Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Sun Devils lose QB, load up on JC talent
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Arizona State loaded up on junior college talent in coach Todd Graham's second recruiting class, but the Sun Devils lost the star high school quarterback they thought they were going to get.
Joshua Dobbs had verbally committed to Arizona State, but at the last minute changed his mind and signed with Tennessee, leaving the Sun Devils without a quarterback recruit for the second year in a row.
Graham didn't talk about Dobbs by name but said the plan was to bring in a quarterback and that changed on Wednesday.
"It's a tough deal, it's a tough process," Graham said. "In a lot ways the process is out of hand in how it goes, but you end up getting what you're supposed to. There's nothing about recruiting that's fair, but all you can do is know how we're going to do it, and we're going to do things with class and character."
He noted the team has three quarterbacks returning -- starter Taylor Kelly, Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici.
"We're fine, more than fine, we're great at that position," Graham said, "but it is something that we'll look at to bring somebody in here, whether it be next year or in the meantime, I don't know yet. Obviously, that's something that developed today. We wanted to sign one and we didn't."
The 27 Arizona State recruits included 10 from junior colleges, headed by defensive lineman Marcus Hardison of Dodge City Community College. The list of freshman recruits was topped by linebacker Chans Cox of Blue Ridge High in Lakeside, Ariz.
Graham made no apologies for dipping so strongly into the junior college ranks. He said a normal year might have six JC recruits with this year's figure skewed by need.
"I think we can sign the best junior college players in the country, and why not?" he said. "I think the best junior colleges in America are in California and Arizona and we think that's a formula that can be successful for us."
Hardison, 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, was rated the No. 14 overall and third-best defensive lineman in junior college nationwide by Rivals.com.
"Marcus is one of the top defensive ends in America," Graham said, "a guy that our fan base is going to love in a hurry. The thing that attracted him is that we're one of the best in the country in getting after the quarterback."
Hardison reportedly had offers from Baylor, Kansas State, Florida State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, among others. He verbally committed to Arizona State three weeks ago.
Another JC transfer lauded by Graham is wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who comes from Philadelphia via Pierce College. Strong sat out the 2011 season and has three years of eligibility remaining. Strong is joined at Arizona State by Pierce teammate wide receiver Joe Morris.
Among the freshman recruits are brothers Alani and Viliami Latu, both linebackers from Rancho Cucamonga High School. On Wednesday morning, safety Marcus Ball from Westerville, Ohio, announced he had selected Arizona State over Wisconsin. Ball had verbally committed to the Badgers but withdrew the commitment when Wisconsin had a change in coaches.
Graham praised Cox as an extremely talented young player who never wavered in his commitment, despite later interest from big-time programs, including Notre Dame. The 6-3, 230-pound linebacker fits the Arizona State mold as an attacking defender.
"A guy that epitomizes what we want as a football player," Graham said.
In fact, defense was the theme of the day for the Arizona State coach, who guided the Sun Devils to an 8-5 record in his first season. Fifteen of the recruits are penciled in on defense, helping to make up for 16 the team loses to graduation next year, Graham said.
On offense, there were five wide receivers in the recruiting class, two of them -- Ellis Jefferson (Denton) and Cameron Smith (Copell) -- from Texas.
Graham said he knows the program needs to do better in-state but said that he and his staff have vastly improved relations with the state's high school coaches and that improvement in that area takes time.
The school did nab 6-5, 265-pound defensive lineman Kisima Jagne from Chandler and tight end Grant Martinez from Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale.
The biggest, literally and perhaps in other ways, is 6-4, 303-pound offensive guard Christian Westerman from Hamilton High in Chandler. He was considered the top recruit in the state two years ago. He signed with Auburn but has transferred back home.