The dust has finally settled after yesterday’s flurry of activity from National Letter of Intent Signing Day for college football, and now we have a chance to measure the results from Arizona’s Pac-12 rivals.
At first glance, there are some obvious Signing Day similarities between Arizona State and the University of Arizona Wildcats. But there’s also one significant difference:
Arizona is taking the developmental approach, while ASU is looking for more immediate impact.
Both programs were concerned about staff shake-up affecting the verbal commitments they had worked so hard to secure. ASU head coach Todd Graham suffered a significant talent drain in the days since the 2015 season ended as four of his assistants left to accept jobs elsewhere – including his offensive coordinator and top recruiter. And Rich Rodriguez at Arizona has been busy replacing four assistants on the defensive side of the ball.
Rodriguez actually did lose some high-profile commits from his 2016 class at one time or another, and Graham was hit with his share of defections. But in the end, both programs recovered rather well.
ASU’s class is not ranked as high as the one Graham pulled in last year, which is considered the best since he arrived four years ago. But ESPN rates this one No. 25 in the nation. The highest ranking for UofA’s latest crop came from 247 Sports, which put the Wildcat class at No. 43.
And the two teams had similar success in flushing out recruits in their own backyard. Each had three local high school prospects sign on, but the advantage would have to go to the Sun Devils. They added the No. 1 high school prospect in the state, wide receiver N’Keal Harry from Chandler High School, and his Chandler teammate, Chase Lucas, a four-star safety ranked No. 3 in the state at his position (Rivals.com).
Harry and Lucas will be re-joining another former Chandler teammate, Bryce Perkins, who will be competing for ASU’s starting-quarterback job next season. The three combined to lead Chandler to the 2014 state title.
The third local in this year’s group is Marshal Nathe, a 290-pound offensive lineman from Centennial High School in Peoria. Nathe was actually the first player to commit to the Class of 2016.
Arizona also picked up a Centennial grad among its trio of in-state recruits, wide receiver Shawn Poindexter. He is joined by Keenan Walker, an offensive tackle from Scottsdale’s Chaparral High School, and three-star defensive tackle Justin Holt from Salpointe Catholic in Tucson.
Graham added 18 to his roster, while Rodriguez pulled in 22 new players. But the mix in each group is perhaps the most significant difference between the two classes.
ASU is coming off its worse season in Graham’s four years directing the program, finishing with his first losing record, 6-7, and a bowl loss. He decided to get some immediate help for next season by going out and signing the nation’s No. 1 class of junior-college transfers.
Seven of the eight JUCO transfers are ranked in the top five nationally at their position, and all eight are included in the top 10. One of them is another local athlete. Christian Hill is a 6’6″ defensive end from Glendale Community College.
Rodriguez is also coming off a disappointing season at 7-6, but went the developmental route by focusing more on prep talent. Twenty of the 22 in this class are coming right out of high school.
For Graham, this is the third-straight ESPN Top-25 recruiting class. He didn’t have an answer when asked in yesterday’s media conference where he ranked this year’s team. But he obviously likes what he and his coaches have caught in this year’s recruiting nets.
“As a coaching staff, we felt like this, no doubt, met the needs that we had,” he explained. “Would we have liked to add a few people? You always wish you could add a few people, but at the end of the day, man, you want to end up with the ones you’re supposed to have.
“And we feel really good about this class.”
(Photo: ASU Athletics)