Part VI: Analyzing the recruiting success of top programs compared to ASU

Over the past three months, SunDevilSource has compiled a multi-part series detailing the effectiveness of Arizona State's recruiting strategy and its implementation under head coaches Dirk Koetter, Dennis Erickson and Todd Graham. The final installment of this series is an analysis of the Sun Devils' recruiting operation, drawing from data from programs around the country to provide observations regarding ASU's best recruiting practices.

Editor's Note: This is the sixth and final installment of a multi-part serious examining Arizona State's recruiting operation and success. The first part focused on the significance of commitment dates for ASU signees over the last decade, and the second part focused on the importance of regionality in ASU recruiting under Dennis Erickson and Todd Graham. The third part of the series highlighted the manner in which Erickson and Graham's strategies to recruiting evolved over the course of their tenures. The fourth part of the series detailed ASU's junior college recruiting, the impact of junior college-heavy classes and the cyclical nature of recruiting junior college talent. The fifth part of the series compared the impact of the two, three and four-star recruits ASU has signed over the past 16 recruiting cycles.

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Like a general preparing troops for battle, or a chess player contemplating the next move, college football coaches depend on their ability to think ahead.

Anticipation is critical, making a coach's ability to execute well developed, complex strategies paramount to their eventual successes or failures. 

Creating thorough and effective offensive and defensive game plans are pivotal for coaches throughout the sport, but there's one aspect of college football in which a coach's strategy and ability to execute provides a more efficient indicator of potential success.

A coach's recruiting strategy, and ability to execute it, makes or breaks a team's on-field capabilities, as their schemes and game plans depend on whether or not they have talent capable of performing at a high level. 

At Arizona State, the Sun Devils have historically struggled to maintain consistency on the recruiting trail; lacking a dynamic, proven strategy that reliably lures top prospects to Tempe.

As a result, the Sun Devils have spent much of the past 20 years attempting to fight through a cycle of mediocrity, sometimes able to inspire a fleeting sense of hope in the program's fanbase, only to have that hope stripped away by another sub .500 season.

Over the past decade, ASU has won 10 games in three separate years, but aside from those three campaigns, the Sun Devils have finished with a winning percentage of .500 or worse in six of the remaining seven seasons. 

Since the Sun Devils' last appearance in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day in 1997, the program's inability to consistently sign elite prospects in close proximity to the university has hindered ASU's chances of enjoying sustained success.

How can the Sun Devils develop a strategy that makes the talent acquisition process more fruitful for the program? How can ASU lay the groundwork on the recruiting trail that will allow the program to become a consistent threat in the Pac-12? Through SunDevilSource's comprehensive ASU recruiting analysis, we've determined the critical practices adopted by the nation's elite programs who can help optimize the Sun Devils' recruiting operation and could ultimately yield ASU with an opportunity to return to the national stage. 

Taking ownership of the hotbeds: Arizona and Southern California

Over the past 10 years, the most successful college football programs --those averaging at least 8.5 wins per season or more-- all share one critical commonality: They all dominate recruiting in their local regions.

Though programs like Alabama, Florida State and USC have traditionally been able to secure commitments from recruits on a broader, more national scale than most other programs, what separates the blue bloods is their ability to put a fence around their backyard.

For most programs, the "backyard" describes a 500-600 mile radius surrounding the university, which typically houses the most fertile, most important locales for prospects. 

Recruits that grow up within a 500-600 mile radius of a university are frequently predisposed to feeling a strong tie to a local university, especially if that university is viewed as a football powerhouse, as programs like LSU, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech are in their respective regions.

Programs often have an easier time pitching to prospects that grow up within a 500-600 mile radius of a university, and especially those that grow up in the shadows of a stadium. If a recruit grows up within 100 miles of LSU, that player is likely predisposed to supporting the Tigers. But what about the recruits that grow up 400-600 miles away? Though those players may not grow up as fans of a given program, it becomes a much easier sell for a coaching staff wanting to convince a family it can hop in the car and drive as a group to watch a prospect play. From a financial standpoint, 400-600 miles of travel is a smaller burden than 1,000 miles of travel. 

Of the 19 Power 5 programs who averaged 8.5 or more wins per season from 2006-2015, only Oregon, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin signed fewer than 70 percent of their recruits from within a 600-mile radius of their campuses over the last decade. In the last 10 years, however, the vast majority of the winningest programs signed more than 75 percent of their recruits from within a 600-mile radius of their universities.

