Erickson Pleased with Versatile Class

Whether it's a good mix of JC players and high school ones, or players that can play multiple positions, ASU head coach Dennis Erickson believes the 2008 recruiting class' blend of players is one that will pay immediate and future dividends. In his Letter of Intent press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Erickson discussed the class ranked 16th in the nation by Scout.com.

"Talking about the class, it's a class that is pretty mixed, in that we have some junior college players that we feel have got to play right away," said Erickson. "Terell Carr is here, Tom Njunge, our two defensive linemen [Eugene Germany and Spencer Gasu] have got to play right away for us, and Max Tabach has got to play for us right away."

"That's why you bring junior college players in. When you have Spencer Gasu and Eugene Germany, two defensive linemen, obviously we need some help there. They've got to come in and contribute. They won't be here until the fall, so they've got a lot of learning to do. They'll be here in July, so they've got a lot of catching up to do. But they are very good athletes and can do a lot of things for us."

A handful or so high school players from this class, offer the team flexibility in terms of their playing positions. Fall camp performance will probably determine their final role for the 2008 season.

"We just got some good athletes," Erickson noted. "[Jarrell] Barbour could play either way, he could play safety or receiver…Clint Floyd could play corner or safety, or play in the slot. Keelan Johnson could play safety or receiver…Gerell Robinson is a receiver, in our minds, but he's a great athlete…Toa Tuitea is a guy who can play tight end or defensive end. That's in a little different category, but he's a guy that we looked at on both sides of the football, and he can play either side. He was just an athlete that we thought could play for us."

"That's kind of how we look at them a lot. To me, as I look at this class, and I'm just looking at them as far as how we rated them athletically, not how the stars rated them, we think it's an awfully good class. Some of these guys that are freshmen are going to help us, no question about it, right away."

The Sun Devil skipper mentioned the high quality of both offensive and defensive linemen that have been added in this recruiting class. On offense, local linemen Patrick Jamison and Zach Schlink were highlighted. On defense, the only (positive) surprise of LOI day was the signing of Jamaar Jarrett who de-committed from Pac-10 for Oregon on Tuesday night.

"We stayed on him," said Erickson of the defensive end. "…we went down the last week of recruiting, visited with him and his coach. I've known his coach for a bit. Coach [Craig] Bray and I, coach [Grady] Stretz, went down there and were able to convince him. He was a hard guy to get a hold of, like a lot of them. He decided after looking at everything, and going back and forth, that's what he wanted to do. It was a good get for us."

Another impressive high school defensive lineman who signed with the Sun Devils is Lawrence Guy. "He's a big defensive end that played extremely well. If you watched the (U.S. Army) all-star game, he played really well," Erickson remarked. "He's a guy that's physical right now, could come in and help us right away, no question about it. He's a very good athlete, can run really well for his size."

On offense, one player that should make an immediate impact is running back Ryan Bass. "He's a great talent. He's got great vision, great explosion. The guy fits into what we do," stated Erickson. "He's an every-down back. He can catch it. Like all of them, they've got a lot of things to learn. But he's a talented young guy that can run. He's got breakaway speed, so when gets in that secondary, he can take it all the way."

Bass, just like 13 other players in the class hail from a Southern California school. The short drive is appealing to the players, while Erickson and his staff feel comfortable recruiting a region that they have much experience with.

"That doesn't mean we're not going to recruit Texas," said Erickson. "We're going to continue to recruit Texas. There's no question about that. We're going to recruit wherever there's a good football player. But we know California extremely well, a lot of football players in California. We feel like, in the state of California, particularly southern California with the connections that we have, and how close it is, we have a chance to compete against anybody."

ASU continued to protect its home turf in terms of recruiting, and signed eight of the top high school players in the state of Arizona. Not only is Erickson impressed with the current level of local prep talent, but he does expect it to improve even more.

"The population is growing. The coaching is extremely good. Just in this area is where most of them are at," he explained. "We want to control this area. We want to put a fence around it and not let anybody out if we can. If we can do that, and we get these homegrown players that have watched Arizona State play for awhile, and then have success and keep them here, that's a start right there. If you can get eight or nine players out of the state every year - that helps."

The most intriguing name in the recruiting class, and the one that easily brought ASU the most publicity was the son of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway - Jack Elway. The Cherry Creek (Colorado) high school signal caller is named after Jack Elway Sr., who has coached not only with Erickson, but also with Erickson's father for many years.

"I can't tell you how much it means to me to have his grandson," said Erickson. "Obviously, Jack [Sr.] died when Jack was really young, so he told me the other day that one of the reasons he was going to come was so he could hear stories about his grandpa. It means a lot to me, and Jack, that we're going to be able to be together here for four or five years."

Bloodlines and famous surname aside, Elway is a talented player who shows much promise. "Jack has got a great upside," said Erickson. "He hasn't filled out yet. He's grown since he's been here on his visit. When we went to visit him in Denver, he'd grown about an inch, played point guard on their basketball team, probably 195 [or] 200 pounds. He's going to be 6-[foot]-4, 210 [or] 215 pounds before it's all over with, maybe even bigger than that. He's a great athlete. He's got an extremely strong arm. He's got great football savvy."

"I think you'll find as time goes on that he'll surprise you on how good he can be. And those bloodlines are pretty good, like I said."

It's probably no coincidence that the more talented and heavily pursued players of this class, verbaled to ASU late in the regular season or after they witnessed a ten-win team with a lot of room to grow.

"Winning opens a lot of doors," Erickson admitted. "We won some games on TV, and we got to what we consider a pretty good bowl. Guys were watching us. So when you win 10 football games, it really opens some doors. When you're on TV, and you show the stadium, the atmosphere, all the great things that we have here in Tempe, and they show the city, the campus, the students and all those different things on TV, those kids (say), `hey man, I want to take a look at that thing.' It makes a difference. The more they see it, the better it is. There's no question about it."

Recruiting services such as Scout.com have rendered their judgment of ASU's 2008 class. That being said, how does coach Erickson evaluate the 27 players that have joined the ranks of the Sun Devils?

"When you recruit junior college players, it's probably need. So you look at the five junior college players that we have, we brought them in to play right away," Erickson explained. "When you're dealing with freshmen, it's how good an athlete can you get. It's not so much position, although we knew we needed offensive and defensive linemen, but we're going to get the best player that we could. We were going to take the guys in Arizona regardless of position."

"As it came down, we covered about every need and we got pretty darn good athletes."

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