale) tight end Jared Poplawski back in June. However, when Lindsey departed the program to become the offensive coordinator at Auburn, the Sun Devils found themselves in a challenging situation as ASU has now lost both the offensive coordinator, and the position coach, Del Alexander, who recruited Poplawski this offseason. With Poplawski now seriously considering flipping his commitment to Colorado on signing day, the Sun Devils accepted a commitment from two-star tight end Mark Walton on Monday evening. A 6-foot-5, 230-pound athlete from Cibola High in Yuma, Arizona, Walton wasn't recruited by ASU until less than a week ago, but took an official visit to the school over the weekend before offering his commitment. ASU had initially considered giving Walton an opportunity as a grayshirt, but Walton told SunDevilSource that new offensive coordinator Billy Napier called him Monday to say that ASU planned to have him sign a Letter of Intent this Wednesday. The expectation is Poplawski will end up in the Colorado class.

Wide receiver 

Ideal scholarship roster number: 10-11

Potential returning number: 11 (Cameron SmithEllis JeffersonJalen HarveyN'Keal HarryJohn Humphrey Jr.Ryan NewsomeKyle Williams, Terrell Chatman, Jack SmithFrank DarbyJeremy Smith)

Likely returning number: 11

2017 commitments: 1 (Curtis Hodges)

Remaining ideal number: None. ASU is done recruiting tight ends/3-backs in 2017.

Super Skinny: Because of Lindsey's de-emphasis of tight ends, ASU has prioritized adding depth to its wide receiving corps and brought in transfers John Humphrey, Jr. and Ryan Newsome from Oklahoma and Texas, respectively, last offseason. With freshman All-American N'Keal Harry manning one starting spot and returners Cameron Smith and Jalen Harvey both boasting starting experience, ASU didn't need to recruit the position heavily in 2017. Still, the Sun Devils landed a commitment from three-star local prospect Curtis Hodges back in July, and selectively attempted to add to its class by recruiting LSU commit Stephen Guidry and Baylor commit Gavin Holmes. After striking out on both prospects, ASU will likely only sign Hodges and rely on its now-eligible transfers to make an immediate impact in 2017. At 6-foot-6, Hodges will become the tallest wide receiver in recent history at ASU and one of the tallest skill position players at the FBS level. 

Offensive line

Ideal scholarship roster number: 15

Potential returning number: 12 (A.J. McCollumQuinn BaileySam JonesAlex LosoyaConnor HumphreysTyson RisingZach RobertsonSteve MillerCade CoteMason WalterCohl CabralMarshal Nathe

Likely returning number: 12

2017 commitments: 1 (Corey Stephens)

Remaining ideal targets: 2-3 (Austin JacksonGeorge Moore, Sean Seawards)

Super Skinny: The Sun Devils entered the offseason hoping to land a legitimate tackle prospect, prioritizing local five-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson and four-star junior college product George Moore. With Signing Day rapidly approaching, neither Jackson or Moore have announced their commitments yet, but ASU is hoping it will be able to secure at least one of the highly touted recruits. The Sun Devils' current roster makeup is heavy on center and guard prospects, but only a handful of ASU's offensive linemen have the physical makeup to project to offensive tackle, which is a position the Sun Devils have historically struggled to recruit. Though the team's lone 2017 commit Corey Stephens played started at tackle for three seasons for state champion Saguaro (Scottsdale), Stephens doesn't have the frame and speed to play tackle at the college level. On Monday, ASU offered Stephens' high school teammates Sean Seawards almost immediately following Seawards' official visit to UCLA. Another interior offensive line prospect, Seawards wasn't recruited by the Sun Devils until recently, when the program hired new offensive line coach Josh Henson. Henson served as a recruiting coordinator at Oklahoma State and LSU in previous coaching stops, and the Sun Devils are hoping that Henson will be able to either mold some of the team's current players into tackle prospects or find immediate recruiting success during the next cycle to land more prototypical players who provide ASU more stability at the position moving forward. 

Overview

ASU currently has eight offensive commitments in its 2017 class and was projected to go lighter on the offensive side of the ball in this recruiting cycle because of overwhelming needs in the secondary. The Sun Devils were able to land a pair of four-star recruits at the quarterback position, including Barnett, who could become an immediate impact player for ASU when he becomes eligible next fall. ASU was also able to land one of the top running back recruits nationally in Benjamin, who is the highest-rated prospect ASU has signed at the position under Graham. The Sun Devils' decision to accept a commitment from Hodges in July was surprising considering Hodges hadn't garnered much interest from Power 5 schools and ASU could have waited to take his commitment until its coaching staff watched Hodges' senior film. The Sun Devils' pursuit of other prospects at the wide receiver position suggests ASU wasn't sold on Hodges and was willing to sign an additional high-profile recruit at the position even if it meant pushing past the ideal scholarship roster number. For ASU to close out the class on a high note on the offensive side of the ball, the Sun Devils would need to land either Jackson or Moore, both of whom could develop into multi-year starters at a position of need. If the Sun Devils strike out on tackle prospects, they will have fallen short of their goal during this recruiting cycle, and it will be imperative for ASU to either bring in an highly capable transfer or recruit the position more thoroughly in 2018. 


Sun Devil Source Top Stories