TEMPE, AZ - DECEMBER 14: Head coach Todd Graham of the Arizona State Sun Devils speaks at a press conference introducing him as the new head football coach at Sun Devil Stadium on December 14, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Today is the day. With the fax machines whirring, the 2012 recruiting class becomes official as recruits become commits with their signed and returned Letters of Intent.
The evolution of Arizona State's 2012 class has been an absolute roller coaster. A previously impressive class compiled by Dennis Erickson began to crumble after he was fired, and ASU's prolonged coaching search ended with the hiring of Todd Graham on December 14th. Such a late hire put Graham and the program in a tight spot, with little time to salvage the current recruits and target their own players.
Yet, Graham and his staff have done a remarkable job given such difficult circumstances. The first major victory occurred on Friday, when prized four-star running back D.J. Foster chose to become a Sun Devil. His signing represents a tremendous win not only on the recruiting front, but also in reversing ASU's recent trend in failing to secure top local talent.
With just days to go, here is a position-by-position primer on where ASU stands. Rating used are from DevilsDigest.com, the excellent ASU site of the Scout.com network.
Current Commits: None
Even with the early departure of Brock Osweiler to the NFL Draft, quarterback is not a huge need for the Devils and it doesn't appear they will target one by Signing Day. With three young and talented players--Michael Eubank, Mike Bercovici and Taylor Kelly--set to fight for the starting spot, this position will likely be targeted in the 2013 class.
ASU previously had a commitment from three-star quarterback T.J. Millweard, but after some waffling following the departures of Erickson and previous offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, he opted for UCLA. ASU was going to take a look at Nate Sudfield, but he opted for Indiana before coming for a visit.
With starter Cameron Marshall a senior, and plenty of questions behind him, running back is a position of need for the Sun Devils. Thankfully, they've made great strides in the backfield so far.
Davis was the first player to commit to ASU under Graham, doing so on January 9th. He's a three-star prospect out of Canada and has a nice blend of size (6'0", 215 pounds) and speed.
But the big prize of the position, and possibly the entire class, is Foster. A four-star prospect and the No. 12 running back recruit in the nation, he should be an instant contributor with his game-breaking speed and agility.
ASU still is targeting two other talented running back prospects at the junior college level. Marion Grice of Blinn College is the top-ranked back from the junior college ranks. The odds still seem to favor him staying in Texas, but the door is still open in Tempe. Damien Williams, another top juco talent, eliminated ASU from consideration this week.
With Gerell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad, Mike Willie and George Bell departing, the Sun Devils are losing over two-thirds of last season's receiving yards, and with T.J. Simpson losing his bid for a sixth year of eligibility, wide receiver is one area in which instant impact can be made by this year's class.
Agwuenu is a highly talented and productive player from the juco ranks. At 6'4", 210 pounds, he could start right away and fill the void left by fellow 6'4" targets Robinson and Willie. Smith is a small, quicker target (5'9") that could become a contributor from the slot. Blandin is another big target at 6'4", but may take some time to develop.
With Foster now a Devil, the highest-profile recruit still in question is four-star wideout Darreus Rogers. Rogers is a supremely talented player who will announce his decision on Wednesday between ASU and USC. Since immediate playing time his primary objective, ASU could prove to be the more attractive of the two.
Tight end has been a forgotten position in the Sun Devil offense, but Mike Norvell's new offense should help bring the position back into the fold.
Graham has two junior college prospects in Ingram and Rogers. Both have good talent, but serious questions about Ingram's eligibility have recently emerged about Ingram, and his signing is now in significant doubt.
Rogers could contribute a bit in 2012, but this is not a position to expect much beyond good blocking and the occasional reception.
Like wide receiver, the offensive line is seeing the loss of three starters, as well as a key a reserve, meaning that both need and opportunity are present.
Evan Goodman is the jewel here. The four-star tackle reasserted his commitment to ASU recently and joins his brother Devin in Tempe. He should be an immediate starter and difference maker. McCray is a three-star prospect who could step in at guard. McGehee, a juco player with only two years of football experience, committed this past Sunday and provides depth as a long-term project.
Beyond that, the prospects are slim, and chances are ASU may not secure any additional linemen.
The shift to a new 3-3-5/3-4 defensive scheme is going to require a different type of defensive lineman. ASU returns several players who could fit at defensive end, but the current roster lacks a prototypical nose tackle.
That need looks to be filled by Pennel, a juco transfer. At 6'5", 330 pounds, Pennel is the type of space eater that an effective three-man line needs, and he should be a contributor early on. Sheffield is a former Marine and another juco transfer who has experience in a 3-4 defense, and should be a depth player. Jordan has upside but may need development time.
The primary remaining Signing Day target target is Jaxon Hood, a local product and a three-star tackle prospect. He is currently a soft verbal commit to Boston College, but will announce his decision on Wednesday, with ASU the likely winner.
With the top four linebackers from a season ago leaving, this is another area of great need, and the team will need more than the return of Brandon Magee to help.
With the new scheme, the team needs versatile linebackers and so far they have done well.
Rowe and Fiso are athletic outside linebacker prospects. Rowe appears solid, but Fiso is still weighing some options. Mendoza is a speedy pass-rushing ‘backer who fits well with the new aggressive defensive mentality.
Steffon Martin is a playmaking juco middle linebacker who plans to announce his decision on this week between ASU and Indiana. The 6'2" 245 pounder was a first team all-conference performer this past season and should he choose ASU, could contribute immediately. Reggie Barnes is the other prospect at the position, and he's viewed as an outside linebacker and pass rushing specialist.
Anyone who watched ASU over the last five games saw a massive deficiency in the secondary. The Devils will get back a few players who missed most of last year due to injury, but with the departure of both starting safeties, the secondary need remains critical.
Johnson is a three-star juco transfer with good size and speed and he could help at both cornerback and safety. Young is the most recent commit, and his three-star talents make him a viable prospect at both safety and linebacker.
Among the remaining Signing Day targets, three-star cornerback Randall Goforth is a soft verbal commit who will make his decision on Wednesday. ASU is targeting safety help in the form of Laiu Moeakiola, a three-star prospect from Texas and appears to be the favorite for him.
The biggest Signing Day drama in the secondary surrounds local safety Zach Hoffpauir. He has visited ASU but Stanford or Cal--with the Cardinal the current favorite--seem to be the leaders for his services, but recent developments--as well as Hoffpauir's friendship with D.J. Foster--have left the door open for ASU.
Current Commits: Easton Wahlstrom
Other than long snapper Wahlstrom, all will be quiet on the specialist front.
The Bottom Line
From starting behind the eight-ball, Graham has moved ASU into a great position. With Foster and Goodman, Graham has delivered two four-star prospects, and with several quality juco commits such as Young, Agwuenu and Pennel, he has players who can fill immediate holes.
The primary suspense on Signing Day will be with Rogers. If he chooses ASU over USC, that will bring in another four-star prospect in Tempe and a likely opening day starter, and further prove the notion that the culture at ASU is indeed changing for the better under Graham.
Beyond Rogers, the other players won't bring with them a tremendous "wow" factor, but could be the foundation of a resurgent ASU program.