Where does ASU stand in comparison to college football's winningest programs? Even though the Sun Devils have a decent recruiting base to draw from in Arizona and one of the nation's deepest pools of high school talent in Southern California lying within a 600-mile radius of Tempe, over the last decade, the Sun Devils have signed just 61 percent of their prospects from within a 600-mile radius of the campus.

Several of the most prominent schools understand the necessity of acquiring talent from adjacent states as opposed to their home states because of a relative shortage of capable Power 5 prospects in their home states. However, when these programs do recruit inside of their own states, they typically enjoy a greater rate of success signing the players they offer compared to ASU.

Over the past decade, ASU has struggled to earn a spot on the radar of many of Arizona's highest-rated prospects. Between 2007 and 2016, the Sun Devils signed the top-rated recruit in the state just once, in 2008 when then-head coach Dennis Erickson landed Gerell Robinson. 

Additionally, between 2007 and 2016, ASU never signed more than one of the top five prospects in the state in a given year, and over the last decade, the Sun Devils have signed only six of the top 50 recruits from the state of Arizona. For any of the nation's elite programs, such a recruiting drought would be considered a devastating failure. For ASU, it's considered reality.

During the 2017 recruiting cycle, though, head coach Todd Graham made his best efforts to rectify ASU's historical inability to attract the highest-rated local recruits. 

The Sun Devils signed three of the top five recruits in the state, and were among the finalists for the state's two highest-rated prospects, five-star offensive tackle Austin Jackson, and four-star safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, both of whom ended up signing with USC.

The three members of the Arizona top five that ASU did sign, four-star quarterback Ryan Kelley, four-star Devil backer prospect Tyler Johnson and four-star safety K.J. Jarrell, were part of a signing class that included nine high school recruits from the state of Arizona. 

However, even though ASU enjoyed its greatest success locally since then-head coach Dirk Koetter's 2002 signing class that included 10 in-state prospects, the Sun Devils have regressed under Graham in terms of landing players within a 600-mile radius of the university.

Over a 10-year period, ASU signed 61 percent of its recruits from within the radius, but in the last five years, that number has dropped precipitously as just 48 percent of the prospects who signed with the Sun Devils during the first five cycles of Graham's tenure hailed from within the radius. 

While many of the national powerhouses experienced a slight drop off in the percentage of local players who signed with their programs over the last five years, ASU's decline is more statistically significant.

Though ASU doesn't start with as large of an in-state talent pool as some of the nation's most prominent programs, the Sun Devils still have one of the nation's deepest recruiting bases in an adjacent state that falls within a 600-mile radius of the university.

It's somewhat unfair, though, to repeatedly compare the Sun Devils to programs like Alabama, Ohio State and Florida State because ASU has never been considered one of college football's powerhouses. Though the purpose of using this data is to demonstrate the significance of local recruiting throughout college football, it's also important to compare ASU to other programs who aren't necessarily recruiting juggernauts, yet have still consistently averaged at least 8.5 wins per season. 

While they aren't the most historically prominent programs, Michigan State and Oklahoma State have enjoyed plenty of success in the BCS era and beyond in large part because of excellent coaching. However, both programs face a significant obstacle in recruiting because Michigan, not Michigan State, and Oklahoma, not Oklahoma State, often pull in the highest-rated local talent.

Much like ASU, Michigan State and Oklahoma State have struggled to sign the top-rated recruits in their own state, yet these programs have found success without dominating a key demographic of players (top in-state recruits) that often provide the foundation of recruiting classes for the nation's blue bloods.

Though it certainly helps that both the Spartans and Cowboys have had the same head coaches for the last decade, allowing them to craft and develop a consistent approach to recruiting, both programs have maximized their ability to recruit in secondary hotbeds.

For Michigan State, the Spartans spend much of their time competing for recruits in Ohio, a state that falls within the 600-mile radius of East Lansing but is also home to a national powerhouse, Ohio State. For Oklahoma State, the Cowboys spend much of their time competing for recruits in Texas, especially in the prospect-rich areas of Houston and Dallas, which are recruiting grounds many of the nation's top schools consistently mine for talent.

Like ASU, which has to compete against programs like USC and UCLA when it goes into Southern California to recruit, the Spartans and the Cowboys aren't likely to dominate their alternative hotbeds against programs like Notre Dame and Ohio State (Michigan State) and Texas and Oklahoma (Oklahoma State). 

