It was either incredibly good timing or incredibly bad timing, depending on how you look at it.
I broke down Arizona State's recruiting class yesterday and mentioned that Todd Graham and his coaching staff are bringing in higher quality players. Then the Sun Devils went and out and added commitments from 4 star linebacker Khaylan Thomas and 4 star JC linebacker Davon Durant.
So I guess it's "thanks for proving me right" or
Either way, it's two huge gets for the Sun Devils and the two commitments jumped them up 15 spots in the 247composite rankings from 38 to 23.
Rankings are great and all, but what exactly is ASU getting with these two defenders? Two dudes who can flat out lay the wood. Both can make an impact at the next level with how physical they play.
It's not a surprise that Durant is the more physically ready player of the two. He has NFL size and athleticism and it translates to the field. He has the speed to run down skill players in the open field and the strength to take on linemen in the run game.
I love the way he takes on blocks and is able to shed to pursue the football. Here's an example of what I'm referring to:
Durant is lined up as an edge player, as he does frequently for his junior college, Butler County (Kansas).
The tackle comes right out to kick him out because the play is designed to run inside of him.
Durant is able to use his hands to shed the block and pursue inside.
He gets off the block and makes the tackle. There is nothing fancy about it and it's not considered a splash play. It's just an example of how fundamentally a player like Durant is ahead of many young linebackers when it comes to taking on and shedding blocks.
When you combine that skill with his natural athletic ability, you've got yourself a pretty good linebacker. My only question with Durant is his ability to recognize blocks. He can be a little bit slow in this area and needs to improve if he ends up playing inside linebacker for the Sun Devils. As a talent though, he's physically gifted enough to make an immediate impact in the Pac-12.
Thomas is obviously not as physically mature as Durant, but his instincts are even better. Unlike Durant, Thomas does a better job of trusting what he sees and a lot of that is recognition and that's something that is taught, but the rest of it is natural instincts.
Here's a couple of examples of what I'm referring to:
Thomas is lined up the edge versus a "big" package from the offense.
He gets a down block from the tackle and knows immediately to get his eyes inside looking for the potential trap block from a pulling guard. As you can see by the red arrow, the guard is headed Thomas' way to kick him out.
Thomas attacks the trap and does exactly what he should do. He "wrong arm" 's the block and actually arrives so violently that he knocks the guard out of the play.
Thomas was either going to force the back to bounce it outside or he was going to be there to make the play if the back insisted on running inside. The back doesn't bounce and Thomas is there to make the tackle. That play by Thomas was so impressive, they could show it at a coaching clinic.
The next play is an iso run right at Thomas.
Once again, Thomas is lined up on the edge.
The fullback has an isolation block on Thomas. Unfortunately for that fullback, this is the kind of play that Thomas lives for.
Thomas meets the fullback deep into the backfield. That's exactly the way an iso should be attacked by a linebacker.
Thomas is able to easily shed the block and then wrap up on the running back to make the tackle. Normally this is where this play would end, but Thomas decides to add in a little bit of extra to discourage the opposing team from running at him again.
Yup. Thomas just performed a German suplex on the running back! Probably not the greatest idea to run an iso to his side for the rest of the game based on the outcome of that play.
These two plays from his senior year kind of say it all about the kind of player the Sun Devils are getting in Thomas. I broke down Thomas back in July and loved the way he plays versus the run. He hits through ball carriers when he tackles them. He's a violent football player that is fundamentally sound.
The thing that Thomas needs to improve on is his coverage skills. He does not have the most fluid hips so he may struggle to cover running backs in man coverage situations and his drops are a little undisciplined right now. He can definitely get better in this area and when he does, he has shown very good ball skills.
Both Durant and Thomas are exciting additions to ASU's recruiting class and further reinforce the job Graham and his staff are doing on the recruiting trail. If they keep adding talented players of this caliber to the program, then they'll have a chance to establish themselves as a contender for the conference championship year after year.