A Recruiting Class Worth the Wait

Last year when Dennis Erickson was hired, he had less than two months to assemble a recruiting class. While that class was impressive given the circumstances, the popular sentiment was: "Just wait until coach has a full recruiting cycle." Well, the anticipation will come to an end on Wednesday as the Sun Devils will unveil a Top 20 recruiting class addressing many pressing needs on the team.

A Recruiting Class Worth the Wait Last year when Dennis Erickson was hired, he had less than two months to assemble a recruiting class. While that class was impressive given the circumstances, the popular sentiment was: "Just wait until coach has a full recruiting cycle." Well, the anticipation will come to an end on Wednesday as the Sun Devils will unveil a Top 20 recruiting class addressing many pressing needs on the team. Arizona State's recruiting class protected its home turf signing nine local high school players. Ironically, after spanning all the way to Florida last year to sign two players (Oliver Aaron and Derrall Anderson), aside from the state of Arizona the 2008 class consists of players from just three nearby states: California, Colorado and Nevada, with 14 players coming from California and two from each of the other states.

Offensive and defensive linemen, as well as defensive backs were the biggest priorities and all three areas were addressed adequately to say the least. The Sun Devils will have seven defensive backs (with some players switching from their predominant high school positions), five defensive linemen and five offensive linemen.

Only five of the 27 signees are from the junior college ranks, and more importantly three of them Tom Njunge, Terrell Carr and Max Tabach are already enrolled in school and will participate in spring practice next month. Furthermore, Tabach is a fairly rare JC signee who has three years of eligibility (and can still redshirt a season if needed).

Here's a look at the players scheduled to sign a Letter of Intent with ASU on Wednesday. Players are listed in chronological order based on their verbal commitment date:

More often than not the first commit of a recruiting class is a local player. Sure enough, Phoenix Desert Vista tight end Steven Figueroa verbaled before any other Sun Devil prospect back on June 5th, just a couple of days after participating in ASU's team camp.

The 6-5 235 Figueroa is a sure handed tight end who can boost the passing game. Like most tight ends coming out of high school, he will need to bulk up and improve his blocking skills. The Desert Vista product, who scored three TD's and had 222 yards receiving as a senior, also received offers from Nebraska, Oregon State, and San Diego State among others.

ASU didn't have long to receive its first out of state commitment. Las Vegas Bishop Gorman cornerback Josh Jordan pledged to the maroon and gold on June 25th. The 5-10 170 Jordan was elected to Nevada's All-State team. In his senior year he tallied 31 tackles, eight pass deflections, and three interceptions and was offered by the likes of Oregon and Stanford. Jordan self-assessed himself as being a physical corner that excels in press and man-to-man coverage, but needs to do a better job reading routes.

On that same day, ASU Figueroa's teammate Zeb Togiai joined the ranks and committed to ASU. The 6-3 260 defensive tackle had 65 tackles, three sacks, and a fumble recovery in his senior campaign. Togiai is considered raw in his skills, but certainly has to potential to contribute in the future. If his last name sounds familiar, that is because his cousin is Farrington "Taco" Togiai who played for the Sun Devils from 1992-93.

As we mentioned, offensive linemen were a high priority in this recruiting class and ASU was eager to land some of the local talent in this position. Their next two commits answered that necessity. First, Chandler Hamilton Patrick Jamison pulled the trigger. The 6-5 290 was selected to the Arizona Republic's 2007 All-Arizona High School Football Team. Jamison has excellent technique and footwork, but could use some more flexibility. He could also play guard at ASU.

Zach Schlink became the first four-star prospect to verbal to ASU in this class. With nearly 20 offers including schools such as Cal, Michigan and Stanford, the Peoria Centennial star certainly was one of the most sought out players recruited by the Sun Devils. As a junior he was 1st team All Region, All-5A and All-Arizona. A knee injury sidelined him for most of his senior year and prevented him from probably repeating those honors. The 6-3 300 was an outstanding tackle in high school, but could be d to guard in college. Much like Jamison, he's known as a nasty streak player with good technique, who could improve his flexibility.

Schlink's teammate Jarrell Barbour was the first of three players who de-committed from ASU's archrival Arizona before pledging to the maroon and gold. The 6-3 190 helped his team win a second straight Class 5A Division II title, and can play wide receiver or safety, and the later position landed him on the Arizona Republic's 2007 All-Arizona High School Football Team. As a wide receiver he registered 590 yards receiving and ten touchdowns. On defense, he amassed 33 tackles, 11 interceptions, four pass deflections. Unfortunately, chances are slim to none that this talented local product will qualify academically and is likely to go the junior college rout with Scottsdale Community College being the probable destination.

Allante Battle was the first ASU commit during the regular season. While the Desert Vista player is a talented wide receiver and cornerback, he's also an accomplished sprinter. Consequently, the 5-9 170 will sign a Letter of Intent with ASU's track team and will be slated to on football scholarship in 2009.

