After losing nine starters on defense to graduation and the NFL, Arizona State will have its hands full finding capable replacements in 2014.
Fortunately for coach Todd Graham, he and his coaching staff have put together an impressive recruiting haul and have found impact players who could make a difference beginning next season.
The Sun Devils' verbal commits on defense range from athletic and versatile defensive linemen to hard-hitting safeties and everything in between. On Wednesday, Arizona State will finally learn the fate of its verbal commits and can start to prepare for next season with new players in the master plan.
On Monday, we took a look at the offensive recruits that Arizona State expects to sign on National Signing Day. Now, with Signing Day less than 24 hours away, here's one final glance at the defensive commits expected to join the fold as well.
Tashon Smallwood, Defensive Tackle
One of the biggest voids the Sun Devils need to fill next season is the gap left by two-time All-American Will Sutton. Arizona State has recruited Smallwood with Sutton in mind, as the Sun Devils think the Fresno, Calif. native could develop into a beast up front. Smallwood is considered a 3-star recruit by Rivals and a 4-star recruit by Scout, although his offers list looks more like that of a 5-star prospect. Rivals indicates Alabama, Miami and Oklahoma all had interest in the defensive tackle.
Connor Humphreys, Defensive End
There's a mini-debate between Rivals and Scout as to what position Humphreys will play in college, but the top recruit in the state of Oregon is a big "get" for Arizona State regardless. Rivals considers Humphreys one of the top 10 defensive ends in the country while Scout lists Humphreys as a defensive tackle. The issue of distinction shouldn't be a problem for the Sun Devils, who will be glad to get a highly-regarded defensive player on campus next fall. Either way, Humphreys fits in at a position of need, so Arizona State is looking forward to his letter of intent.
Renell Wren, Defensive End
Wren is a player who didn't create much buzz during the recruiting process, but he could turn out to be one of the most important recruits of the 2014 cycle. Wren stands 6-foot-6 and weighs between 240 and 250 pounds, and he looks young enough to really grow into his frame once he gets to college. Rivals likes Wren as a 3-star recruit, but Scout prefers Wren as a 4-star defensive end. His technique on film looks a bit raw, but that will give the Sun Devil coaching staff a chance to mold him into a force to be reckoned with.
Ismael Murphy-Richardson, Outside Linebacker
Murphy-Richardson is one of the most athletic recruits in the Sun Devils' class of 2014 as he will line up in college at outside linebacker but had the skill set to play wide receiver in high school. Murphy-Richardson is one of the top 10 recruits in the state of Arizona, and keeping him at home will be a big accomplishment for Graham and his staff. The heat on Murphy-Richardson's recruitment turned up after Carl Bradford declared for the NFL Draft, and the Sun Devils will likely give the Goodyear, Ariz. product a shot at Devilbacker early on in his career.
Derik (D.J.) Calhoun, Outside Linebacker
A 4-star recruit by most major recruiting services, Calhoun looks like the real deal on tape. A fast linebacker with a great first step gives him a knack for making hits. On film, Calhoun looks like a college-ready player and it will be interesting to see if Graham and the Sun Devils afford him the opportunity to earn playing time as a true freshman. Calhoun led El Cerrito High School in Northern California to one of its best seasons in school history, and now it's time for him to take Arizona State to new heights as well.
Christian Sam, Outside Linebacker
Sam's verbal commitment represented a big day for Arizona State because it showed the Sun Devils were truly gaining momentum in the state of Texas. An Allen High School product (Todd Graham's high school), Sam played on one of the most talented teams in the country this season and delivered an outstanding year from his outside linebacker spot. As a 3-star recruit according to Rivals and Scout, we believe Sam could develop into a SPUR or WILL linebacker at Arizona State.
Chad Adams, Cornerback
Like Sam, Adams hails from Allen High School in Texas and gave his verbal commitment to the Sun Devils early on in the recruiting process. Sam and Adams both committed in August, and then enjoyed a perfect 16-0 state championship season at Allen. At 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, Adams looks like a prototypical cornerback who can add a little bit of muscle to prepare himself for press coverage assignments. Adams' Rivals profile shows he was not recruited by Texas A&M or Texas Tech, so a few games on the Sun Devils' future schedule might mean a lot to Adams down the road.
Armand Perry, Cornerback
The Sun Devils' other cornerback recruit also comes from a top high school in Nevada's Bishop Gorman. Perry is considered a cornerback by Rivals and a safety by Scout, but with so many other safety prospects in the Sun Devils' class, we think Perry will get his first crack as a corner. At Bishop Gorman, Perry only intercepted three passes in his career, but we're guessing much of his success has to do with playing tight coverage and preventing the ball from being thrown his way.
Jordan Thomas, Safety
Thomas is similar to Perry in that Rivals and Scout don't agree on his natural position, but his versatility as a cornerback and safety prospect makes him an asset in Arizona State's recruiting class. Thomas is 6-feet tall and weighs 185 pounds, and both of the prominent recruiting services list him as a 3-star recruit. Unlike many of Arizona State's commits, Thomas didn't have a bevy of scholarship offers to choose from. Both his Rivals and Scout profiles list FCS programs Eastern Washington and Montana as his only other offers, but the Arizona State coaching staff clearly sees something it likes in Thomas and is ready to welcome him aboard.
Jamal Scott, Safety
The Sun Devils like Scott because he's a thicker, stronger defensive back recruit and has the body type to develop into a safety or even a SPUR linebacker if the coaching staff chooses to work him into the rotation. Scott received a 3-star rating from both Rivals and Scout and is one of the top 100 recruits in the state of California. At Magnolia High School, Scott showed off his athleticism as both a strong safety and a running back and demonstrated a great, low pad level for a taller player (6-foot-3) which is something that many high school players struggle with.
Deandre Scott, Cornerback
Scott is the fifth defensive back the Sun Devils expect to sign and undoubtedly the most sought-after cornerback recruit Todd Graham plans on bringing to Tempe this year. A native of Philadelphia, Penn. Scott is a 3-star recruit in the minds of the decision-makers at both Rivals and Scout. Scott boasts an impressive offer list on his Rivals.com profile as he drew scholarship offers from Georgia Tech, Miami, Michigan State, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas and others. With such a long list of suitors, Arizona State will be relieved when Scott signs on the dotted line and faxes in his letter of intent.
Dasmond Tautalatasi, Safety
Of all the prominent high school programs that churn out top college players, De La Salle High School in Concord, Calif. is among the most recognizable. Tautalatasi hails from the same program that produced NFL greats like Amani Toomer, Maurice Jones-Drew, and D.J. Williams and hopes to bring his proud Spartan tradition to Arizona State. Tautalatasi played a lot of running back early on in high school, but he focused on the defensive side of the ball as a senior and is now excited to get to work with the Sun Devils.