Arizona State 2017 defensive recruiting overview

Arizona State is pinning its hopes on a handful of Scout300 defensive backs to join its 2017 recruiting class in the final hours. How does its roster and recruiting look at each position? Here's a complete overview.

Cornerbacks/Field Safeties

Ideal scholarship roster number: 11-12

Potential returning number: 6 (Chad AdamsMaurice ChandlerKareem OrrArmand PerryRobbie RobinsonChase Lucas)

Likely returning number: 6

2016 commitments: 1 (Alex Perry)

Remaining ideal number: 2-3

Top remaining targets:  Jhavonte DeanTodd Harris 

Super Skinny: The overall success of Arizona State's 2017 recruiting class largely hinges on whether or not the Sun Devils are able to pull in a couple more high-profile cornerback/field safety targets in the final hours leading up to National Signing Day. With just one cornerback committed right now (four-star prospect Alex Perry), the Sun Devils are hoping to close out the recruiting cycle on a high note by landing at least two-to-three more commitments from defensive backs. After finishing last in the country in passing defense for the second straight season, ASU needs immediate impact contributors in the secondary and defensive backs coach T.J. Rushing has secured official visits from some of the nation's most highly-rated defensive backs. At this point, though, most of the targets on ASU's board have either committed elsewhere or watched as the Sun Devils have backed off of their recruitments for various reasons. Still, ASU is in play for a pair of four-star defensive backs, junior college transfer Jhavonte Dean and Louisiana native Todd Harris, who will both be announcing their commitments on Signing Day. The Sun Devils may also be working behind the scenes to flip a commitment or two from other FBS programs, but it remains to be seen if ASU can close out the way it hopes at cornerback and field safety.  Is there a possibility of a late flip on signing day here? We'll see. The Sun Devils have been rumored to be involved with Tennessee commit Terrell Bailey. They also could elect to sign Texas cornerback Langston Frederick late. Frederick visited the Sun Devils last weekend and is a secondary cornerback target.

Bandit/Spur

Ideal scholarship roster number: 7-8

Potential returning number: 6 (Marcus BallJames JohnsonTyler WhileyDas TautalatasiJ'Marcus RhodesDeion Guignard)

Likely returning number: 6

2016 commitments: 3 (K.J. Jarrell, Ty Thomas and Evan Fields)

Remaining ideal number: 0

Top remaining targets: None. ASU is done recruiting Bandit/Spur prospects in 2017.

Super Skinny: The Sun Devils took one of their greatest personnel hits at the Bandit/Spur position this offseason as multi-year starter Laiu Moeakiola graduated, leaving the team without one of its most stable defensive presences and top defensive communicators. During Moeakiola's time with the program, Graham repeatedly praised his ability to elevate the defense's level of play and said multiple times during the 2016 season that making up for his upcoming loss in the offseason would be one of the program's greatest challenges. Though the Sun Devils' defensive scheme may undergo changes under new defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, finding capable playmakers at the Bandit/Spur positions was still an important initiative for ASU this offseason, and the Sun Devils met their goal here. After adding three-star safety Ty Thomas during the mid-year signing period, the Sun Devils snagged a commitment from four-star safety K.J. Jarrell last Wednesday and added another commitment from a four-star prospect, Evan Fields, on Monday. Under Graham, ASU has struggled to recruit versatile Bandit/Spur prospects who excel against the run and the pass, but the program appears headed in the right direction at the position after its 2017 haul. 

Inside linebacker

Ideal scholarship roster number: 7-8

Potential returning number: 4 (D.J. CalhounChristian SamKhaylan ThomasMalik Lawal)

Likely returning number: 4

2016 commitments: 1 (Loren Mondy)

Remaining ideal number: 2-3

Top remaining targets: None. ASU appears done recruiting inside linebackers in 2017. 

Super Skinny: After not taking a commitment at inside linebacker in the 2016 recruiting cycle, the Sun Devils lightly recruited the position during the 2017 recruiting cycle and ending up landing just one commitment. That player, Loren Mondy, initially projected as a Devil backer, but told SunDevilSource recently that the ASU coaching staff has told him he'll begin his career practicing as an inside linebacker. Whether Mondy projects well to the inside linebacker position is uncertain, but the Sun Devils' inability to recruit the position more effectively means ASU is in need of reinforcements at inside linebacker moving forward. Whether the Sun Devils elect to pursue a post Signing Day addition, a Division I transfer or wait until the next recruiting cycle to add a highly touted immediate impact player or players remains to be seen, but ASU is too thin at inside linebacker as it stands. The talent the Sun Devils have returning at the position is promising, as Christian Sam will return from an ankle injury with two seasons of eligibility remaining, D.J. Calhoun has already started, and Khaylan Thomas and Malik Lawal are just sophomores, but ASU would have liked to have secured a commitment from Gary Johnson, the top junior college player in the country who wound up committing to Texas. The Sun Devils may try to shift their current personnel around to add to the position group based on the changes Bennett makes to ASU's defensive scheme, which means All-Pac-12 Second Team performer Koron Crump could shift over to inside linebacker permanently after playing the position during the latter half of the 2016 season. 