After five straight in-state commits, ASU received a handful of consecutive out of state pledges, starting with Norco (Calif.) offensive tackle Kyle Johnson. The 6-6 287 offensive tackle was already enamored with the Sun Devils when his high school line mates and current ASU players Garth Gerhart and Adam Tello were recruited. Therefore it came as no surprise when he committed to ASU during his official visit.

No ASU commitment got more notoriety than quarterback Jack Elway. There's simply no price tag one can put on the advertising ASU received when Elway's commitment run for several hours on the score ticker during Saturday's college games on both ABC and ESPN. The son of Hall of Fame signal caller John Elway had a relatively quiet junior year. However, once his father became Cherry Creek high school's quarterbacks coach the 6-3 200 Elway excelled and received interest from the likes of Oregon and LSU. Elway does lack some consistency, but has cannon of an arm and does posses a nice touch on his passes. The Cherry Creek quarterback passed for 2,182 yards, 25 TD's and 11 INT's with a completion percentage of 55.8%. He also added three rushing scores.

A week later another Colorado player, offensive guard Andrew Sampson, committed to ASU. The 6-5 280 Aurora Overland player is an explosive lineman with great mobility, that could use some work on his technique. To watch video of Sampson

The same weekend (10/28) a duo from Los Angeles Crenshaw high school switched their commitments from hometown college UCLA to ASU. Kemonte Bateman is arguably one of the best wide receivers in Los Angeles. He accumulated 739 yards on 46 catches for nine touchdowns. On defense he tallied 29 tackles, four interceptions, a sack, and a forced fumble. The wide receiver does need to improve his route running, but is dangerously quick and elusive and does a great job with yards after the catch. Bateman has a significant amount of classroom work to complete in order to academically qualify.

Bateman's teammate Clint Floyd played both quarterback and wide receiver for the Cougars but in all likelihood will play cornerback at ASU. The 5-11 180 Floyd had one of the best all-around seasons of any player in Los Angeles. Had 1,654 all-purpose yards and 18 touchdowns. Defensively, had 78 tackles, 11 pass breakups, five interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

The month of November came and went with no commits, but the first week of December brought on board two cornerbacks with the same last name but not related. Deveron Carr from Scottsdale Chaparral is the fastest member of the 2008 class as he was clocked running the 40-yard dash at a 4.3. The 6-1 185 Carr is a talented running back (a position he could see reps at during fall camp) who gained 872 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He also had two receiving scores. As a cornerback he recorded 22 tackles and three interceptions for the 10-2 Firebirds. He chose ASU over Arizona.

Terrell Carr was the first junior college player, as well as mid-year transfer to commit to the Sun Devils. The 5-9 180 cornerback prepped at Sand Springs High School in Tulsa, Okla., and signed with 1-AA Missouri State. However, before he arrived on campus he had a change of heart and decided he wanted to play at the Division I level. He went to Santa Monica junior college in 2006 and played as a wide receiver and registered 28 catches and 333 yards. After that season, he decided to transfer to Pasadena City College where he tallied 47 tackles, seven interceptions and 13 pass breakups on the year. Tulsa and UTEP were the only other schools who offered him.

Pasadena City College teammate Tom Njunge, also a mid-year transfer, visited two weeks later with the same result – verbaling to the Sun Devils on the visit. The 6-4 280 offensive tackle switched his commitment from Boise State and was offered by Kansas State as well. Njunge fills a dire need at offensive tackle and is reportedly a solid pass blocker.

Two four-star defensive linemen pledged to ASU in the later part of December and were the last players to commit before the Holiday Bowl. First was Las Vegas Western's Lawrence Guy. The 6-5 275 lineman, who was one of two ASU participants in the U.S. Army Bowl game and chose ASU over Oklahoma and Tennessee. Guy who will play defensive end at ASU and is labeled as a quick and explosive pass rusher that needs to get better with his body control and balance. As a defensive tackle at Western he produced jaw dropping stats of 120 tackles, 60 of them solo stops, and 20 sacks in his senior year. He's a two-time all-state honoree. He's another player that has a significant amount of classroom work to complete in order to academically qualify.

Just four days before Christmas the ASU coaches received a very nice present with the verbal of Spencer Gasu. The 6-2 295 Gasu recorded 26 tackles and seven tackles for loss in his sophomore year. The Santa Ana junior college was once an Oregon pledge.

Just two days into 2008 A.J. Pickens, a player who favored ASU for quite a while, verbaled to ASU. The Chino (Calif.) Don Lugo standout began his official visit circuit in Tempe back on October 20th. Ultimately, his subsequent official trips to Arizona, Oregon State, Fresno State and Washington couldn't compare to his weekend in Sun Devil country. The 5-10 175, Pickens, who's being recruited by ASU as a slot wide receiver, was Don Lugo's leading rusher and their star offensive player in their 7-4 campaign this season. He scored 10 touchdowns, nine of them rushing. He tallied 930 yards for the Conquistadores on only 102 carries. As a defensive back he registered 19 total tackles, an interception, and one pass defended. He also averaged 47 yards a kick return.

