Class Addresses Team Needs, Provides Balance

ASU head coach Dirk Koetter addressed the media on letter of Intent day, and couldn't be more pleased with the players who signed with the Sun Devils, as well as the goals that they are helping to achieve.

Koetter conveyed his excitement about this class, but cautioned that a truly successful recruiting class is one that doesn't lose any of its members between signing day and the beginning of fall camp. "Everybody is all excited about their classes on signing day," he said. "Let's not forget that signing date is one thing, reporting date is another thing."

The Sun Devil skipper added that one Pac-10 team had nine guys who signed but not qualify, while another had seven that fit that description. "We pride ourselves on recruiting guys that will play in the fall," remarked Koetter, "and we're one of three schools in the Pac-10 that every guy make it last year. Hopefully, we'll have every guy make it this year."

Koetter pointed out that each year his team's recruiting class strives to reach its target numbers at each position. While most years that goal has been an elusive one, this year it was achieved. "I'm proud to say that for the first time ever we've met our numbers through out," Koetter stated. "We did look for immediate help at the junior college ranks. All seven junior college players are on defense, three of them already in school."

"This is the first time that we had any kind of balance across five classes since our staff has been here," Koetter continued. "We have 19 seniors, 19 juniors, 16 sophomores, 16 redshirt freshmen, and 15 true freshman."

Koetter went on to discuss each and every ASU signee:

Thomas Altieri – "Thomas' brother, Tony, played for us at Boise State. Thomas is a true center. Lead his team to a CIF championship; they tied for the championship actually. We've been recruiting Thomas for over two years. He's a great technician at center. He reminds us a lot of a center we had at Boise State in Scott Huff, who's a GA (graduate assistant) for us now."

Chris Baloney – "The way we got on Chris was that he was a high school teammate of Jamar Williams in Houston. Chris played safety his freshman year at junior college and played corner in this year. He was being recruited by a lot of schools in the Midwest and Big 12. We kind of got in the mix late, and couldn't have been happier with Chris. He has excellent size; he's a junior Olympics track star. I think the guy has an awesome future."

Zach Catanese – "He's already with us in school. He's a safety with excellent size. Some of you remember that he has an older brother Brandon that we tried to recruit a couple of years ago, and ended up at Oregon State. I'm real exited with what Zach is doing in our winter program right now."

Grant Crunkleton – "This guy is a pure corner. Great speed, great hands. I'm real anxious to see what he can do under Mark Carrier's tutelage. I like this guy a lot. We ran a tough recruiting battle with UCLA and Oregon on Grant. He's the right kind of guy to be successful here."

Dexter Davis – "He played last year between 230-235. He was the state wrestling champ last year and he wrestles at 215. We think this kid has an excellent chance to be a good rush end. He'll have a chance to get away from wrestling and get his weight up, and he can easily get into the 240's, 250's. An awesome kid, and again the right kind of guy for our program."

Shaun Dewitty – "Is coached by the same coach as Jamaal Lewis when he was at a different high school. Another guy we had a tough battle between Kansas State, UCLA, and us. This guy is an excellent all-around football player. Can probably play in the secondary, play at wide receiver, but we love him at tailback. He's a bigger, taller back… got unique style. A guy that can break tackles. Went to the state track meet in four different events, the only guy in Colorado to do that. I'm real excited about Shaun."

Jameon Hardeman – "We were recruiting him against mostly Big 12 schools and against Tennessee. He's was a part of a great D-Line at Kimball high school. It came right down to the end on him. A guy that can develop into a defensive end, and may grow into a tackle at some point of his career. We need to take more high school linemen. They're harder to find and even harder to get."

Keegan Herring – "Keegan has as much potential as any kid in this class. This kid had an injury plagued senior season. Just to tell you what type of kid he is: he had never wrestled before, and one of the coaches at Peoria talked him trying out for wrestling. He weighs 180 pounds, he wrestles at 215, and he's 27-7. I've been doing this a long time, and most of the times a star tailback isn't the first guy to volunteer to go out for wrestling in his senior year when he has never wrestled. This guy is a great kid. He was the state champion at the 100m and 200m. He's a burner run a 10.5 in the 100m. I think he's the perfect back for our system. He and Shaun Dewitty coming in - two excellent additions to our backfield."

Shannon Jones – "He's the younger but bigger brother of Shane Jones. Everyone that saw Shane and Shannon says that Shannon is a better player out of high school and junior college than Shane, and Shane has a nice impact on our program. We love his family; he's the right kind of fit for us. He's a guy that we hope can come in and have an immediate impact on our defensive line."