Devil Backer

Ideal scholarship roster number: 4

Potential returning number: 2 (Koron CrumpAlani Latu)

Likely returning number: 2

2017 commitments: 3 (Doug SubtylTyler JohnsonKyle Soelle)

Remaining ideal number: 0

Top remaining targets: None. ASU is done recruiting Devil backers in 2017.

Super Skinny: ASU's recruitment of Koron Crump paid dividends for the Sun Devils immediately in 2016, as Crump became one of the top pass-rushers in the Pac-12 and earned a spot on the Second-Team All-Conference list. Though Crump provided a clear answer to the team's needs as a pass-rusher, he isn't a full-service Devil backer because he's too light to play at the line of scrimmage against the run and might be better served transitioning to the linebacker level, especially if four-star junior college transfer Doug Subytl is capable of becoming the team's every down Devil backer. Subtyl initially signed with the Sun Devils in 2016, but wasn't an academic qualifier. Now, he's a mid-year enrollee who will be eligible to participate in spring practices and could grow into a defensive end or trim down and play Devil backer. Outside of Subytl, the Sun Devils remained aggressive in their pursuit of Devil backer prospects, landing commitments from four-star local prospect Tyler Johnson and three-star local recruit, Kyle Soelle. After the departure of Carl Bradford following the 2013 season, the Sun Devils have struggled to find a versatile option capable of handling all the responsibilities the Devil backer position requires. After landing Crump last season and securing commitments from three different players in the 2017 recruiting cycle, ASU's depth at the position is finally trending upward. 

Defensive line

Ideal scholarship roster number: 10-11

Potential returning number: 8 (Tashon SmallwoodChristian HillCorey SmithJoseph WickerRenell WrenEmanuel DayriesGeorge LeaJalen Bates)

Likely returning number: 8

2016 commitments: 1 (D.J. Davidson)

Remaining ideal number: 1-2

Top remaining targets: Shannon Forman

Super Skinny: The Sun Devils have historically struggled to recruit big-bodied defensive linemen with the athleticism to play on an every down basis in the Pac-12, which is why securing the commitment of D.J. Davidson looks promising for ASU. At 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, Davidson isn't the type of player who needs to add weight artificially to compete in the trenches, and he's not a recruit who will need to slim down and take weight off to get comfortable along the defensive line. The local three-star recruit looks like he can carry his weight naturally while maintaining the type of get-off speed necessary to disrupt opposing linemen at the point of attack. With Davidson in the fold as a mid-year enrollee, ASU now has a growing list of linemen with improved physiques who should be able to grow into larger roles this season. With Tashon Smallwood and JoJo Wicker returning, the Sun Devils have a pair of multi-year starters capable of anchoring the team's defensive line rotation, and in Renell Wren and George Lea, ASU has players like Davidson who are naturally able to carry weight while maintaining athleticism. The key for ASU is finding more players who can provide quality depth at the position, and the Sun Devils are still looking to potentially add one more recruit on Signing Day. If ASU can beat out Missouri and Tulane in the recruitment of Shannon Forman, the overall health of the position group should be relatively strong. 

Overview

Unlike the offensive side of the ball where ASU has pretty much wrapped up its recruiting process, the Sun Devils are still waiting on several priority recruits to finalize their intentions. Because ASU planned to go lighter on the offensive side of the ball during this recruiting cycle, the Sun Devils' ability to find impact players on defense was always going to make or break this particular recruiting class. If the Sun Devils close out strong in the defensive backfield, flipping a player or two will also securing one to two pledges from uncommitted players, the 2017 class could go down as the one that began the team's turnaround in the secondary. However, the Sun Devils have so much riding on decisions that will be made in the final hours leading up to Signing Day that there's still a chance ASU fails to pull in enough high-caliber defensive backs to move the needle. The Sun Devils picked up an important commitment from Jarrell a week before Signing Day, and by adding Fields to the fold on Monday, ASU now has a pair of players who could become early contributors at positions of need. At inside linebacker, ASU failed to attract high-profile prospects for the second straight season, and as a result, adding depth in the 2018 cycle will be imperative. The Sun Devils did address one of their primary areas of need, the Devil backer position, in a big way, by adding three commitments including SunDevilSource's top rated commit of the class, Subtyl. On the defensive line, securing the commitment of Davidson could go down as one of the more underrated moves of the cycle for ASU, as he possesses a rare combination of size and speed that should translate well to the college level. Though ASU earned commitments from a handful of very important prospects, it will be difficult to gauge the program's overall ability to recruit based on need until more of the Sun Devils' cornerback/field safety recruits sign their letters of intent. 


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