ASU’s football recruiting class takes a couple of late hits

A new crack just showed up in the foundation of ASU’s 2011 football recruiting class, as the Sun Devils just lost a kid who might have made an early impact on the defensive side.

It’s inevitable that there will be kids who change their minds as the clock winds down the last few days before the verbal commitments in college football programs across the country can begin signing their national letters of intent on Wednesday.

And that’s just what Gionni Paul did.

Paul reportedly has changed his mind after making a verbal commitment last month, and now he will be playing for Dennis Erickson’s former school, Miami, not his current one.

Erickson won two national championships as the head coach at University of Miami earlier in his career.  He’s a long way from that goal at ASU, but his 2011 squad is expected to be a Rose Bowl contender.

And Gionni Paul might have helped them get to Pasadena.

Paul, a beast of a linebacker from Kathleen High School in Lakeland, Fla., had 149 tackles last year as a senior, along with four interceptions and a dozen or so sacks.  He’s the kind of player that performs likes he’s on a mission on every play and many think he could make an impact as a freshman.

He was listed by ESPN as a 3-Star recruit, yet he is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 33 outside linebacker in the country.

His style can be compared to that of Vontaze Burfict, this year’s sophomore linebacker for the Devils who was named the Pac-10 Defensive MVP by Sporting News.  But, hopefully, without Burfict’s propensity for committing personal fouls.

To have a pair like that at linebacker would have any coach salivating.

And then you add Junior Onyeali, a true freshman who plays defensive end, and Omar Bolden at cornerback.

Bolden, who only recently decided to return next year for his senior season instead of entering the NFL draft, led the team in interceptions this season and was one of only four unanimous selections for the All-Pac-10 First Team.  Onyeali was named to both the College Football News and Rivals.com First Team All-Freshman squads.

ASU will have one of the best defensive units in the country next year, but the addition of Paul would have made it even better.

And Erickson needed to hold on to Paul because he just lost a coveted recruit that was snatched up by a conference foe, and has a couple of others who have given verbal commitments, but appear to be wavering down the home stretch.

Just yesterday, Erickson lost a highly-coveted recruit for his offensive line as a local standout, Cyrus Hobbi from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, opted to play for USC.

Hobbi, ranked as the sixth-best guard in the country, had the Sun Devils on a short list that included USC and UCLA.  The 6’4″, 285-pound All-American announced his decision to play for USC, after first being spurned by the school’s former head coach, and then re-recruited by the new guy, Lane Kiffin, who has been relentless in his pursuit.

And the two studs sitting at the top of Erickson’s verbal commitment list are Michael Eubank, a quarterback from Corona Centennial High School in California, and Dillon Van Der Wal, the No. 12-ranked tight end in the country from Oaks Christian High School in California.

Both have given ASU a verbal commitment.  But both are reportedly sniffing around other programs and even making campus visits at this late hour.

With Paul’s defection, Erickson is down to a stable of 11 verbal recruiting commitments.

But he won’t know until Wednesday at the earliest just how big that group will actually be.  He and his staff can only keep making the home visits and working the phone.

And then sit back next week and see how well they did.