When it comes to football programs and recruiting, mosts fan are hoping to land 4 and 5 star recruits. The reality though is that most fans are going to end up getting their hopes crushed if they think that's going to happen. There are only eleven programs in the nation that have signed blue chip recruits at a rate greater than 50% over the last four recruiting classes and only six more programs that come close to approaching that 50% mark.
Considering there are sixty five schools competing in football in the power five conferences (if you include Notre Dame as an ACC member), that's a lot of disappointment for any delusional fans out there expecting more blue chips than they are eventually going to sign.
Arizona State is one of those programs that doesn't sign a ton of blue chip players every recruiting cycle, but on the field and in recruiting, they have been a program on the rise since Todd Graham took over as head coach in 2012. The class they signed back in February brought in eight 4 star players according to the 247Sports composite rankings. That's pretty much unprecedented for ASU to sign that many in a recruiting class and hopefully is an indication that Graham is going to recruit at a higher level than previous coaches in Tempe.
But even if Graham is able to continue that trend of signing more blue chip players, a large part of the future success of the program is going to depend on the players who aren't highly ranked. They need to be able to identify players that can succeed in their scheme and also find players that they can develop with blue chips traits. I think ASU has found a player that fits the latter in their latest verbal commitment, Jalen Bates.
Bates is 3 star prospect out of Louisiana that has some solid power five conference offers (Michigan, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and others), but the one that sticks out to me is TCU. The Horned Frogs do a great job of finding under the radar players that can develop into defensive studs in Gary Patterson's defense and Bates fits that category. He's from a pretty remote area of Louisiana and the Sun Devils did well to get in on a player like him.
There are plenty of reasons why he is a 3 star other than him being from a remote area though. As a junior, he did not look overly explosive off the ball and does not look like the kind of player that can bend around the edge as a pass rusher. For a defensive end, those aren't the kind of qualities that anyone would call elite.
However, he did show some blue chip traits as a junior by playing with very good pad level for a player that is 6'5", great natural strength at the point of attack, and violent hands. Violent hands are so important as a defensive lineman and there are many college players who never develop in this area. That's not going to be a concern with Bates.
I really liked what I saw from the senior film that Bates has put together so far. He is significantly quicker off the ball and displays the same violent hands that allow him to penetrate into the backfield and use his big wingspan. Here's an example of what I'm talking about.
Bates keeps contain on the outside by jacking the offensive lineman back and uses his length to create separation and shed to make the tackle.
Bates is nowhere close to what he is going to weigh later on in his college career. Right now he looks like a slim 240, but has the frame to add so much more. I wouldn't be surprised at all if he ultimately ended up as an interior defensive lineman where I think he can develop into a potentially disruptive player versus the run.
Bates is not a dynamic athlete, but runs well and plays with great effort. He's not likely the kind of player who is going to contribute early in his career because the jump up in play from a lower level in Louisiana to the Pac-12 should be pretty significant and he still needs some time to get in ASU's strength and conditioning program and fill out his frame. He is the kind of player that has skills to suggest he can develop into a very productive player down the line for the Sun Devils though.
He's the kind of recruit that Graham and his coaching staff need to continue to work hard to find that can develop into a player that outplays his ranking.