Will Kofe – "Another junior college transfer that is in our program right now. He played at Long Beach Poly high school, and actually started his career at Montana State, then went on a mission for two years, and went back this year and played at Dixie College. He's one of those guys, kind of like a Jordan Hill, started out as a linebacker and then moved to a down lineman. I've been impressed with him in our off-season workouts. A hard working mature guy. Because he's here in the spring, I think he will have a chance to get some playing time on that front four next year."

Shawn Lauvao – "He can play guard or tackle. Originally, he wasn't that highly recruited. Brent Myers goes over there for us, he recruits Honolulu, and after we got him here down on a visit and got his tapes, all of the sudden this guy is one of the most highly recruited guys in Hawaii. The same day Brent and I were there recruiting him, Miami and USC were calling about him. Great weight lifter. He's dedicated worker, excellent student. He came over here fell in love with Brandon Rodd and fell in love with our players. He has a chance to be very successful at Arizona State."

Chad Lindsey – "Brent Guy is primarily responsible for us getting in on Chad. He plays for the same high school coach that used to coach Jamar Williams and Chris Baloney. Now he goes to Cypress Ridge high school, this is their first senior class and they made it to the playoffs this year. Chad Lindsey was committed to Texas A&M real early in the season. Brent Guy talked him into taking a visit here, and he fell in love with ASU. Ted Monachino continued to recruit him, and Bill Miller after he was hired. The coach said that Chad is a better player, and more athletic linebacker coming out of high school than Jamar Williams was. I think we'll take that every day of the week because Jamar Williams is a great football player."

Beau Manutai – "Is the third junior college player that is enrolled already. Another returned missionary and married with a daughter. We've been recruiting Beau for a couple of years, Tom Nordquist was recruiting him. Almost got him to come out a year ago, but his coach wanted him to stay. We honored that. Nordquist did a great job sticking with him. I know there's speculation that Beau will take the Jordan Hill route and put his hand on the ground (and play defensive tackle), but it's too early to speculate on that. We recruited him as a middle linebacker to replace Justin Burks, and we have to give him a chance to do that and see how it all works out."

Chris McGaha – "Player of the year (on the 4A level) in Arizona. Arguably the best player in Arizona, if you look at the list of his awards. Fantastic football player. Lead Moon Valley to the championship in 4A. Another kid we think can play a lot of positions, but wants to be a wide receiver and we recruited him that way. I think Chris will be a real nice addition to our football team."

Derek Shaw – "We were on Derek early, Mark Helfrich recruited Derek. Just a week before he was supposed to visit here, he took a visit during the season to Miami and he committed to Miami. Later on in recruiting they contacted us and said ‘we may have made a mistake.' Mark was right there in position to meet with the family. We had Derek over for a visit and he liked it a lot. It doesn't matter where this guy is ranked; he's an excellent football player. He will remind you a lot of Andrew Walter. He's a big guy with a cannon arm, very mobile, probably more mobile than Andrew coming out of high school. He has been well coached through out. Comes from a football family. An excellent fit for us. He'll get in there with Sam, Chad, and Rudy and give us a nice group of quarterbacks to continue to work with."

Brandon Smith – "When Derek Shaw took his visit, we just happen to have two wide receivers with him on the visit. Chris McGaha was one and Brandon Smith was the other. He's a big wide receiver in the mold of a Derek Hagan, although probably faster and a little bit stouter coming out of high school than Derek was. This guy is somewhat of a raw, unknown player. They couldn't really throw the ball as well as they liked to with that school. We actually saw him for the first time last year in junior recruiting, and at the Nike combine at Stanford, and we thought he was one of the best wide receivers at the combine. This is one of those ones that you work on it for over a year and it comes to fruition."

Travis Smith – "There's a couple guys in this class that I think that are not as highly touted, but I think are sleepers that you have to look out for. Travis Smith is one of those guys. Pure corner, a long and lanky kid that has speed. Raw, but a good guy for Mark (Carrier) to develop. He has size and can do nothing but get bigger. Good guy for us to work with over the next few years.

Richard Tuitu'u – "Best offensive lineman in the state of Arizona. This guy is a stud – straight out. We fell in love with this guy from the moment we saw him a year ago. Not only does he have great size, but for a kid this big he has unbelievable flexibility. He's also a wrestler, and believe it or not when he came here on his trip in December he weighed 325 and now he's wrestling at 270. I think this guy has a huge future in front of him. The right fit for coach Myers. He can play guard or tackle."

Keno Walter-White – "This guy is a tremendous athlete, and a lot of his athletic talent shows up in track. He's high jumped 7'2", he's run 47 split in the quarter. He's the type of track athlete that has invites to come over to Europe and compete. When we were at his house, they showed us tape of him and his brother racing against Reggie Bush in high school track meets, and it was pretty impressive. Great skill, a little on the raw side, but a tremendous athlete. Good size for a corner. When we were putting this class together, we had no idea that R.J. was going to get his sixth year back, and he's coming off a very significant surgery. This is just a bonus that we got the two junior college corners."

