As recruiting director Antonio Pierce sat at the podium joined by head coach Herm Edwards and director of player personal Al Luginbill, Pierce kept it honest as he does most of the time.
“At some point, you got to jump on the train and be ready to roll with us. If you’re not, it’s OK.”
Pierce was responding to a question that asked about the effort and priority that the Sun Devils put into recruiting the state of Arizona. For instance of the 13 Sun Devil signees on Wednesday, only one is considered a hometown talent. It’s not due to the state not having talent. 247Sports rates 10 players with a four-star or higher rating.
Arizona State has tried at the local prospects. There’s only so much the Sun Devils can do.
“I think that’s a choice. You got to want to be here. We’re going to want you all you want, you got to want to be here,” Pierce said. “And there’s not been a lack of effort of trying to keep, especially this 2020 class, here in state, especially the top 10 or 15 players. We’ve exhausted every possibility to do everything we could to show them love, commitment, why this is the place for you to be. If they make a choice to leave, that’s their choice, and it’s okay. That’s when we need to go elsewhere, because then we have 25 spots to fill. We’re going to fill those if guys don’t want to be Sun Devils. If they don’t want to be Sun Devils, it’s okay.”
Certainly the likes of recruits such as Kelee Ringo and Tosh Baker, whose “hometown” school is considered Arizona State, would make the Sun Devils better in the long run. But if they don’t want to be a Sun Devil, what’s the point of Pierce and the rest of the staff wasting valuable time and resources?
Some fans might gripe about it, use the fact that Arizona State was able to sign recruits from the states of Ohio, Georgia and Florida. Although, as Luginbill pointed out those players had connections to Arizona State. With a relationship already in place, a connection to players who are considered good in the eyes of the Sun Devil staff, players that seemingly want to embrace the culture that Edwards has started to establish.
The mold Arizona State has created is the reason behind not losing a recruit despite changes at both coordinator positions and multiple position coaches.
The plan has pushed the school that resides near Phoenix away from that area in retrospect. The Sun Devils don’t call Arizona home base anymore, their camp is in Southern California for many reasons.
“If you stay within your footprint you give yourself a chance. When you look at the 13 guys signed, eight of them being from California, obviously that’s our home base,” Pierce said. “That’s where I’m from, coach Edwards and Al Luginbill. So, regardless of any changes that happen on our staff, the core of our recruiting and evaluations is still in front of you at this table. So that wasn’t going to affect us either way.
“...Our home base is Southern California. No hidden agenda about it. It’s where the most talent comes from. This program is rocking and rolling. That’s where they come from. The NFL says that. When this program is winning, it says that. When you look at our roster out there — heck, in about two weeks this says that. It’s going to say that for years to come as long as I’m here and as long as Coach Edwards is here. We’re doing the best job that we can to recruit Arizona. The matter of fact is, there’s some really good players in Southern California. There’s a couple programs in that area that are not doing well and it’s our opportunity to jump on them and take advantage of them.”
Pierce and the staff have already jumped in on the future as well. Offers sent out to recruits on the classes of 2021, 2022. The NFL influenced staff has learned a lot about the college recruiting cycle and they admitted they have a much better handle on it than they did at first.
And Pierce put the message out there — probably with a bigger emphasis toward Arizona recruits — that if you want to be a Sun Devil let it be known because in the staff’s mind there will be plenty others that want to be part of the program in Tempe.
“Maybe when we start winning and get to the Rose Bowl and everyone want to jump on the bandwagon then, guess what? We’re going to get the really, really, really, really good players out of Southern California,” Pierce said. “So you better jump on now, because we’re watching and we’re recruiting.