Chris Claiborne adds to well-known California figures at ASU football

ASU football looking to change the tide in Southern California recruiting with Claiborne hire

Arizona State football is looking to change the outlook of California recruiting. 

Historically, the top California high school football recruits go to the University of Southern California. Since 2000, 13 No. 1 recruits from the state and 38 five-star prospects from California have chosen USC, per 247Sports. 

The top recruits in California for 2021, Korey Foreman, and 2022, Domani Jackson, are both already committed. 

But since Herm Edwards took over as ASU head coach in December 2017, and current defensive coordinator Antonio Pierce came with him, there has been an increase in “Cali Devils." 

Nearly 40% of the current roster is from California, including starting quarterback Jayden Daniels, who grew up watching games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

On Jan. 25, ASU took another big step in its pursuit to compete in the area, with the hiring of linebackers coach Chris Claiborne

From Southern California, he was previously an offensive quality control analyst at USC, the school at which he won the Butkus Award as the nation's best linebacker in 1998. He is now the third former USC coach to be hired since December 2019, following Chris Hawkins and Prentice Gill.

"(Claiborne) impressed us with his passion for the game of football, for coaching young men and for recruiting at an elite level," Edwards said in a press release following the hire. "Chris will be able to relate to the young men on our team and to recruits nationwide."

Claiborne went to high school in Riverside, California, just outside of Los Angeles. After eight seasons in the NFL, he coached at several high schools in the Los Angeles area, including as Pierce's defensive coordinator at Long Beach Poly and as head coach of Calabasas from 2018-19, where Sun Devil freshman receiver Johnny Wilson played. 

"As a Pied Piper in the football community in Southern California, his name recognition is off the charts," said Calabasas athletic director, Jon Palarz. "When he was named our head coach, the number of young football players in the area who were interested in Calabasas High School was at an all-time high. He created a lot of a lot of buzz and a lot of success."

Claiborne was only at Calabasas for two seasons, but in that short time, Palarz said he drew in athletes from Georgia, Florida and Maryland. 

Continuing to bring in recruits will be a top priority. 

"My job is to try to bring in the best talent," Claiborne said during his introductory press conference on Feb. 3. "Some great talents in California, as well as some great talent in Arizona. So that's my main thing."

While Claiborne has shown he can draw talent in from other parts of the country, he has a real advantage in Southern California. He is plugged in with the high school coaches in the area. He can connect with recruits because he lived through similar life experiences and worked his way up to become one of the best college football players in the country. 

"Kids can look at him and maybe see themselves a little bit," said San Juan Hills football coach, Rob Frith, who competed against Claiborne in the 2019 CIF playoffs. "Knowing the area, knowing the neighborhood, being very familiar with some of the streets that these guys live on, I think they can find a connection there. And when you build that connection, and you build that trust, then players are going to feel better about making that type of a decision."

Claiborne said a primary reason for coming to ASU and another Pac-12 program was his relationship with Pierce. 

The two competed against each other in high school and in college when Pierce attended UA. But Claiborne said they got to know each other more as linebackers on the New York Giants in 2006. 

Now he's a Sun Devil, Claiborne is locked in on taking down ASU's conference opponents, including USC. He said it's "straight business."

"It's about winning, the Pac-12 South" Claiborne said. "It doesn't matter who we have got to go through to get there. That should be our only focus. USC has a great history. I know that, I've been there, I've been a part of it. But at the end of the day, I'm looking forward to what I've got to be able to do here with the group of linebackers that I have here. So it's not personal."


Reach the reporter at alexjweiner@gmail.com and follow @alexjweiner on Twitter.

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