College recruiting is a lot like the sport of fishing. You cast your line across the water and, if you snag a big one, you have to hope that prize catch doesn’t get off the line before you get it into the boat.
And sometimes you get that big ol’ fish into the boat and you figure he’s yours, but then he begins flopping around and bounces out of the boat before you can get him to shore.
Paul Lucas was that big fish that didn’t quite make it to shore, announcing just prior to Wednesday’s National Signing Day that he was changing his verbal commitment from Arizona State to Oregon State. The senior at Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix was perhaps the biggest disappointment for the ASU coaching staff, which was blindsided by the llth-hour de-commit of one of the state’s top prospects.
ASU lost out on a 3-star receiver who Rivals.com ranks as the No. 9 all-purpose back in the country. His verbal commitment to the ASU program had been a Christmas present for ASU head coach Todd Graham; the youngster committed on Dec. 25.
However, Graham’s spirits were given a big lift when the signed letter of intent for Joseph Wicker arrived. The 6’2″, 275-pound defensive end from California who Scout.com ranks as No. 11 in the country at his position had been reportedly leaning toward UCLA, but finally decided he was a better fit in Tempe. It was a major catch for Graham.
And that’s the way it went for the Sun Devils, who got the majority of those prospects they were expecting, but had their share of misses. They signed a dozen high school players who were ranked in the nation’s Top 25 at their position and had 11 signees with a four-star ranking or higher. In addition, Graham brought in three junior-college transfers who are rated in the top 100, with a couple that are considered the top prospects in the nation at their position.
ASU’s Class of 2015 includes 22 players at this point, some of whom are already on campus after signing mid-year; 19 of them are right out of high school.
The University of Arizona signed 25, but the Wildcats and their head coach Rich Rodriguez enjoyed more of a suspense-free signing day. Most of those signed had been solid commitments that covered the last 15 months and Rodriguez admitted this signing day had “probably the least amount of drama I’ve ever experienced as a head coach.” The Cats signed all the players who had verbally committed.
Rodriguez, who will enter his fourth season directing the Cats in the fall, wanted to reload his roster on the offensive and defensive lines, and apparently feels like he accomplished that. Graham, too, built up his line play, adding strength and length.
But the one position Rodriguez didn’t fill was quarterback, which he says marks perhaps the first time ever as a head coach that has happened. Arizona was led by redshirt freshman Anu Solomon this past season, which means the program should have continuity at that key position for at least three more years.
Graham added two quarterbacks, both freshmen and both four-star recruits. The one with the high visibility locally is Bryce Perkins from Chandler High School who ESPN rated as the No. 14 dual-threat quarterback prospect in the nation as a senior. He led Chandler to its first school championship last season and set school and state passing records in the process. The other newcomer under center is Brady White from Hart High School in Newhall, Calif.
Rodriguez also pulled in a big name from an in-state high school. Kennan Walker from Scottsdale’s Chaparral High School is the top-rated prospect in the state this year and was also his highest-rated recruit in this class. It may be awhile before Rodriguez sees any results from this pick since an ACL injury may keep Walker off the field during the coming season.
Each school added three in-state players to the program.
All in all, there’s probably only one way to compare the success of each school’s signing day. Based on that, ASU’s Graham and his staff appear to have the upper hand this year.
The major recruiting sites always differ somewhat on where to place each school, but Graham’s incoming group is generally regarded as a top-25 recruiting class, with Scout.com ranking it as high as 19th as the day began. The UofA class didn’t make it into the top-25 discussion, with rankings for the Cats running around 40th-best, from the No. 39 it got from ESPN to No. 42 according to 247sports.com.
So this year give the edge to Graham and his coaching staff.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)