Ideal scholarship roster number: 15
Potential returning number: 12 (A.J. McCollum, Tyson Rising, Connor Humphreys, Quinn Bailey, Sam Jones, Alex Losoya, Steve Miller, Cade Cote, Zach Robertson, Mason Walter, Marshal Nathe, Cohl Cabral)
Likely returning number: 11-12
Commitments: 1 (Corey Stephens)
Remaining ideal number: 2
Arizona State coaches could afford to be somewhat selective with their offensive line recruiting because of how many players they signed in the previous two classes to address what was at one point a glaring scholarship deficit. They added five players each in the 2015 and 2016 recruiting cycles, and so they were very young and inexperienced last year overall at the position group.
Even though they lose two starters, they'll return up to a dozen scholarship offensive linemen and three starters, so there is roster stability and a building maturity overall in the group awaiting new position coach Josh Henson.
All of this means that in 2017 recruiting they had no reason to reach on scholarship offers unless they felt great about the prospects. Even so, offensive tackle was the biggest need -- that's usually the case -- and the Sun Devils are going to appear to strike out with that part of the class, which is an important development because their left tackle situation in particular isn't solidified for this coming season.
The Sun Devils did offer Saguaro interior offensive lineman Corey Stephens early and it didn't take long for him to accept. Former ASU offensive line coach Chris Thomsen worked in a hands on fashion with Stephens at ASU's big man camp and individual camp last summer prior to the offer being extended. The Sun Devils attended Saguaro practices and watched Stephens then as well, in April. This is a player they've spent a lot of time on prior to offering, and that would only make sense since it's a high profile school a stone's throw away from their own campus.
Any conversation about Stephens as a prospect has to first start with his intangibles, which are off the charts. He has a reported 4.5 GPA, a virtual straight-A student with a slew of honors level classes and an ACT score of 30. He is incredibly mature, well spoken and intelligent. Stephens plays left tackle at Saguaro because of need, but he projects to center or possibly guard at ASU, and Thomsen made sure to get a sense of how well Stephens could snap the ball and bend and move at the position before making the offer.
Center is one of the most mentally demanding positions in the game and Stephens certainly appears to have the profile to excel in that regard. At a full 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, he also is well constructed physically, with a similar stature and better body composition -- for comparison's sake -- than former Saguaro standout Kody Koebensky, who went on to start for the Sun Devils for several years at center. Physically, Stephens looks the part of a power conference interior offensive linemen.
Film review presents some challenges because Stephens plays tackle instead of center, and also because Saguaro uses its linemen so heavily in two-point alignments that some of the techniques just are visually executed differently, particularly with run blocking. These things may have contributed to some degree to Stephens not getting more major college scholarship opportunities, but he was highly coveted at the Ivy League level as well as by the military schools. He is also well reviewed by Scout.com, which ranks the first-team all-state and all-division Stephens as the No. 10 guard prospect in the West.
As would be expected, Stephens has a good understanding of angles and works effectively to secure seal blocks, even when reaching to the second-level. He also uses his hands effectively both from a location and anticipatory standpoint in the run game, with a two-point stance being an advantage in this regard that he maximizes. When he gets on center with his block he drives his feet nicely and uses his hips and core strength decently, though this will be an area to further develop.
Stephens has heavy hands and power behind his punch, which is one of his better attributes. Leverage at times is harder to come by due to the higher origination angle of Saguaro's tackles but he overcomes this without much problem by being physically more equipped than almost anyone he faces.
We'd like to see how Stephens continues to work on his flexibility as he transitions to playing center. The pass protections will require different physical tools than playing on the edge, but he has enough foot quickness that he doesn't look to be a liability in the making with A-gap stunts and pops, though that remains to be seen. Stephens is at best a moderate athlete for the position in the Pac-12, but he has more than enough size and physical tools coupled with his impressive intangibles to compete effectively at this level.