Commentary

Give the Sun Devils five

Long Beach (Calif.) Poly did as five Jackrabbits have committed to Arizona State

Originally Published: September 16, 2011
By Greg Biggins | ESPN Recruiting

Long Beach (Calif.) Poly wide receiver Josiah Blandin was the first Jackrabbit to jump on board, committing to Arizona State on April 4. Blandin would soon be joined by four of his teammates giving the Sun Devils a whopping five commitments from one of the nation's most storied high school programs.

Just how was ASU able to pull this off?

It's pretty rare for one high school program to have as many as five BCS caliber football players on the roster. For all five of those players to attend the same college is even more of an anomaly. Each Jackrabbit had his own reasons for choosing ASU and despite a lot of talk back in the summer that the commitments would not likely stick until signing day, it's now looking more and more likely that all five will be Sun Devils next fall.

"ASU came in with a great plan," Poly coach and recruiting coordinator Doc Moye said. "They offered all five guys at the same time and then worked hard to get them on campus together. All five guys attended ASU's junior day in late April and came home really fired up about the school, not just the football program."

[+] EnlargeRandall Goforth
Sean CeglinskyRandall Goforth is one of five Long Beach Poly players to commit to ASU, but all will still take visits.
After Blandin committed, a few days later, cornerback Randall Goforth announced for the Sun Devils. Just a few hours later, receiver Richard Smith and linebacker Salamo Fiso followed suit giving ASU a quartet of Jackrabbits on their commitment list.

Linebacker Matt Rowe was the lone holdout and maintained for a while that he planned to take his time with his recruitment and go on all his official visits before committing anywhere. That talk lasted until late July when finally the talented athlete decided he was ready to join his four other teammates and ended the recruiting process.

"These guys are not just teammates but best friends," Moye said. "They all grew up in Long Beach together and played Pop Warner together. Everyone always talks about wanting to play in college with their buddy's but ASU actually made it happen. They got them to campus, got them fired up and got them talking about the possibility of playing together. Then the dominoes started to fall one by one but they all had been talking about this since that campus visit."

ASU was the first school to offer Blandin, Fiso, Rowe and Goforth. UCLA was the first school to offer Smith and were the early frontrunners. Rowe, who had two older brothers go through the recruiting process, was also very high on Washington (which signed former Jackrabbit linebacker Corey Waller as part of the 2011 class). Nebraska was also strong with Rowe and he was the one player in the group who appeared headed elsewhere. His oldest brother Alfred had signed with USC after being committed to Oregon State all the way up to signing day. His other brother Kenny took his visits before committing to Oregon, so Rowe knew the process and wasn't going to make an emotional decision just because some of his teammates were pressuring him.

"I just felt like ASU was the best place for me, I was most comfortable there," Rowe said. "Having those guys committed was big too but not the deciding factor. I would have chosen ASU regardless but knowing I would be with those four guys was definitely a huge bonus."

All five players have maintained from the moment they committed that they still plan to take their official visits. At last weekend's game with Carson (Calif.), they reiterated that nothing has changed and that is still the plan. Whenever a committed player is still taking visits, you never know what can happen but according to Moye, the five look very solid to sign with ASU.

"ASU is winning, that's the bottom line," Moye said. "They got in on these guys early and have formed a bond. They're playing an exciting brand of football on the field, they're ranked in the top 25 and the guys have now all bought in and are hyped about ASU football. I don't see any of them wavering from their commitments right now."

Shittu to take local visit
Aziz Shittu (Atwater, Calif./Buhach Colony) will take an unofficial visit to Cal this weekend. The defensive tackle has also set up an official visit to Texas A&M for later in the month, but odds are Stanford, USC and Cal are the teams to beat in this one.

"It should be a lot of fun," Shittu said. "I've been to Cal before and I like the school a lot. This is actually the first college football game I've ever been to. I know that's hard to believe but it's true so I'm pretty pumped up."

Thompson to quarterback
Shaq Thompson (Sacramento, Calif./Grant), the No. 3 prospect in the region, will move to quarterback this week. The Pacers' regular starter, Terry Shine, suffered a broken hand last weekend and is expected to miss at least five weeks.

Thompson has played predominately running back and safety at Grant but does have some experience as a Wildcat quarterback for the Pacers. He was also expected to be the starting quarterback as a sophomore before being move to running back.

"He'll do fine," Grant coach Mike Alberghini said. "We've had more injuries this year than I can ever remember but Shaq will be fine. He has quarterback experience and is a great all around player for us. He has really played well this year, especially on defense."

Lakes is loaded
Lakewood (Wash.) Lakes offensive lineman Zach Banner and athlete Cedric Dozier grab most of the headlines, but the Lancers could have as many as five players sign with FBS programs in February.

Earlier in the week, a pair of Lancer prospects, safety Ma'ne Manaea and defensive tackle Zaheer Webb, committed to Colorado.

"We wanted to play together in college," Webb said. "Colorado is a good school and it's a school we both feel like we can come in and play early at so it just made the most sense for us."

Neal shows why he's an All-American
After a relatively slow start, by his standards, to the season, Davonte Neal (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) exploded last week in the Firebirds 63-7 rout over Phoenix (Ariz.) Sunnyslope. Neal scored four touchdowns four different ways and showed why the Under Armour All-American is among the nation's most versatile prospects.

Neal rushed for a 7-yard touchdown, caught four passes for 60 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown, took a kickoff 81 yards to the house and added a 55-yard punt return for a touchdown as well.

"Things are starting to come together," Neal's father Luke said. "The guys are getting on the same page a little more now and it's good to see. Davonte had a bigger impact playing running back earlier in the year so it was good to see the passing game connect a little better and then he was able to do some things returning kicks as well."

Greg Biggins covers recruiting in the West region. He can be reached at Greg.Biggins@espn.com..