However, unlike ASU, the Spartans and the Cowboys have remained persistent in their alternative hotbeds in recent seasons, combing their respective regions and competing for highly touted recruits against their prominent neighbors. 

Over the past 10 seasons, even though Michigan State has signed just 16 of the top 50 recruits in its own state, nearly 80 percent of the recruits the Spartans have signed fall within a 600-mile radius of East Lansing, Michigan. When the Spartans do leave the region, they've found marginal success in locations like Georgia, Florida, Texas and Arizona, but the vast majority of players Michigan State has signed over the past decade have called Michigan and Ohio home.

Like ASU, Oklahoma State has rarely signed the top players from the its home state, as the Cowboys signed eight of the top 50 recruits in Oklahoma over the past decade. However, Oklahoma State has consistently used the state of Texas to supplement its roster, adding an average of 14.2 players per class from the Lone Star State over the last 10 years. As a result, over 83 percent of the players the Cowboys have signed in the last 10 seasons have fallen within a 600-mile radius of Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Oklahoma State offers an excellent comparison to ASU, because Oklahoma, like Arizona, is a relatively low-prospect state sitting directly adjacent to one of the most talent-rich states in the country. 

When Oklahoma State put together its best recruiting classes of the last decade, the Cowboys competed for and landed the top recruits in their class from the state of Texas. In 2010, Oklahoma State finished 18th in the Scout.com team rankings while in 2012, the Cowboys finished 24th. In both of those seasons, the Cowboys recruited at least 14 players from the state of Texas, most of whom were among the higher-ranked players in the program's classes.

Similarly, when ASU notched its best recruiting classes of the Internet era, in 2014 and 2015, the Sun Devils signed 12 players each season from California. Those two recruiting classes featured more four-star recruits than any of ASU's previous classes in the Internet era, and many of those blue-chip prospects hailed from the Golden State. 

However, both Oklahoma State and ASU haven't finished as high in Scout's team rankings in more recent seasons, and much of that has to do with each program's decline in their alternative hotbeds. In 2015 and 2016, the Cowboys finished 40th and 42nd in Scout's team rankings, respectively, and in those two seasons, Oklahoma State had two of its worst outputs in Texas. In 2016 and 2017, the Sun Devils finished 30th and 44th in Scout's team rankings, respectively, and in those two seasons, ASU had its lowest outputs in California since the dawn of the Internet era. 

What all of this data has revealed is that for Power 5 programs to consistently recruit, and in turn, compete at a high level, they must be able to maximize their recruiting capabilities within a 600-mile radius of their university. While certain blue bloods will dominate their local regions and be able to pull in national recruits, programs like Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State and Michigan State have been at their best when they've supplemented their roster with as much highly-rated talent as possible from within 600 miles of their campus.

Though a blueprint for success has been demonstrated around the country, under Graham, ASU has increasingly pulled away from Southern California and focused its efforts on recruiting in alternative regions like Texas and Louisiana, which are much more difficult to get to for assistant coaches and to travel to Tempe from for players and their families. 

Though many of the winningest programs sign the vast majority of their recruits from their home states, a considerable number of these programs also rely on signing recruits in adjacent states or from states within a proximal range.

Programs like Georgia, Oklahoma and LSU have plenty of high school talent in their home states, but for these programs, a secondary recruiting hotbed is crucial to their overall success on a national scale. If Georgia didn’t recruit in Florida, Oklahoma didn’t recruit in Texas and LSU didn’t recruit in Florida, it’s highly unlikely these programs would be able to achieve the same type of on-the-field success they’ve enjoyed in recent seasons.

Recruiting within a 600-mile radius is the lifeblood of the vast majority of college football’s most successful programs, and it’s why ASU’s recent signing classes under Graham have caused a stir.

In the last two recruiting cycles, ASU has signed just one high school player, three-star wide receiver Kyle Williams, from Southern California, while the Sun Devils have nabbed nine players, including seven high schoolers, from the state of Texas. 

Such a drastic change in recruiting tactics is unprecedented during the Internet era at ASU, as prior to Graham signing just six players (five from junior colleges) from Southern California in 2016, ASU had signed at least eight players from the region between 2002 and 2015. 

With Graham and his staff offering and actively recruiting prospects in the talent-rich Dallas and Houston metroplex regions, the Sun Devils are shifting their focus from Southern California, a recruiting base within a five-to-six hour drive of Tempe, and turning it to regions over 1,000 miles away from Sun Devil Stadium.

