Early last fall, things were looking rather bleak for the immediate future of the Arizona State football program.
When Larry Turner-Gooden announced on social media that he was decommitting from the Class of 2022 in late September, it meant there were just four players remaining in that recruiting class, the fewest of any team in the Pac-12. It was a very early look into the future, but not a promising sight.
Turner-Gooden, a four-star athlete from California, was the jewel of the recruiting class at that time. Ranked as the No. 5 athlete nationally, he had 33 other offers and decided he would take another look at those schools, making him just one more casualty of the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations that is hanging over the Sun Devil program and giving potential recruits pause in their consideration of the Pac-12 program.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that Turner-Golden decided to de-commit since the two coaches most responsible for his recruitment, Chris Hawkins and Prentice Gill, were two of the three assistants to Coach Herm Edwards that were put on administrative leave in response to the NCAA allegations.
Last month, during the early signing period, the Sun Devils signed six players on the first day, adding five freshmen and one junior college transfer. But none of those are expected to provide the kind of impact that Turner-Gooden was expected to make.
So, Edwards, who just finished his fourth season in Tempe, has turned his attention to the NCAA transfer portal to begin supplementing the incoming talent from the high schools, using experienced players to stock the roster for next season. It appears this will become the norm going forward for the ASU program.
Last week he added a couple of offensive linemen to run the total now to eight players acquired through the portal, the majority on the offensive side of the ball.
That group includes:
Des Holmes…a 300-pound offensive lineman who played over 32 games as a backup guard and tackle at Penn State. Has one season of eligibility remaining.
Emmit Bohle…another 300-pounder who was a two-year starter on the offensive line at Northern State University, a D-II program in South Dakota. Has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Chris Martinez…one more biggie to add to the offensive line, this 300-pounder started all 13 games last season for San Diego State, which finished the regular season 11-1. Has one more season of eligibility and is expected to step into a starting role for his final college season.
Nesta Jade Silvera…will give some heft to the defensive line, the 306-pound transfer from Miami should be an impact player at defensive tackle.
Paul Tyson…transferring in from Alabama where he played in just 13 games during his 3-year stay with the Tide. The 6’5″ great grandson of Bear Bryant joins Bennett Meredith, also from Alabama, as one of two incoming quarterbacks. Meredith has graduated from Hoover High School in Birmingham and already enrolled at ASU.
Xazavian Valladay…the most likely to make an immediate impact on the Sun Devil offense, the running back from Wyoming is considered one of the best in the nation. His explosive style helped him gain 3,281 yards in the 37 regular-season games during his time with the Cowboys and earn a spot on three Mountain West All-Conference teams.
Messiah Swinson…a back-up tight end at Missouri, the 6’8″, 232-pounder spent three seasons with the Tigers, which means ASU will have more experience at that position.
Rodney Groce, Jr…will also provide some needed depth at linebacker. Groce has four years of eligibility to give the Sun Devils since he played in just four games last season for Mississippi State.
ASU will likely pick up a few more recruits when National Signing Day gets here on Feb. 2, but Edwards has made it clear that he is going to lean heavily on using the transfer portal to beef up his 2022 roster.
He says he plans to add another dozen or so players from the portal, so fans can expect next season’s team to look much different than it does right now.
And that could be seen as a good thing. Last year’s team opened to high expectations, even predictions about getting to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1997. The Devils started off by winning four of its first five games, but then sputtered down the stretch, finishing 8-5 and ending the season with a 13-20 bowl loss to Wisconsin.
Hopefully, this infusion of seasoned talent coming through the portal will give the Devils another shot at the kind of season they were expected to have last year.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)