More top local prep football players staying in-state

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                </div>“Go from the inside out.”  That’s the way Arizona State head football coach explains his philosophy on recruiting. By that, Todd Graham is referring to the emphasis he and his […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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“Go from the inside out.”  That’s the way Arizona State head football coach explains his philosophy on recruiting.

By that, Todd Graham is referring to the emphasis he and his staff have put on recruiting local athletes and then moving outside the state from there.  Both he and his counterpart at University of Arizona, Rich Rodriguez, have focused on the talent in their own backyard as both now begin their second season in charge of their respective programs.

And, while the 2013 class was pretty thin on local players that were highly-rated, it looks like the class of 2014 is beginning to show some promise along those lines. Each coach just snagged a major in-state recruit as the 2014 crop begins to grow.

As the February national signing day for the 2013 class closed out earlier this year, Graham’s signees included just 15 percent from within the state and Rodriguez , who had a smaller group, claimed about 20 percent locals.

But it was the Sun Devil boss who scored big on what he did find locally, picking up Chans Cox out of Blue Ridge High School and Christian Westerman, who attended Hamilton High School and then accepted a scholarship offer from Auburn, where he spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons before transferring back to ASU.

Westerman was the No. 1-ranked offensive guard and No. 2 offensive tackle coming out of Hamilton, where he started on three consecutive state-championship teams.  Cox was one of the most sought-after prospects in the state, ranked by one recruiting service as the No. 1 fullback in the country and the No. 13 linebacker by another.

Now the coaches are starting over, preparing for the 2014 season.  Each just picked up a high-profile recruit from the local schools, but it’s Graham making the biggest news right now by getting a verbal commitment from Tyler Whiley, the first four-star prospect in ASU’s class of 2014.

The 6-foot, 180-pound wide receiver and cornerback  from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale is the No. 10-ranked recruit in the state for 2014, according to azcentral sports, and the No. 10 cornerback in the country per ESPN.  Last season, he collected 610 yards on 36 receptions.  ASU is expected to use him as a wide receiver, but he may also get some playing time on defense.

To understand the significance of Whiley’s selecting ASU, just take a list of those other colleges that also offered scholarships…Oklahoma, Nebraska, UCLA, Michigan State, Tennessee, and others.  And yes, Graham also beat out Rodriguez on this one since the Cats, too, offered a free ride.

Rodriguez countered with the acquisition of J.R. Hunt, a safety from Hamilton High School in Chandler who committed to Arizona while he was among the 35 or so recruits that attended the grand opening of the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility over the weekend.  The $80 million addition to the north end zone of Arizona Stadium hosted a red-carpet recruiting event on Saturday, and the football program made the most of the opportunity; five in-state recruits committed to the Wildcats while attending.

But while Hunt, a three-star recruit, was a nice catch, it was the verbal commitment from Trevor Wood that made the biggest headlines.  Wood, a 6’6″ tight end from Chaparral High, turned down a scholarship offer from the No. 1 college team in the nation, Alabama, to play for the Wildcats.

At 235 pounds, Wood also plays a defensive end for Chaparral, but missed most of last season while recovering from shoulder surgery.  The three-star recruit is ranked just ahead of Whiley in The Republic‘s in-state rankings for the class of 2014.  He turned down offers from schools like Oregon and UCLA to join the Wildcats program, where he will also be re-united with his old high school coach, Charlie Ragle, who is now on the coaching staff at Arizona.

Back in January, Rodriguez pulled in an even bigger local catch when Cameron Denson committed to the class of 2014.  One of the top junior prospects last year, Denson was considered by the 247Sports recruiting service to be the top prospect in Arizona and the sixth-best cornerback in the nation.

The Salpointe Catholic receiver can do it all.  In addition to making 37 catches for 585 yards, he also played quarterback and rushed for 1,026 yards and 18 touchdowns.  His stack of offers covered most of the Pac-12 schools, but also included Notre Dame and Oklahoma.

Arizona has already loaded up 18 commits to its class of 2014, while Whiley became just the fifth member of the ASU class.

But there’s undoubtedly room in both programs for another top local player.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)