Pursuing recruits outside of neighboring states isn’t a foreign concept in the recruiting world, but as far as strategic recruiting operations go, it’s not a path many of the most successful programs have previously followed.

Unlike the four programs, Oregon, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin, that averaged at least 8.5 wins per season from 2006-2015 and signed fewer than 70 percent of their recruits from within a 600-mile radius of their universities, ASU is immediately adjacent to a region loaded with high-caliber prospects in Southern California.

Though the proximal states to Wisconsin and Missouri may lack strong talent pools, the Badgers and the Tigers still manage to sign at least 60 percent of their prospects from within a 600-mile radius of their university. That leaves Oregon and Nebraska, two uniquely situated programs, as the only programs to consistently average at least nine wins per seasons while recruiting from a broad, national map.

Because Oregon and Nebraska aren’t surrounded by traditional recruiting hotbeds, they’re essentially forced to devote more time and resources to recruiting prospects in distal lands. Still, Oregon and Nebraska have been able to sustain long-term success because they have an established strategy of recruiting in talent-rich locations. Historically, the Ducks have mined for talent in Southern California while the Cornhuskers have used Texas as a recruiting base.

ASU, however, isn’t strapped with the geographic disadvantages the Ducks and the Cornhuskers face in recruiting. The Sun Devils have enough high-caliber talent in Arizona and Southern California to sign at least 70 percent of their recruits within a 600-mile radius of their campus, so by failing to do so, ASU is practicing a recruiting strategy that hasn’t led to demonstrated on-field success for other programs.

For the program to join the likes of the teams consistently winning at least 8.5 games each season, ASU has to considerably improve its success rate at landing in-state prospects it offers, which it did in 2017 by signing nine local prospects.

However, between 2007 and 2016, the Sun Devils signed just 39 percent of the in-state high school players they offered, which is a lower share than the majority of the top programs. While certain schools like Florida and Florida State signed fewer than 30 percent of the in-state prospects they offered, and Georgia and USC signed fewer than 50 percent of the in-state players they offered, all of those programs signed an average of at least 12 prospects annually from their home states. Because they're located in talent-rich locales and competing against a larger pool of schools, these schools essentially have to offer more players.

In comparison, the Sun Devils landed an average of just 4.5 recruits from Arizona between 2007 and 2016, which puts ASU in a position in which it becomes imperative to recruit a secondary hotbed well.

The two graphs above comparing ASU to the 19 programs who averaged 8.5 wins or more between 2006 and 2015 reveal a few important trends.

For powerhouse schools located in states with large talent pools like Florida, Florida State and USC, landing a high percentage of offered in-state prospects isn't as critical. On average, Florida and Florida State offered 50 in-state high schoolers per class between 2007 and 2016, so they only needed to sign about 25 percent of those players to ensure that a large portion of their signees would fall within a 600-mile radius of their university. By signing just over a quarter of the players they offered in-state, the Gators and the Seminoles could count on at least half of their signing class to consist of in-state prospects. 

For programs like Clemson and Auburn, which are located in talent-rich states that don't have nearly as broad of a pool as California and Florida, signing recruits with in-state offers is key, but so too is their ability to supplement their signing classes with other prospects from within a 600-mile radius. Clemson signed 54 percent of the in-state players it offered, while Auburn signed 43 percent, but both programs failed to sign an average of more than nine recruits from their home states annually. So while each team have done well enough recruiting in their home states, both programs know that supplementing from proximal recruiting hotbeds within a 600-mile radius is a critical part of their operation.

For schools like Oregon and Nebraska, which are located in states with much smaller talent pools, signing in-state talent at a higher rate has traditionally been an easier process. Though neither the Ducks or Cornhuskers offered more than 40 players total from their home states over the last decade, well over two-thirds of the in-state players receiving offers from both schools ended up signing.

Does ASU, a school annually offering roughly as many in-state players as Michigan State and Missouri but traditionally signing as few in-state prospects as Oklahoma State and Wisconsin, have the ability to draw from a national map? Can the Sun Devils follow the lead of Oregon and Nebraska and sign more four-stars from around the country than they would if they focused their recruiting efforts more heavily on signing blue-chips from within a 600-mile radius? 

The strategy is a calculated gamble from Graham, and so far, his recruiting tactics have paid off on paper for ASU. In 2017, the program will have more blue-chip talent on its roster than it ever has previously in the Internet era. While a majority of the program's blue-chip talent does hail from within a 600-mile radius of the university, thanks in large part to Southern California-heavy classes Graham signed in 2014 and 2015, the Sun Devils will begin to enter uncharted territories if they continue to de-emphasize Southern California in the coming years.

