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ASU Football: Five things to watch for over the next five years

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We look at five questions surrounding the future of the program at the end of Todd Graham’s fifth year in Tempe.

NCAA Football: Northern Arizona at Arizona State Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The fifth year of the Todd Graham era at Arizona State is well in the books.

A hot start for the former Pittsburgh head coach saw the Sun Devils reach the Pac-12 Championship Game and win a Pac-12 South title in 2013, and immediately lifted expectations for the program. Those expectations were followed by a pair of disappointing years that leaves the future of the program in potential uncertainty.

With the offseason entering what will be its quietest stretch and summer approaching, there are obvious questions fans have entering Graham’s sixth season, and beyond. Below, we take a look at some of the questions surrounding what is the second half of Graham’s contractual tenure with ASU.

Can ASU secure more in-state recruits?

This is a subject Sun Devil fans have expressed displeasure over increasingly through recent years, and it’s understandable—to an extent.

The problem with expecting ASU to have better success retaining Arizona-based prospects, notably the top players, is that the program is competing against conference opponents for recruits—some of which by the way, can offer both superior locale and richer football tradition, two very important selling points.

At the end of the day, it’s not something to be overly upset about. Not to downplay the value of in-state recruiting, but Arizona is not lauded with elite talent every year. According to a report by Cleveland.com, Arizona ranked 24th out of states in NFL players produced as of 2016. For comparison’s sake, if every state were to only recruit instate players, ASU would likely be the 24th-best program in the country out of 50. The Christian Kirk’s and N’Keal Harry’s are especially rare. Convincing just one to play at home is a win in and of itself.

Yes, the appearance of reeling in the top in-state talent to stay home has significance; top Arizona players should want to play at ASU, and at the very least consider it.

Will things improve? There’s reason to believe so. ASU’s latest in-state haul suggests it already is. The development of the Sun Devils’ new student-athlete facility should also prove very helpful. Should the team be competitive through the entire season, yes. Plenty of “if’s.”

Poll

Do you think ASU will improve its in-state recruiting?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    Yes
    (340 votes)
  • 20%
    No
    (89 votes)
429 votes total Vote Now

Will Todd Graham still be at ASU in five years?

Graham is under contract through June 30, 2021. Forecasting whether he’s still here or not by then is difficult, particularly when considering what his current situation faces him with.

His coaching staff features new faces at both defensive and offensive coordinator, not to mention first-year assistants overseeing offensive and defensive linemen, and wide receivers. It’s the second offseason in a row Graham has had his offensive coordinator hired away for greener pastures. (Chip Lindsey this year re-joined Auburn’s staff as an OC, while Mike Norvell left his OC role at ASU for a head coaching gig at Memphis the offseason prior.)

Graham’s success in the interim after back-to-back down seasons may ultimately determine whether or not he’ll even be able to see his contract through in its entirety. And even if this year were to be the third straight campaign in which ASU struggled, Sun Devil Athletics vice president Ray Anderson would need to have a viable replacement(s) ready, and they would have to generate significant success immediately to warrant Graham’s contract being terminated.

Previous regimes were afforded much more time to turn things around at ASU with less initial than Graham has. With there being no guarantee he’s afforded that time though, Year Six is crucial.

Poll

Do you think Todd Graham will still be at ASU in five years?

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Yes
    (191 votes)
  • 61%
    No
    (311 votes)
502 votes total Vote Now

Will ASU improve its NFL-player production?

Yes, the 2017 NFL draft wasn’t ASU’s best chance at boasting top talent, but that’s not a trend that should be expected to continue. Even looking past the 2018 crop, there’s talent the Sun Devils will be able to boast entering the next level.

Within the next five years, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if the Sun Devils were able to produce at least two first-round selections.

Poll

Do you think ASU will improve its NFL-player production?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Yes
    (351 votes)
  • 22%
    No
    (102 votes)
453 votes total Vote Now

Can ASU win a Pac-12 South title in five years?

The initial response would be no when considering the apparent revival of USC. With the Trojans back to form, USC and UCLA will be the two schools presumptively favored over ASU each year, with Utah likely being considered in the same breath if not ahead.

Based on the parity of the division over the years, I would be more surprised if ASU didn’t find a way to win the South than if it did, even when factoring USC’s stretch of slumber. Since the Pac-12 implemented a two-division formation in 2011, there’s only been one repeat champion (UCLA, 2011-2012). Does the rise of USC mean that changes? Perhaps, but this isn’t the early-2000s juggernaut Trojans, and the rest of the conference, for better or worse, isn’t composed of weakling programs.

ASU will find itself in the running for a South title again in the near future, and winning one isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Poll

Will ASU win a Pac-12 South title in five years?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Yes
    (373 votes)
  • 22%
    No
    (108 votes)
481 votes total Vote Now

Can ASU reach a Rose Bowl in the next five years?

It’s a goal that Graham has preached to teams since his arrival. Reaching the Rose Bowl means usurping not only the Sun Devils’ foes in the South, but then defeating the North champion, too.

With Washington staking claim as the dominant force, while Oregon and Stanford appear to rebound, it’s tough to see ASU catching that mighty a break. Of course, that is, unless there’s a Sun Devil team talented enough to assert itself as the top of the Pac-12. It’s not something I would confidently bet on now based on past trends.

Poll

Will ASU reach a Rose Bowl in the next five years?

This poll is closed

  • 56%
    Yes
    (275 votes)
  • 43%
    No
    (211 votes)
486 votes total Vote Now