On Tuesday, the Arizona State Sun Devils officially named Billy Napier as its offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
One day later, the program announced the signings of quarterback Blake Barnett and kicker Brandon Ruiz.
These three all share a common connection besides the fact they are now at Arizona State, and that connection stems from the top program in all of college football.
Yes, the Sun Devils have developed a pipeline (of sorts) with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Each member of the trio has forged a different path to Tempe from Tuscaloosa, whether it be via transfer (in Barnett’s case), decommitment (Ruiz), or promotion (Napier). But all three are here now, with their futures in the desert looking just as bright as they may have been in Alabama.
Barnett got the ball rolling back in December, committing to Todd Graham’s team just a little over two months after revealing his intention to transfer. The Corona, Calif. prospect started in the Crimson Tide’s season opener against USC last season, but decided a move needed to be made after losing his job to true freshman Jalen Hurts.
“Blake was a five-star out of high school who graduated with a lot of accolades,” said Graham in his press conference on Wednesday afternoon. “He's a really athletic guy who can move and run. He is here and ready to practice in spring ball, and he will compete for that starting quarterback position.”
Barnett will be competing with the likes of Manny Wilkins, Brady White, Dillon Sterling-Cole, and Bryce Perkins to be the team’s starting signal-caller in 2017 - a title he will be eligible to hold for the entirety of the season after recently being granted a Legislative Release Waiver by the NCAA.
Also in that mix will be four-star Ryan Kelley, although the incoming freshman and Chandler product will likely redshirt due to the logjam at quarterback.
“We’ve had some really good quarterback classes in our time here,” Graham said while talking about Kelley and Barnett. “But I think this could be the best group of quarterbacks we’ve ever had.”
While Barnett will be plenty useful on the field, his efforts off of it may have helped Ruiz land at Arizona State.
The No. 1 senior kicker in the country committed to Alabama back in June, but began to rethink his decision after meeting with the former Crimson Tide quarterback. Ruiz then became one of the program’s handful of “silent commits”, eventually announcing that he would be staying in the Valley on January 16.
The Gilbert product will have his work cut out for him if he wants to replace Zane Gonzalez’s productivity, but if there’s a man for the job, it’s him.
“Obviously we graduated the best kicker in the country last year,” said Graham. “But to stand up here today and announce Brandon Ruiz to you, I couldn’t be more excited. Actually, I know (special teams) coach Slocum is even more fired up than I am.”
The last piece to this strange puzzle is Napier, who was brought in this week to replace former offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. Lindsey, ironically, was hired away by Auburn to take the same position he held in Tempe.
The coaching change was one of many that the program was forced to make this offseason, and as Graham noted at his presser, that threw a bit of a wrench into the recruiting process.
“Recruiting doesn't just stop, so I had to interview about seven people and see seven recruits in four days. It was a challenge, but I can’t tell you how pleased I am with Rob Likens (new wide receivers coach), Josh Henson (new offensive line coach), and Billy Napier.”
Indeed, plenty of additions have been made to the Maroon and Gold throughout the past few weeks, whether it be through high school seniors, college transfers, or new assistant coaches.
And while we don’t know just yet how all of them will pan out, one thing is for certain:
The Alabama products will have a big hand in the making of the future here at Arizona State.