Two phrases that Todd Graham has used repeatedly at Arizona State have been "speaking victory" and "high octane." These phrases reflect how he expects his team to play on the field, and now we know it is how his coaches recruit off the field.
Graham and his staff just landed their first full recruiting class, as the Sun Devils signed 27 student-athletes on National Signing Day. The class features players from nine different states, six junior college prospects, and sixteen defensive players.
"One of the things I'm always going to tell, (is) what's our philosophy of recruiting, we go from the inside out. It starts right here in this valley," Todd Graham told reporters gathered Wednesday afternoon. "We have started to develop relationships in this here valley, and I think the (high school) coaches know they can trust us with their kids."
The biggest get in-state for Graham and his staff was Chans Cox, a four-star linebacker from Lakeside, Arizona, who chose the Sun Devils over offers from Oklahoma and Notre Dame.
"The biggest thing is the character of this young man and the leadership he provides," said Graham of Cox. "A guy that epitomizes what we want as a football player."
Character is something that Arizona State coaches preach on and off the field. And it's something Graham says cannot be determined with the number of stars next to a player's name.
"We have about six kids that are Barrett caliber students," Graham said of his recruiting class. "A team is not just about talent, it's not just about how many stars a person has, when you put a team together, it is very important that you look at the character."
Graham expects his players to abide by the rules and adhere to his moral code. He also expects this of his coaches, and he praised them Wednesday for the way they recruit.
"One of the things I'm proud of is that we take great pride at Arizona State in doing things the right way," said Graham. "Our staff, our academic staff, our football staff, represents our university the way that it should be represented, with class and character."
With 16 seniors graduating at the end of 2013, the Sun Devils needed some fresh faces on that side of the ball. Aside from the Cox, the defensive class is led by Marcus Hardison, the No. 5 JUCO player in the country according to ESPN. The Sun Devils also signed three safety prospects and five linebackers.
"Defensively we wanted to get better and develop depth, our defensive line (last season) had depth issues," said Graham. "The secondary was our main focus, you always want to end up having that force that we had."
Arizona State did not land every recruit that it wanted. There was a void left in this class when Georgia quarterback Josh Dobbs flipped to Tennessee Wednesday morning. Dobbs had been committed to the Maroon and Gold since June of 2012.
One adjective Graham used to describe his offensive recruiting style is "dynamic," a word he thinks perfectly describes junior college wide receiver Jaelen Strong. The 6-4 Philadelphia native caught 67 passes last season for Pierce College, amassing 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"Jaelen Strong on tape, the most dynamic receiver I have seen in a long time," Graham said. "Our fans will love this guy."
While the coaches get most of the publicity on National Signing day, current players have a major impact on recruits. These are who the recruits interact with while on campus and who they build relationships with when they return home.
"These guys are probably the best recruiting tool that we have," Graham said about his current crop of players. "We have a group of young men that really believe, I'm really proud of these guys."
Most of Graham's recruiting class will have to wait until summer to join these players in workouts. However, some, like Cox, enrolled early and are on campus with the team. Spring practice begins on March 19, and there are only 212 days until ASU kicks off the season against Sacramento State.
However, the coaches aren't looking that far. After all, they have the class of 2014 to start worrying about.