TEMPE, Ariz. –- Coincidence? Perhaps. But as Arizona State has suffered three losses in three games, they’ve landed arguably two of the state’s most sought after high school football recruits.
A week ago, Chandler High senior wide receiver N’Keal Harry announced his commitment to the Sun Devils. Then Monday morning Harry’s teammate, senior running back/defensive back Chase Lucas, made his intentions known to remain in-state.
Until Harry and Lucas sign their letters of intent — which they can beginning Feb. 3 on National Letter of Intent signing day — head coach Todd Graham cannot comment on their additions to the program. However, he did express his excitement via his official Twitter account, @CoachGrahamASU, with the following identical tweets:
Boom!!! Great day to be a Sun Devil! Hometown Hero!
— Todd Graham (@CoachGrahamASU) November 9, 2015
Graham can and did comment later Monday about the importance of keeping the local talent at home.
“It just makes sense that this is Arizona State University, so why wouldn’t you have the best and the brightest from right here in this state, right here in this Valley — and that’s easier said than done,” he said.
The verbal commitments of Harry and Lucas, however, have done nothing to take the sting off the Sun Devils’ current three-game losing streak.
For the first time since Graham’s arrival, ASU (4-5) is a sub.-500 team this late in a season.
“I know we have a really good football team. We just have not put it together and had the rhythm that we need to have. That’s the difference,” he said at his weekly press conference. “We’re losing games in the fourth quarter and that’s not something we’ve done. We’re losing close games.”
In each of the past three games, the Sun Devils entered the fourth quarter with the lead only to self-destruct, according to Graham.
In those final 15 minutes, ASU was outscored 21-3 at Washington State, 20-0 at Utah and had a costly interception late against Oregon which allowed the Ducks to tie the game and eventually win in triple-overtime.
Looking back over the season’s five losses, in the fourth quarters alone, the Sun Devils have been outscored 76-23 and turned the ball over four times.
“There’s not executing, not doing what we’re supposed to in very, very critical times and that results in losing close games. That’s kind of what’s happened,” Graham said. “Every person has just got to take accountability for that. We’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better, we’ve got prepare better. We’ve got to go win the close games. Every year I say that, and this is the first year we’ve not won those close games, so you got to put that behind you and let’s go win a close game.”
The next opportunity comes Saturday against Washington, a team not unlike ASU.
The Huskies are 4-5 and 2-4 in the Pac-12 with three of those losses in the past four weeks.
Again though, despite the recent struggles, the Sun Devils are winning on the recruiting trail.
Lucas is the third Arizona high school football player to verbally commit to ASU, along with Harry and Peoria Centennial offensive lineman Marshal Nathe.
Scottsdale Saguaro senior wide receiver/cornerback Byron Murphy is the next big name to commit. He’s close to both Lucas and Harry, maybe tipping the odds in the Sun Devils’ favor.
Graham made in-state recruiting a priority in his very first day on the job.
“I feel good about where we are as a program. I don’t feel good about that we haven’t met the expectations, but the season is not over. A lot of our work, we’re starting to see the benefits of it even though short-term wise this year it’s been frustrating losing close games,” he said.
“But big picture, we’ve laid a foundation. It’s not on sand, it’s on concrete so I think we’re seeing some of those benefits.”
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