Bandit / Spur
Ideal Scholarship Roster Number: 7-8
Potential Returning Number (in 2017): 7 (James Johnson, Marcus Ball, Das Tautalatasi, Tyler Whiley, Deion Guignard, J'Marcus Rhodes, Chad Adams)
Note: Some players are interchangeably able to play Bandit and also field safety but are not listed here if they are primarily field safeties.
Likely Returning Number: 6-7
Remaining Ideal Number: 0
Top remaining targets: None
Arizona State entered 2017 recruiting with a tremendous need for talent infusion in its secondary. While that remains true at the cornerback and field safety positions, the Sun Devils have done a very good job of adding three commitments in the class who project to the Bandit/Spur positions.
Though they didn't get coveted local four-star prospect Isaiah Pola-Mao, the Sun Devils have done about as well as could reasonably be expected here. They earned a commitment from fellow Phoenix-area four-star recruit K.J. Jarrell, took an early enrollee commitment from athletic Ty Thomas, and most recently earned their second four-star pledge from Oklahoma safety Evan Fields.
ASU's returning roster at the position includes starting senior Bandit Marcus Ball, who was the team's leading tackler in the second half of the 2016 season. Ball is probably physically better suited to play the Spur position, which was just vacated by multi-year starter Laiu Moeakiola. But he wasn't as quick reactive at the position, and thus, moving back to the third level helped him see the field better in a way that worked well for Ball.
Entering 2017 the Sun Devils figure to probably have Ball at one of the two positions, but otherwise are pretty thin from a reliability standpoint. They have a couple pretty experienced players on the roster, Chad Adams and James Johnson, both of whom have earned a number of starters in their careers. J'Marcus Rhodes started a couple games last season as well. But the Sun Devils never got settled with any of the three in their lineup and were constantly moving guys around and switching up the depth chart because coaches weren't happen enough with performance.
With Moeakiola leaving, there is an opportunity for one or more newcomers to compete for a spot on the two-deep or even emerge into a starting role. Thomas is physically pretty mature and will have the spring to assimilate, so he stands a reasonable chance as a Bandit safety. Jarrell could also factor into the depth chart but he'll arrive in the summer and also will need to get bigger and stronger, even though he's already a pretty physical player from a style standpoint. He, too, could ultimately play his way out of a redshirt and seems most likely to fit at Bandit or even Spur long term.
Fields told us that ASU sees him as a Bandit as well, but he has shown best on video playing closer to the line of scrimmage and we think he's very well suited to play the Spur position as he physically matures.
An extremely physical and tough player who has a fearless approach to the game, Fields suffered a fractured arm during a camp last summer that ASU coaches attended. Instead of calling it a day, however, Fields continued to play even though he said he knew something was wrong with his arm. He wanted to impress Sun Devil coaches, and he did, as they made him a priority target following the event.
There is a clear passion for the game evident every time Fields puts on the pads. He's focal with teammates and demonstrative. He relishes getting everyone fired up with the big hit, and has a tendency to be around the football a lot. While Fields isn't going to be a rangy coverage safety at the third level of a defense, he closes down to the ball very well and has a good balance of composure and ferocity. There are not a lot of occasions in which Fields misses the tackle while trying to deliver a blow. He tends to make the tackle and add a degree of flare in doing so.
At 6-foot-1 and 190 or so pounds, Fields is very stout in the box for his size. He take on and shed blocks functionally, avoids traffic well, and is often mentally ahead of the play. He has listed a 3.9 grade-point average and there's a high football IQ on display when watching him in action. He has active hands and is a takeaway threat when making contact with ball carriers, especially when they're held up by other defenders.
Fields has good linear speed and has reportedly clocked sub 11 seconds in the 100 meter dash. While he isn't a multi-directional coverage defensive back who can turn and handle sharply angled cuts at speed when mirroring receivers, he handles space reasonable well and can cover ground working at an angle coming toward the ball. His toughness, speed and physicality make him a good blitzing candidate from the edge, which is how ASU's tended to use its Spur.
The Sun Devils did a great job in this recruitment. Fields was an early offer, developed close relationships with linebackers coach Keith Patterson and secondary coach T.J. Rushing, and was made to feel like a priority target at every stage of the process. ASU positioned its official visit very effectively, getting Fields to trip on the last weekend of December before the dead period. Then at the conclusion of the dead period, Patterson visited Fields on the first day of January allowed by NCAA rules.
Fields said he grew up a fan of ASU for reasons he's not sure of. The Sun Devils were able to leverage that, with Patterson and Rushing being from Fields' home state, and ASU head coach Todd Graham having extensive ties in Oklahoma as well. Ultimately, Fields provided ASU with a silent commitment even before things got hectic in the recruitment in the second half of January.
Even when Fields became very in demand late in the process, when Oregon, UCLA and Notre Dame all offered and he took official visits and gave the Bruins and Irish a 10 out of 10 on the trip, ASU remained very much at the forefront of the recruitment. As a result, Fields committed to the Sun Devils and gives the program another impressive safety recruit in a class in which it was needed.
Fields was bumped up to a four-star just in the last several weeks by Scout, and finished the cycle ranked as the No. 27 overall safety in the class.