ASU turns in imposing 2020 recruiting class with work still to be done
TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona State Sun Devils have a lot to be pleased with following National Signing Day.
Bringing their number of players either signed or enrolled to 18 on Wednesday, the Sun Devils football program turned in one of the top four recruiting classes in the Pac-12, while landing as high as 24th nationally. Of those 18, there are eight four-star players. It’s a big step forward for head coach Herm Edwards and his new-look coaching staff.
The bounty was plentiful, no doubt, but not every need was filled. There’s still work to be done at certain positions.
“We didn’t get everybody we’d like but we felt like that we made a dent in some areas that we needed to improve in,” Edwards said. “But for the most part, we’ve done some pretty good things of collecting players. This is our second full class since we arrived here. … It’s been a lot of fun, but I think going forward there’s a lot of things we have to continue to work on and improve on, but I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
Of those needs, the two that stand out the most are at tight end, a position that figures to be a critical piece to offensive coordinator Zak Hill, and down in the trenches. The Sun Devils added three-star TE Jake Ryan out of Florida and two grad transfers in offensive linemen Henry Hattis and Kellen Diesch, but outside of those names, the position groups were slim pickings for ASU in 2020’s recruitment class.
For Edwards and Co., it’s all part of the process. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
“If you put in the work in anything you do in life, you will reap some benefits,” Edwards said. “We’re starting to do that, but this is our second class of a full recruiting cycle that we’ve gone through, and in college football anyone will tell you it takes you three classes to try to get the people you want to get. We’re starting to chip the rock down a little bit.”
A crucial part of recruiting is knowing where to look. With two full recruiting cycles under the program’s belt, vital lessons have already been learned.
One of those lessons has been when to stay in-state and when to look elsewhere. There’s only so many linemen in the state, whereas the Midwest and East Coast is usually loaded, and no matter the location on a map, ASU is going to look for the best available quarterback. But don’t lose sight — as some have said ASU hasn’t recruited well enough in its own backyard — Edwards isn’t jumping at the chance to recruit away from the Grand Canyon state. There’s just a lot of competition.
“We talk about California, but this is our base, Arizona, and if you look at the last — and we got here late — the last three classes, we’ve been able to get seven guys out of Arizona,” Edwards said. “I think sometimes that gets overlooked. When you look at the guys that we were after, a lot of other teams were after, there was about 30 players, 29 players we coveted with a lot of other teams.
“They all ended up going different places, we got seven of them in the last three years, and if you look at the list another seven went to Pac-12 schools and the other ones went out of the conference. … We like to give every five-star player in Arizona a scholarship, and they got taken. … We always get hit in the head about California. Arizona is where this school is located, we’re going to go after every good player in Arizona and we’re going to offer them.”
Recruiting coordinator, associate head coach, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Antonio Pierce knows better than anyone.
“Home base is Arizona, first base is California and then we move on so forth with the position need and what we need for that class,” Pierce said of ASU’s recruiting strategy. “Obviously we hit a home run in California this year, we felt really good about the guys we got out of there, especially the receiving corps that we got out of there.
“We want the best players we can get, it doesn’t matter where they come from, if they happen to come from California, great, if it’s Arizona, great. We just want the best players, we want guys that want to be Sun Devils.”
At the end of the day, the Sun Devils have, at the very least, pinpointed the areas they feel can produce the best players for the program’s future, both in the footprint of Arizona, California and Nevada and across the country.
The new-car smell of Edwards’ hire is gone, but in its place is a sense of direction that wasn’t necessarily felt before his arrival three seasons ago. The product of the 2020 season has yet to be revealed, but if the two days of national signings are any indication, ASU is on the right track to compete for the Pac-12 title and beyond.
“We play in the Pac-12, you have to have length, you have to have size, you have to have speed, period. And you’ve got to be a good football player and there’s always an exception to the rule, but we’re never going let the exception be our rule,” Edwards said. “We’re always going to go after guys with length, height, speed, have the DNA, they’re passionate about football. Those are the kind of guys we’re going after. Are we always going to get those guys? No, but we can’t sit here and say, let’s not try. That’s part of it, that’s part of recruiting.”
Spring ball officially kicks off Feb 24. There will be a total of 15 practices open to the public before ASU’s first game of the 2020 season against NAU on Sept. 3.
ASU director of player personnel Al Luginbill on locating the right type of linemen ASU is looking for:
“I think the proof will end up being another year, two years down the line. It’s interesting because we’ve tried to explain the profile of a linemen, and to us length is everything. If you can bring in one or two [players that has the size ASU is looking for along the line] a year, and then the numbers start adding up.
“So when you’re rotation goes out there, there’s a 6-foot-4, 6-foot-5 guy with long arms, check how many times we knock down a pass. That’s huge in a football game and we just, we don’t do it because we’re not very tall.”
Edwards on realizing the time spent on recruiting in college:
“I was a little bit taken back on the time spent on recruiting to be quite honest. When I first arrived here I said 70% [of the time is spent on recruiting], I was wrong, I was wrong. It’s 90%, it’s your whole life, that’s what you do. With that being said, the one thing I always learned is, work is work. It’s just according to how much time you want to put in.
“The life of a coach is like going to one of those casinos in Vegas, there’s no clock. … That’s a football coach’s life. … It was way more than I imagined, but it’s OK, you adjust and you move on. I’m enjoying it, I really am, I’m having a lot of fun.”