National Signing Day shows progress of ASU, UA football


There are still a few lagging commitments left to secure, but for the most part Arizona’s Pac-12 football programs enjoyed a successful conclusion to yesterday’s National Signing Day, the first day that high school seniors can sign a binding National Letter of Intent for football.

As the fax machines went into overdrive in the athletic departments in Tempe and Tucson, the head coaches at Arizona State and University of Arizona began to realize the fruits of their recruiting efforts.  And both appear happy with the results of the day – but, of course, wouldn’t tell you if they weren’t.

Both schools are expected to wind up with recruiting classes ranked in the top 25 nationally.  And that’s the best indicator possible of whether these two programs will continue on the upward trajectory that Todd Graham at ASU and Rich Rodriguez at Arizona have begun in the two years since each took over their respective programs.

“I actually love recruiting,” said Graham as he previewed his new class to the media yesterday.  “I love getting the opportunity to go into a lot of different homes, and I want to wish the guys that went elsewhere the very, very best of luck as well .”

And this year those homes were all over the country as Graham and his staff threw their recruiting nets far and wide to snag the 26 members of this year’s class, which included eight four-star and 16 three-star prospects.

Arizona put together what was expected to be the largest recruiting class in the Pac-12, originally anticipating 28 hopefuls, but totalling out at 25 yesterday.  Besides ASU, there are only three other schools in the conference with more than 20 in their 2014 recruiting class.  The Wildcats’ list includes five four-star and 20 three-star prospects and is balanced pretty evenly between offensive and defensive acquisitions.

Going into Signing Day, ESPN had ranked the Arizona class as No. 21 in the country, while Arizona State, which had consistently been ranked in the bottom half of the conference in recruiting before Graham’s arrival, was put at No. 21 on the list.  From initial appearances, that won’t likely change much.

Topping the ASU list are DJ (Derik) Calhoun and Jalen Harvey, teammates from El Cerrito High School in California – a recruiting hotbed which Graham successfully mined for 10 acquisitions to this year’s class.  Calhoun is a four-star outside linebacker who will join a defense that was ranked No. 1 in the Pac-12 last season, and Harvey is a four-star wide receiver who is one of three recruited at that position for the No. 1 scoring offense in the conference.

Coltin Gerhart, a defensive back who also was the starting quarterback at California’s Vista Murrieta High School, was another prized pick-up that followed through on his verbal.

Perhaps the most high-profile local acquisition in this class is Tyler Whiley, a cornerback from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale.  He is one of only three ASU recruits from within the state, the other two being defensive lineman Ismael Murphy-Richardson from Desert Edge High School in Goodyear and Quinn Bailey, an offensive lineman from Higley High in Gilbert.

Rodriguez and his staff also convinced a few local players to stay in-state and come to Tucson, perhaps the most important of which is Cameron Denson, a four-star running back from Salpointe Catholic who is seen as a potential replacement for Ka’Deem Carey, the nation’s scoring leader as a freshman who decided to forgo his senior season to enter the NFL draft and leaves a huge hole to fill in the Wildcat offense.

He is joined on the Cats’ roster by four other local players, two of whom will be transferring in from JUCO programs.  Those arriving directly from high school are Trevor Wood, a 6’6″ tight end from Chaparral High who is ranked No. 1 in the state at his position, and Layhth Friekh, a 6’6″ 260-pound offensive lineman from Centennial High School in Peoria.

The other two locals are coming via Scottsdale Community College.  Patrick Glover also played cornerback at Mountain View High School in Mesa, but Antonio Smothers is a linebacker who played his high school ball in Indiana.