From potential hometown hero to traitor in a just a few days.
That's how quickly the overriding sentiment of Arizona State fans has shifted regarding standout defensive back Priest Willis. The 5-star prospect from Marcos de Niza in Tempe has decided to take his talents to Westwood and become a UCLA Bruin, spurning LSU and his hometown Sun Devils in the process.
This week, as his impending Bruin decision grew increasingly clear, an alarming trend started to develop throughout Sun Devil Nation. Many of the fans who had heralded Willis as the latest and greatest hometown hero, who had tweeted and posted Facebook messages to him extolling the virtues of staying "home", used those same channels to bash Willis' integrity, character and ability.
"We didn't want him anyway" and other such nonsense.
Yes you did. Everybody did. But he went elsewhere, and in a fashion that some people take issue with. Dammit, that sucks, but it's life. It's also indicative of the current status that ASU holds among top local recruits.
ASU scored two major victories in last year's class, bringing in D.J. Foster and Jaxon Hood. Those developments were rightfully seen as the first move in reversing the school's troubling lack of local success—or even interest in having success—in recent years. The 2013 class includes another top local prospect in linebacker Chans Cox. Clearly, progress is being made under Todd Graham.
But two or three or four signings a reversal does not yet make.
They certainly are steps in the right direction, but the notion of ASU becoming an Arizona prep star's first and most immediate hope is still a ways off. The damage done under previous regimes, where ASU's passive interest allowed Arizona's best players to hemorrhage out of the state, was great. ASU fell off the map in terms of being a viable destination for the state's elite, and that relationship and accompanying trust takes a while to repair.
A number of good-to-great players are always going to leave the state, but with each passing class, the "fence" that Todd Graham and ASU aim to put around the state grows longer and higher, and those numbers will dwindle. Over time, the progress that the Sun Devils are making will soon make high-profile departures the exception, not the norm.
But that will take a few years. Trust the course, and in the mean time, don't be outraged by dirty tricks in a dirty game. As they say, "The game is the game".
This is college football recruiting, where "promises" and "integrity" have as much real-world value as a relationship with Lennay Kekua. So a recruit led a school on? A player said he'd come here one day, then didn't the next? Sucks to be on the losing end, but it's simply how it is. How solid were your promises, integrity, and decision-making when you were 18?
The bottomline is that Willis is a Bruin. He's now the opponent. Let's drop the torches and pitchforks (well, hold on to the latter), and let him be. Save your rage for November 23rd. Worry about what's coming into Tempe and not what is on its way out.
Most critically, however, focus on the fact that ASU is one more day removed from it's difficult past in local recruiting and one day further along in Todd Graham's hopeful restoration of those tattered ties. In their short time here, Graham and his staff have proven they can recruit, both locally and out of state.
Sun Devil fans should not lose sight of that because one really good player is now on the other team. Focus on all the really good players already on this team.
The future is bright. So pay attention.
Like House of Sparky on Facebook