Such a strategy, at least in the short term, could pay dividends for ASU, but in recent history, no programs outside of Oregon, Missouri Nebraska and Wisconsin has enjoyed sustained success at a national level without signing at least 70 percent of its class from within a 600-mile radius of its university.

Replenishing with junior college recruits

Dominating within a 600-mile radius of a program's campus is the most pivotal factor in establishing the foundation for on-field success at the Power 5 level. 

However, though it's feasible for ASU to begin signing more high-caliber prospects from within a 600-mile radius if the Sun Devils raise their profile, there's an alternative way for ASU to supplement the talent existing within its program.

Historically, ASU has marketed itself as a strong destination for junior college transfers, who can step in and make an immediate impact, and under Graham, the Sun Devils have continued to attempt to establish a pattern of junior college success.

What's important, though, is for the Sun Devils to use their ability to recruit junior college players as a supplement to their talent pool, and not to become overly reliant on junior college prospects, as Graham has tended to do in certain years.

During the first two years of Graham's tenure, the Sun Devils signed a combined 19 junior college recruits, in part to offset for the miserable recruiting class in 2011 that ranked 64th nationally. However, once the program achieved on-the-field success, winning 10 games in 2013 and 2014, Graham strayed away from recruiting junior college talent, signing a combined nine players from the junior college level in 2014 and 2015.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, following a 6-7 campaign in 2015, Graham's first losing season with the program, ASU hit the junior college ranks hard, adding a program record-tying 10 junior college prospects during the 2016 recruiting cycle. With eight three-star recruits and a pair of four-star prospects, ASU's 2016 class earned a designation as the top junior college recruiting class in the country, and offered the Sun Devils hope of returning to their winning ways. 

The varied approaches in acquiring junior college talent Graham took during his first five seasons at ASU --first ultra-heavy, then light, then heavy again, created some inconsistencies in the Sun Devils' roster makeup.

When a program adopts the strategy of recruiting a large number of junior college players in a given class, it forces coaches to properly evaluate and replenish the lower levels of the program with enough developmental talent from the high school level. Essentially, when a program signs a bunch of junior college players, it needs to make sure the high school players it signs are going to be difference-makers. 

When ASU signed 19 junior college players in the first two years of Graham's tenure, the Sun Devils failed to sign enough Pac-12-caliber defensive backs from the high school ranks, creating a deeply troublesome issue that figured to plague the team in the coming seasons. Eventually, the program's failure to evaluate high school talent properly led to a depletion of talent in the secondary, and the Sun Devils finished last in the nation in passing defense in 2015.

In an attempt to rectify their struggles, ASU signed two junior college defensive backs in 2016, four-star safety J'Marcus Rhodes and three-star cornerback Maurice Chandler, who were charged with the task of contributing immediately. However, as is sometimes the case with junior college recruits, neither Rhodes nor Chandler was able to develop into a consistent, capable starter last season, and the Sun Devils were once again saddled with the worst passing defense in the country. 

In short, adding two junior college recruits wasn't enough for ASU to put out the fire in the team's defensive backfield, and because they signed 10 junior college players last season, the Sun Devils are again hoping they properly evaluated all of the high school defensive backs they did end up signing in 2016.

Though slight variations in the number of players the Sun Devils take from the junior college ranks shouldn't impact the overall progress of the program on the recruiting trail too drastically, ASU should likely avoid attempting to become the Kansas State of the west.

Between 2007 and 2014, Kansas State signed at least six junior college recruits each season, including in 2008, the season that marked Bill Synder's return to the program, when the Wildcats signed 20 junior college players. Ironically, however, Kansas State only signed four junior college players in each of the last two seasons, which could signal a philosophical shift in the program's recruiting approach.

When the Sun Devils have swayed back and forth between junior college approaches, as they did in the 2015 and 2016 cycles, they didn't achieve their desired results. Even though the program landed the No. 1 rated junior college class in the country last season, it still wasn't able to add immediate-impact defensive backs to eliminate deficiencies in the defensive backfield, and it also wasn't able to land a starting-caliber offensive tackle, an objective the Sun Devils entered the recruiting cycle with. 

In the 2017 recruiting cycle, ASU returned to the strategy it adopted in 2014 and 2015, only signing two recruits from the junior college ranks, Barnett and four-star Devil backer Doug Subtyl

As ASU has learned under Graham, finding junior college talent like safety Damarious Randall can change the dynamic of an entire unit, but without the ability to successfully recruit at the high school level at each position group, temporary fixes can eventually lead to long-term concerns. 