Last year Omar Bolden made a dramatic T.V. commitment to ASU, and this year it was Chandler Hamilton's Gerrell Robinson who did the honors. The wide receiver committed to ASU during the nationally televised U.S. Army game and confirmed what we have known for a couple of weeks prior – he was staying home to don the maroon and gold. At 6-4 225 Robinson, who originally committed to Arizona, possess great size and is a legitimate downfield threat. He does need to improve his strength to combat jamming defensive backs. The SuperPrep All-American chose ASU over Notre Dame, and Oregon was is the mix late in the process as well.

He was voted as a specialist on the Arizona Republic's 2007 All-Arizona High School Football Team, due to the fact that he played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back. He rushed for 543 yards and four TD's, and caught 26 passes for 524 yards and ten TD's. As a quarterback he was 47-80 for 843 yards, six TD's and three INT's. As a defensive back he collected two pass deflections and three fumble recoveries.

A day after the Robinson commit, ASU received the most unlikely verbal in the class. Max Tabach prepped at Scottsdale Saguaro where he led the nation with 16 picks in his senior year. Without any attractive offers coming his way out of high school, he decided to go to local Glendale Community College. In his only year of play for the Gauchos he collected 70 tackles and four interceptions. After his season has concluded one of his high school coaches brought the ASU staff a highlight tape. In just one week the Sun Devils reviewed the tape and offered Tabach – a proposition that he immediately accepted. The safety is already enrolled in school and will participate in spring practice.

The weekend of 1/13 will easily go down as the most successful recruiting weekend of the season. ASU received five commitments at that time, with four of them coming from players who visited Tempe that weekend.

The quintet was highlighted by running back Ryan Bass. The Parade All-American, who originally committed to Arizona, switched his pledge to ASU during his official visit. The 5-10 186 Bass isn't known for his power, but rather for his break away speed and change of direction. His 48 TD's rank second among all running backs in the nation, and he collected 2,608 yards rushing. The ASU coaches were determined to only heavily recruit running backs that will be able to contribute in their freshman year, which obviously speaks volumes of Bass' abilities.

Bass was joined on the visit by his two high school linebackers. One of them was Brandon Magee. The 5-11 226 Magee tallied 86 tackles, led the team with 7.5 sacks, had five QB hurries and two fumble recoveries. The linebacker had offers from Louisville, Nebraska and Tennessee among others. Magee may be a bit undersized, but his 4.4 speed and hitting ability more then compensate for that. Magee is also an accomplished baseball player and there's an outside chance that he will be lost to the MLB draft in June. If not, he's expected to do double duty and play for the ASU baseball team as well.

The other linebacker is Shelly Lyons, who compared to his two teammates was certainly under recruited. Nonetheless, he could be one of the steals of this class. The 6-2 225 Lyons was second on the team in tackles with 101, as well as sacks with five. He also had two interceptions.

Ottis Jones was one of those recruits where ASU took the proverbial "wait and see" approach. Yet, the same day he arrived on his official visit he received a scholarship offer which he accepted right away. The Lawndale (Calif.) Leuzinger defensive tackle had 73 tackles, seven sacks and two fumble recoveries and played on the offensive line as well during his senior year. The 6-2 275 Jones was receiving some heavy recruiting interest from UCLA but has re-affirmed his commitment to the Sun Devils.

That weekend Toa Tuitea was visiting Vanderbilt, who was the only school he was considering aside from ASU. The Sun Devil trip was so much more impressive that the Commodores' one, that just a few hours after the tight end arrived back from the Tennessee school he decided to pledge to the maroon and gold. The 6-4 250 Westminster (Calif.) product paced his team from his defensive tackle spot with 74 stops, 12 sacks and four QB hurries in his senior campaign. Yet, he told Devils Digest previously that once the ASU coaches saw his film they liked him better at tight end, a position which certainly can use some boost in talent. Tuitea was also offered by Arizona, Washington State, Hawaii, and Mississippi. The ASU commit has been back-to-back Defensive MVP of his conference.

Mesa HS Keelan Johnson was the last local prospect to verbal to the Sun Devils. The former Nebraska pledge is coming to ASU as a wide receiver. However, much like Deveron Carr he could see some reps during fall camp at running back. In his senior year he rushed for 761 yards and 11 TD's, had 324 yards receiving on 19 catches and two TD's. As a defensive back the 6-0 200 Johnson amassed 59 total tackles, three INT's (two returned for TD's). He also had one punt return for TD.

Rounding out the 2008 recruiting class is well traveled defensive lineman Eugene Germany. He signed with USC out of high school in 2004, but didn't qualify on time and sat out that whole year. He then spent two years in Michigan and left there after a drug possession offense. When coming back home to California, the Pomona high school standout decided to take the junior college route. At Walnut (Calif.) Mt. San Antonio Community College Germany paced the Mounties in sacks (9.5), as well as QB hurries (13). He was second in tackles for loss with 18 and sixth overall in total tackles with 36. He was selected Region IV All-California First Team Defense.

Germany's verbal commitment came during his visit on January 20th. It has been a fairly quiet in terms of ASU recruiting activity ever since, which has naturally raised the level of anticipation for signing day. But the wait is coming to an end very soon, and as we said in the beginning of this article: it is a recruiting class worth the wait

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