The 2024 college football season is too far away for the human brain to create an image of what any team may look like. Commitments have started to roll in for the major programs around the country –– with Michigan leading the way at 15 hard commits on the docket following a season in which it made the College Football Playoff.
Arizona State has gotten off to a bit of a slower start in the recruiting department (as far as the public is aware, at least) with three promising three-star players lined up for Kenny Dillingham’s second season as head coach of the Sun Devils. Elijah Baesa, a class of 2024 reciever from Mesquite, Texas, opted into playing in Tempe back in February over schools like Baylor and Colorado.
More recently, ASU’s passing game coordinator & wide receivers coach and renowned recruiter, Ra’Shaad Samples, has gone to work collecting explosive players on offense (and possibly defense)–– Scottsdale’s very own Dylan Tapley and Katy Jordan High School’s Zechariah Sample.
Dylan Tapley, ATHLETE–– Desert Mountain High School, Scottsdale, AZ
Playing under Conrad Hamilton as a member of the Wolves, Dylan Tapley made his presence known as a two-way player for Desert Mountain as a sophomore in 2021. The 6-foot-4-inch, 205-pound junior has made some spectacular plays on both sides of the football in his young career –– and there is a reason he is listed as an athlete on his recruiting profile.
In his first varsity season, Tapley collected 715 yards and eight touchdowns on 49 catches as a receiver, lined up both inside and outside. Pretty impressive stats for a younger player on varsity. But, those are just his offensive stats. As a safety, Tapley had eight interceptions, one pick-six, one forced fumble, seven pass break-ups and 44 tackles including 3.5 tackles for loss.
Taking away as many potential touchdowns as you score yourself has to be a solid benchmark for the future, right? Right.
In 2022, Tapley went off as a primary target for 17 receiving touchdowns and 1141 yards on 57 receptions, making defenders look silly on multiple occasions. His route tree is advanced for his age and size, he can make plays over the top and underneath, and is rather difficult to bring down. He made clutch plays in the playoffs for his Wolves, sealing the quarterfinal with a huge third-down catch down the field–– and it didn’t end on the offensive end.
His defense was just as good as the year before, collecting 43 tackles and eight interceptions but really improved in the pass break-up department, batting away 15 balls in his second year of varsity ball.
What coach Dillingham has planned for Tapley’s abilities will be seen way down the road. Until then, don’t be afraid to dream of the possibilities.
Zechariah Sample, WIDE RECEIVER–– Katy Jordan High School, Fulshear, Texas
This guy can fly. A quick glance at Sample and you won’t think very much, standing at 5-foot-9-inches and weighing in at only 158 pounds. But once you see him run, you’ll see exactly what he has to offer coming out of Fulshear, Texas.
Sporting the No. 1 on the field (very fitting for someone his size), Sample is extremely athletic and has worn multiple hats in his high school career so far. Similar to Tapley, Sample also played on both sides of the ball as receiver and cornerback. Unlike Tapley, this wideout can also line up in the backfield.
Just as the NFL has seen the conjoining of the running back and wide receiver positions with players like Deebo Samuel and Christian McCaffrey, Sample has showcased his skills when the ball is in his hands. Though the touches in the backfield were limited, Sample ran for 146 yards on 20 carries –– that’s an average of 7.3 yards per carry. Not too shabby.
As a receiver, Sample has that burner mentality going for and hitting on home run balls down the field. He caught 32 balls for 595 yards and six touchdowns on offense, and had three interceptions, a pick-six and 21 tackles on defense. His ability to separate from his defender while the ball is in the air, along with the ability to run sharp routes in the red zone make Sample a scoring threat on any given play.
Even if he catches the ball on a slant, you HAVE to bring him down immediately. Otherwise… watch out for the dust trail he leaves behind. The numbers on the stat sheet may not say that, but the tape sure does.
Versatility has always been an essential part of roster building, and these recruits have real potential to play multiple roles when their time comes. Tapley, who still has time to grow even taller, is a huge weapon as a potential No. 1 receiver who’ll be able to block with his big frame and possibly a safety on the other side of the ball. Sample will most likely stay on the offensive side of the ball due to his size as a receiver / running back hybrid, and that’s perfectly fine.
Everyone has a role to play, but these guys have the ability to wear more hats than most when they arrive to Tempe in 2024.