Challenges Don't Affect Quality of ASU Class

Hired in the middle of a recruiting cycle, ASU Head Coach Dennis Erickson had to contend with many obstacles when building the Sun Devils 2007 recruiting class. Ultimately the 23 players in this group, four of whom are already enrolled in school, address pressing needs and infuse solid talent into the maroon and gold squad.

"It is hard coming in at the time that we did, as late as we did, you are catching up all the time," said Erickson. "And then there was a huge dead period…we had about a month for face-to-face contact with a lot of these recruits. We did a lot of work by the phone. Obviously, we had some relationships develop with the coaches that were other places before they came here."

Without having the benefit of a full year's recruiting cycle, the Sun Devil coaches had to at times change the minds of players who were committed elsewhere. Even tough the ASU staff was able to convince approximately nine players to change their original commitment and pledge to the Sun Devils, Erickson would ideally like to: "…start now and develop relationships with players and their parents over a long period of time, which makes it easier."

The Sun Devil skipper quipped that you don't often hear any coach state that he didn't have a good recruiting class. Nonetheless, he knows that: "The proof is in the pudding, three years down the road…as you look at this class, to me it's an awfully good class. You look at the 17 high school players that we have and then the five junior college players we have. Four of them have two years and then (running back) Jarrell Woods has three years. It like recruiting a high school running back, basically."

Erickson was able to secure the signings of six in-state players (including two junior college players), and realizes the importance of protecting your back yard (and your state as a whole) in the recruiting wars. "Obviously for us to have a successful program we have to continue and continue and continue to get players from this state," he said. "That is our number one priority and it always will be. The late start hurt us in some areas but we were able to convince six of them to play at home and as time goes on it will continue to get better for us. As you guys know the population has increased, the population of the school has increased and the type of talent in this state has really, really increased." He added that Letter of Intent Day was spent by him and the staff studying the state's junior players, with scholarship offers to follow for some of them.

In terms of building relationships with high school coaches, Erickson commented that he and his staff will travel to as many high schools in the spring as they can. Furthermore, he plans to open all spring practices to all high school coaches and conduct coaching clinics during that period. Erickson emphasized the importance he and his staff put on building strong relationships with high school coaches.

Five players from this recruiting class were players that committed under the old coaching staff. Erickson wasn't oblivious to the fact that those young men wanted to be Sun Devils, and was delighted to have them stick with their original commitment. "They wanted to come to Arizona State, that was the number one thing," he remarked. "Whether I was the coach, or whoever was the coach, they have a great love for this university and wanted to play here. A lot of them were raised watching games here, so the basic thing for them was that they come over with their parents, get a chance to sit down and visit with them, answer any questions that they might have and give them a chance to meet their position coaches. When we did that, they were fine."

Name recognition is certainly as asset that Erickson possesses. The ASU coach doesn't attempt to downplay that theory. "It depends on what articles they read, I guess," he joked. "Certainly, I believed that it helped. Just being around a long time, as I mentioned earlier, having the opportunity to know a lot of coaches and have a reputation with the coaches, that has been very good over the years. It has made a difference and then the players being able to recognize the name. Some of them are starting to forget that I was at Miami because that was in 1994 now, and that's scary, but that's the truth. But it helped. It helped quite a bit I think."

Erickson has gained the reputation of signing several junior college transfers in recruiting classes, yet the 2007 class only has five of those transfers. "When we came in, we sat down and evaluated and talked to members of the staff that were here before about where we felt that we needed help," he explained. "When we evaluated it, we felt we needed help at defensive end, and that was before Loren Howard became eligible (gaining a sixth year of eligibility). So that was a huge area and we signed two ([defensive ends) and we felt we needed a cornerback, so we signed Jarrell (Holman). All four of those were battles. Morris Wooten is a linebacker (that was signed) because we lost our middle linebacker (i.e. Beau Manutai) and all four of those battles for those junior college players were battles that we had to change what they were going to do originally."

The ASU coach predicts all junior college players to play, and wasn't adverse to the notion of playing freshmen in their first year if they can come in and make an immediate impact. He does however know that some of the high school players will change positions once they arrive on campus.

"Oliver Aaron was a linebacker, but he's really a safety type, so he'll end up playing safety for us," Erickson noted. "Colin (Parker), we'll just kind of see how he goes. He played safety in high school. He could end up being a linebacker. As you go through it, I would say you look at those two. They jump out. Jonathan Clark played both cornerback and safety. We really feel he has the athletic ability to be a corner, so that's what we were imagining. I guess that's probably it. I think everybody else fits into what's described there."

Bringing in two quarterbacks isn't usually that common in recruiting classes. The Sun Devils received signatures from California signal callers Chasen Stangel and Samson Szakacsy, which certainly implies that one of them won't redshirt in 2007 and may challenge backup quarterback Danny Sullivan. "It's going to be a battle, of course," Erickson admitted. "Danny can play, we've looked at him on tape and he's done a good job. But both freshmen quarterbacks are going to come in and compete at fall camp and whoever the second-best player is, is going to play, whether it's one of those two freshmen or Danny. So it's going to be very competitive. We felt we needed to bring in two quarterbacks because we only had two on scholarship, ideally, you'd like to have one in each class to learn the system. The system's a little different so both Rudy (Carpenter) and Danny are going to be learning in the spring, so both freshman quarterbacks won't be far behind."

Erickson knows that no one coach gets hired or fired over the strength of his recruiting class alone. Results are what a staff is judged by. "So it doesn't make a difference until they (the players recruited) come out on the field and perform," he said. "We are real happy and excited about this group that we have. The next thing for us is to get to know the players who are here because we have been gone a lot. We have been on the road doing different thing. Finally we have been able to get involved in off-season work outs. I'm excited about the players that are here and that we are going to play with this spring. That is the most important thing to me is to get to know them and recognize names and face because they are the ones that are ours right now and the ones we are going to win football games with."

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