J.D. Walton – "When we watched him on tape, he reminded us of Grayling Love. He's a long snapper, there are games where he's playing center one series, guard another series. He's a very versatile player. Would like to be a center deep down inside of him like all O-linemen, but because of Thomas Altieri in this class J.D. will probably start off in guard/tackle but we will never rule out him returning to center. In the Coca-Cola All-Star game last week he played all position on the line, as well as long snapper."

Derron Ware – "Signed out of Dorsey high school to go to Michigan State. Was there for two years, and just wasn't the right fit for him. He's a good student, went back to L.A. (to a junior college) didn't play this year so it counts as his redshirt year. Needs to graduate, which should be no problem, to be eligible to move on. Much like Zach Catanese, Derron has the size. We wanted to get bigger and more physical at safety, and he and Zach have those qualities."

Jovon Williams – "The other guy who I mentioned that is a real sleeper in this class. The reason I think he's a sleeper is because he comes from a split family situation, where he has been back and forth between Mississippi and Southern California two or three times in his life. He never had a chance to settle in one program and develop. He played in an offense that didn't feature the tight end as a pass catcher."

"We felt that this guy was good enough to come here as a tight end or a defensive end. He wants to be a tight end. What I like about Jovon is that when all the other schools told him not to come here because of our great depth at tight end, he had enough confidence to say that I can come in and play with those guys. I think this kid has a ton of potential. I really like his attitude, and I think he'll be a guy to watch as we move down the road here."

Koetter stressed that the recruiting process won't take a hiatus after signing day, since there's much work to be done for the 2006 prospects. "Recruiting is on-going," he explained. "There's never a start and a stop point. As a matter of a fact, coach Nordquist and myself talked to 4-5 of the top juniors in the state of Arizona today on the phone, talking about what will happen one year from now. Recruiting for us today is a happy day, because we're adding 22 new members to the family. But believe me, we're already cranking out those tapes and watching those guys. We already made several offers for guys next year."

The number of available scholarships has been a point of speculation all season long, and the ASU head coach discussed this matter. "That scholarship count is kind of a mystery," he quipped. "It's a slippery number (smile). If you think back to the numbers I gave about the balance of the classes, those numbers add up to 85, which is what we're allowed to have in August. Between counting back, counting forward, mid-year JC guys, Max Hall decided to go on mission so we got a scholarship back there…we have scholarships coming and going at all times. I wouldn't rule out that we would add a player at one point or another. But we're real happy at where our numbers are at right now."

One quick look at the list of the 22 signees reveals a concentrated effort to add size in the secondary. "That would be the only area where consciously we probably needed to get bigger, especially at the corner position," Koetter explained. "They're a plenty of good football players out there that are 5-10 too. Riccardo Stewart makes first team all Pac-10 last year, and if we paraded Riccardo up here right now, he's not the prototype. But you can't measure what's in his heart."

Koetter did refuse to address the de-commitment of linebacker Mickey Pimentel in favor of California. "This press conference we talk about Sun Devils," he said. "These are 22 guys that want to be Sun Devils and that's who we talk about over here." The ASU coach did however discuss the signings of other junior college transfers on defense. "On defense, originally, we had five starters coming back on defense," he explained. "We get back Manny for his sixth year, so that's six. Hopefully R.J. makes it back, and we could be up to seven. We felt like on the defensive side of the ball, there was a little bit of a void between the guys that played last year and some of the guys that redshirted. That's why the seven JC guys are here. We have a lot of injuries in the secondary, and we needed to increase our depth by signing four corners and two safeties. This gives us more of an immediate impact on this side of the ball."

Overall, Koetter doesn't believe that recruiting services and their star systems do justice to ranking recruiting classes in general. Furthermore, he prides his coaches' abilities to find those hidden gems. "Our staff isn't afraid to go against the grain of what people think are the guys we should recruit because the number of stars they have after their name," he said. "I think it's more important to go out there and recruit a guy like Jovon Williams when no one else is recruiting him at the time, or go recruit Shawn Lauvao when we're the first ones out there."

"We make our evaluations and trust our judgment," Koetter continued. "I use Derek Hagan as an example. We beat UNLV to get Derek Hagan, and he will leave here with every receiving record you can have. When those around us are panicking in recruiting, those people in the back of the room (coaches, etc.) are always taking care of their business. We're selling a great product and it's being very well received. The Sun Bowl helped us a lot from a momentum standpoint."

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