ASU football recruiting part 1: the basics

In 2008, the head of ASU football said he’d build a fence, but a porous border remains unsecured.

Yes, as with illegal immigration, documents are the issue. But for Arizona’s top recruits, migration out of the state is most appealing. Maybe some indigenous Arizonans don’t recognize grass, but it grows even here. It’s alive and appealing when green, though rare in this arid climate, forcing natives to seek it elsewhere.

Coming off a third consecutive bowl-less season, the ASU football team nearly struck out on what some have called the best in-state recruiting class in Arizona history.  Just one of the top ten in-state recruits has signed a letter of intent to play at ASU, according to Rivals.com.

Don’t worry, perhaps UA missed out too.

ASU coach Dennis Erickson said three years ago that he wanted to control the home turf, asserting metaphorically that an enclosure was under construction to corral the most robust and able-bodied pigskin-specializing Homo sapiens inside the state lines.

With jargon that can only be acceptable in recruiting news circles, the Sun Devils got “poached.”

Of the top 15 in-state recruits, Oregon signed three, California schools signed three, the Southeastern Conference signed three and the Big Ten signed two. Tempe Corona Del Sol High School defensive lineman Todd Peat saw the sign: a Nebraska license plate made his decision to become a Husker.

With few ASU graduating seniors, the 2011 recruiting cycle was not viewed as one on which to bank the future. But, since Erickson proclaimed he wanted to make the state of Arizona a recruiting focus, exodus has been the trend.

According to Rivals.com guru Chris Karpman, “ASU has signed just 22 of the 75 recruits ranked among the top-15 in the state during Erickson’s five-cycle tenure.”

While there weren’t as many scholarships available compared to normal cycles, the Sun Devils missed a chance to fortify the future.

Scottsdale Saguaro High School offensive lineman Cyrus Hobbi, a four-star recruit, signed with USC despite a heavy recruiting effort from the ASU staff, according to reports. Despite all of the current issues with the Trojans’ program, both real and perceived, USC coach Lane Kiffin made the trip to the Valley and closed the deal.

Were Erickson and his staff aggressive enough with the hometown boy? What tactics did Kiffin employ to make his visit worthwhile?

The Sun Devils also missed on out-of-state stars.

Gionni Paul, a three-star outside linebacker from Florida, was seemingly in the bag for the Sun Devils. But Paul flipped at the 11th hour for the University of Miami.

The same occurred with a three-star running back from the Sunshine State, Steward Butler, who switched to Marshall. And Quinton Pedroza changed to new Pac-12 opponent Utah.

Sure, recruits committing and backing out is part of every recruiting cycle, but ASU was ranked near the bottom not just because of low quantity, but low quality.

To be fair, the Sun Devils landed a few trophy recruits.

ASU scored very well at the most important position, signing two top-15 quarterbacks (in two distinct categories of the position) in the country, according to Rivals.com. ASU picked up the eighth-rated “dual threat” quarterback Michael Eubank from the Sun Devil hotbed of Centennial High in Corona, Calif., as a late addition. The Sun Devils also snagged the 14th-rated “pro-style” slinger Michael Bercovici from Woodland Hills, Calif.

Despite all that went wrong in 2011, if either player turns out to be an upper-tier conference quarterback, all will be forgiven.

The Sun Devils didn’t come up completely empty-handed in other areas, signing Mo Latu, a four-star recruit from Perry High School in Gilbert, where he was the second-ranked center in the country.

Maybe it is unfair to scrutinize a program’s recruiting class before the gates to Kajikawa practice fields have been unlocked.

But what are the reasons for this year’s perceived recruiting shortcomings? More importantly, what are the underlying mechanics of the recruiting process and how have these changed in the digital information age?

Reach the reporter at nick.ruland@asu.edu