Ideal scholarship roster number: 10-11
Potential returning number: 8
Likely returning number: 7-8 (Tashon Smallwood, Joseph Wicker, George Lea, Renell Wren, Emanuel Dayries, Corey Smith, Christian Hill, Jalen Bates)
Remaining target number: 0-1
Arizona State is hoping it found a diamond in the rough in defensive tackle Shannon Forman, who may have gone under-recruited due to the small-school classification at his high school.
A 6-foot-1 300 pounder, Forman plays for the smallest private school designation in Louisiana at Southern Lab in Baton Rouge, which is also the former high school of ASU running backs coach John Simon. There are nine divisions of football in Louisiana, with five public school levels (Classes 5A-1A) and four private levels (Division I-IV).
The Kittens -- yes, that's Southern Lab's mascot -- went 14-1 and easily won the state championship at the Division IV level and yet were ranked by MaxPreps as the 47th best team in the state.
Forman played fullback as a junior at 275-280 pounds but increasingly spent more time on defense as the year wore on and as a senior was primarily a defensive tackle, having gained nearly 30 pounds in the previous year or so.
In April of last year Forman measured 6-foot-1 and 296 pounds at the New Orleans Nike Football Regional. He had a 5.71 second 40-yard dash, a 5.07 shuttle run, a 30 powerball toss and a 23.8 inch vertical jump. Those are very mediocre numbers, and out of 250-plus participants, Forman was in the bottom 20 percent of performers at the event with a corresponding 54.66 Nike + Football Rating. Among players weighing more than 225 pounds, Forman was tied for second to last in the powerball toss, which is a measurement of strength that replaced the bench press in Nike testing some years ago.
This relative lack of strength shows up very clearly when watching Forman on game film. Even at the lowest level of football in Louisiana, and even when outweighing most opponents, Forman doesn't show the power to push off interior offensive linemen from a neutral position. More often than not, when he doesn't win the rep quickly Forman becomes unable to impose himself with physicality.
Forman isn't someone who gets unblocked, and isn't someone who is capable at bull rushing through interior offensive linemen. He's not a pocket collapsing defensive tackle. When he makes plays, it's usually through exploiting a gap and showing up in the backfield. At times, he actually will take on lead blockers by slamming his body into the block as opposed to using his arms, a sign of either a lack of teaching or confidence.
The strength limitations are not just in the upper body, as Forman gets moved off the football too much for the level he plays at and the relative competition. He has pretty good balance though and doesn't typically get twisted around or knocked off his feet. That hints at the potential to increase his stoutness substantially as his overall strength continues to improve.
On the hoof, Forman actually looks pretty good for a 300-pounder at his height. His weight is well distributed, with a thick lower half and not too much excess around the middle. He also bends and uncoils reasonable well and has pretty good hand quickness and above average foot dexterity for his size. Good hands, feet, flexibility and body composition are really the selling points for Forman as a Division I developmental defensive line prospect. Over the years, ASU's had a tendency to take defensive tackles who are lacking in one or more of these areas.
So while Forman is far from being able to impact the college game, he's not necessarily a big reach as a recruit for the Sun Devils baring some unknown physical or other issue. A lot of his potential will depend on how receptive his body is to strength training at the college level. If Forman responds very well to the physical training is adds strength easily, he has a chance to really improve his capability and become a factor for the Sun Devils. If not, it's going to be a tough pathway to being more than a role player.
One of the things working in Forman's favor is the ASU style of play under Graham. As a coach he's a big proponent of the one-gap style with heavily slanted attacks and an overall goal of being disruptive in a gap. At the program's National Letter of Intent press conference Graham said he views Forman as three-technique tackle, which is a clear indication of how he wants to use the tackle.
The three-technique tackle aligns in the gap between a guard and tackle and is typically trying to squeeze through the space. Forman has enough quickness to be able to possibly do this with some degree of effectiveness if he develops really nicely, but it's unclear if he'll have the rest of the attributes needed to be a full service player at the position. He's going to have to get much stronger in order to give himself a reasonable chance, but there is enough potential here for Forman to have not been a big reach. Missouri also saw the raw profile of Forman favorably and that's the school ASU ultimately beat for his services.
With two returning starters and a couple others who have played a backup role, Forman likely won't be needed this year baring injury. After 2017, however, Smallwood will depart and there will be more opportunity to impact the depth chart for Forman and others.