Improving the blue-chip ratio

Over the past decade, the National Championship has almost always been claimed by a team with at least 50 percent of its roster consisting of former blue-chip prospects.

In Part V of our recruiting series, SunDevilSource documented the importance of improving the ratio of blue-chip players on a given roster, as it has become one of the best indicators of success on a national scale in college football.

When Graham first arrived at ASU, the Sun Devils had just six former blue-chip players on the roster in each of Graham's first two seasons, but by 2015, ASU had 21 players on its roster who had earned at least a four-star rating by Scout before arriving in Tempe. 

Why did Graham's 2013 and 2014 teams ultimately outperform his 2015 team, though, if the 2015 roster had a significantly higher number of blue-chip prospects?

Early in Graham's tenure, ASU experienced success thanks to a once-in-a-generation type of junior college signing class that yielded multiple NFL Draft picks including three-stars Randall and wide receiver Jaelen Strong. That class, coupled with the strong play of former Erickson signees like Taylor Kelly, Will Sutton and Carl Bradford, all three-star recruits who thrived in Graham's exotic new schemes, helped take the Pac-12 by storm in what was also a down period for USC.

Furthermore, in 2015, when the Sun Devils had a then-Internet era program record 21 blue-chips on the roster, only three of those players had prior starting experience. At that point in time, the Sun Devils were still remarkably young, as the roster had yet to bear the fruits of the coaching staff's labor during the 2014 and 2015 recruiting cycles.

However, as the 2017 season approaches, ASU finally has enough blue-chip talent with starting experience that can help the program begin a turnaround that may ultimately help the Sun Devils reach the heights they experienced early in Graham's tenure. 

While the spike in ASU's win totals in 2013 and 2014 were atypical for a program lacking blue-chips, the drastic drop off in wins in the following two seasons shouldn't have come as much of a surprise, given how young and inexperienced of a roster ASU compiled. 

By recruiting and signing more blue-chip prospects, though, ASU is laying the foundation for a stronger future in which it can actually sustain its success if it ends up returning to the spotlight. 

In 2017, the Sun Devils anticipate having 25 former blue-chip prospects on their roster, which will set a new program record and mark the first time at least 30 percent of the Sun Devils roster will have been rated as four-stars or higher prior to arriving in Tempe. While ASU still has a long way to go to achieve the 50 percent blue-chip ratio most of the recent national champions have enjoyed, the Sun Devils have never possessed as much talent on their roster during the Internet era as they do now. 

While the average signee has about a 25 percent chance of developing into a multi-year starter at ASU, over the last 16 years, 35 percent of the four-star recruits from the state of Arizona have become multi-year starters for the Sun Devils. 

ASU has enjoyed tremendous success with the four-star local players who wound up signing with the Sun Devils, but the program could help sustain its blue-chip ratio and ultimately position itself for future success if it continues to recruit high-caliber local prospects the way it did during the 2017 recruiting cycle.

By signing three of the state's top five players, the Sun Devils accomplished an unprecedented feat in the Internet era, but it's not a feat the nation's elite programs have had trouble achieving. 

Though four-star signees from Southern California haven't performed as well as four-star signees from Arizona at ASU since the start of the Internet era, the Sun Devils have enjoyed a strong success rate with three-star signees from the region. 

In fact, three-star signees from Southern California have been more likely to develop into multi-year starters at ASU than three-star signees from Arizona and three-star signees from other regions, which shows how ASU has successfully evaluated talent in the region.

Over 40 percent of the three-star signees the Sun Devils have signed from Southern California started for at least one season during their careers at ASU, which is a slightly higher percentage than the number of three-stars from "other" regions that wound up starting at ASU. 

For the Sun Devils to recruit in "other" regions with regularity and employ similar recruiting tactics used by unique programs like Oregon and Nebraska, they would need to demonstrate that prospects from far-flung locales are out-performing prospects with equivalent ratings in Arizona and Southern California.

However, over the last 15 years, that hasn't been the case, as in-state four-star recruits and three-star prospects from Southern California have enjoyed slightly greater rates of success. Based on the data, ASU has enjoyed equivalent, and in some cases, more success, with prospects from within its 600-mile radius, even though Graham's recent recruiting classes have become more reliant on prospects from alternative hotbeds. 


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