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ASU Football: Sun Devils hold together recruiting class despite coaching turnover

Despite losing four members of their coaching staff in the past 8 weeks, ASU was able to keep a top-40 recruiting class in tact.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

A strange phenomenon took place in the weeks leading up to National Signing Day.

The Arizona State Sun Devils did not pick up a single commitment in the month of January. Their last commitment in the class of 2016 came on Dec. 14.

It's very strange for a school to not gain a commitment in the month of January, when coaches are out on the recruiting trail and prospects can take official visits. As a result, the Sun Devils signed their smallest class under the Todd Graham era.

That is the glass half empty narrative. The glass half full narrative is ASU kept a top-35 recruiting class together while having to replace four assistant coaches.

"You want that for your coaches," Graham said about his coaches leaving for promotions. "Both of our coordinators want to be head football coaches; and man, I think that's part of my job is to help them and if you're successful they're going to get an opportunity. So, you know, we think that's a positive for our coaches and we want to help them, but it sure doesn't help recruiting very much."

When the dust settled, ASU inked 18 commitments, six from junior college players and 12 from the high school ranks. A class that ranks 25th in the nation according to ESPN.

"I want to thank our staff. Our coaching staff did a tremendous job, obviously putting this class together," Graham said. "One of the things that's been really a positive is we were able to put this class together early, and spent a large majority of this month getting ahead for 2017."

On Dec. 3, Mike Norvell accepted the head coaching position at Memphis. A day after ASU's bowl loss to West Virginia, Chip Long departed to be the offensive coordinator for the Tigers. ASU had lost its offensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator at the time when the most colleges are attempting to poach its recruiting class.

Yet, none of their stars or potential impact players wavered.

"I think it also speaks volumes of the character of the young men we are recruiting and how they feel about ASU, none of them, they told us the whole time they never wavered so that was a big positive for us is keeping that class together," Graham said.

The star of this class is 5-star wide receiver N'Keal Harry, who is rated as the nation's No. 1 receiver by both Rivals and ESPN. Graham and staff were especially worried about a decommitment from Harry.

"Man, it was all about ASU, it was all about wanting to be a Sun Devil," Graham said about Harry. "I called him all the time, as a matter of fact, Coach Lindsey and I were going, 'you okay? You okay?' I think he got tired of us asking if he was okay, because he never even thought about it because, man, he wants to be a Sun Devil and, again, I think that commitment."

One man who deserves credit for keeping this class in tact is Assistant Athletic Director for Recruiting Patrick Suddes. Suddes has been acting as a recruiting coordinator in the absence of Norvell and Long.

"Patrick has done just a tremendous job," Graham said. "I think he told me I called him 22 times in one day. He's our recruiting coordinator. He and I are going to have a break here for a couple of days, probably much needed. But he's done a tremendous job of not only leading and developing and helping our coaching staff, but when he does with his recruiting staff and the job that he's done in this time, it's been a challenge."

When Graham met with the media Wednesday afternoon, he smiled, cracked jokes and even gave restaurant New Orleans. The old saying goes that everybody wins signing day. Everybody loves their class. However, because of the circumstances surrounding 2016 and how his class stayed together, Graham seemed to have some extra pep in his step.

"I think it speaks volumes about where our program it is, the respect our program has and being able to hang on to these guys," he said. "I think it's a great testimony of our players, the stability, and the foundation that we've laid here. Because it was a challenge."