When Todd Graham took the Arizona State job, he was a bit of a running joke around college football. This of course had nothing to do with his ability as a coach. I think everyone respected him in that area. It had everything to do with him bolting from Pittsburgh after being on the job less than a year. Like it or not, he gained the reputation as a climber that was always looking for his next job.
I'm not sure if the perception of Graham has changed or not, but there's a good chance he may not need to climb to a better job because of where he has taken Arizona State during his tenure. Despite losing some significant talent for this season, his third Sun Devil team may end up being his best. They are legitimate contenders for the Pac-12 South crown and could win the whole conference.
Graham is trying to take the program to a higher level in recruiting as well to sustain what he's doing on the field. That means that they are going after higher ranked targets and players with better offer lists than in previous years.
It's not going to show up as much in this recruiting cycle because it looks like they are planning on taking a smaller class, but the 13 recruits that are committed so far are a solid group with some other big targets still left out there.
Instant impact commit
Usually this tends to be the highest rated player in the class, but in this case that is 4 star quarterback Brady White and he isn't going to play early in his career. That's mostly because Mike Bercovici is going to be around, but it's also because White isn't built to play at the college level yet. He needs some time to physically mature.
The other 4 star commit in this class, Jaason Lewis, is the most likely candidate to play and do some damage right away in his career. He has the potential to be a matchup nightmare as a receiver because of his size and speed combination.Even if they only use him in certain packages on offense, he is physically ready to do some great things in the Pac-12.
Lewis is still taking visits to other schools right now so we'll see if his commitment sticks (he was previously committed to UCLA).
Don't sleep on ______
3 star edge player Malik Lawal from Temecula, California is a 3 star for a reason. He is undersized and needs to improve his snap anticipation.
That description doesn't exactly scream sleeper, but Lawal flashes ridiculous explosiveness at times that could make him a devastating pass rusher for the Sun Devils. His consistency getting off the football can definitely be improved and he shows that he is capable of being very sudden when he reacts like he should.
He's a couple of years away from this, but he could develop into another Carl Bradford which I'm sure would make ASU fans thrilled.
Big fish still on the reel
There are a few who are still in the mix for the Sun Devils and the biggest is 5 star slot receiver Christian Kirk. I saw Kirk in person at The Opening and he was a dynamic player that couldn't be covered during 7 on 7. The chances of him choosing to stay in-state and head to Tempe are pretty slim though. He may have the Sun Devils in his top 5, but it seems like they are closer to 5 than 1.
The most likely player is 4 star wide receiver Trent Irwin. Irwin isn't intimidating anyone when he steps off the bus, but the kid can flat out ball. He may be the post polished receiver in the entire recruiting class and has the skills to be a number one at the college level.
As an added bonus, he is Brady White's top receiver in high school. They already have a great connection on the field and are friends off of it. To me, Irwin is one of the surest things in this entire recruiting class. He's going to be a productive player at the next level and it would be huge for Arizona State to land him.
Another big time recruit they are in on is 4 star athlete Osa Masina. They have some stiff competition to gain Masina's signature, but they are giving him the option of playing on offense or defense even though most programs want him at linebacker.
He's the kind of athlete that could earn early playing time at linebacker and has the size to compete in the Pac-12 right now.
Don't be fooled by the size of the class this year. Todd Graham and his staff are bringing in higher quality players than before and should continue to do so at a higher rate with the way the program has been producing on the field. They have quality players from Texas (running back Morie Evans) and Louisiana (defensive lineman Jalen Bates) and aren't that far away from being the program of choice for an in-state stud like Christian Kirk.
The arrow is pointing up for Todd Graham and the Sun Devils and it should keep pointing that way provided he sticks around for the long haul.