After years of being labeled as a potential "sleeping giant" in college football, Arizona State finally put together back to back 10 win seasons. Todd Graham appeared to be doing what his predecessors in Tempe couldn't. He was turning the Sun Devils into more than just a consistent winner. He looked to have them on the verge of becoming a perennial contender in the Pac-12 South and a potentially an annual playoff contender.
Then came this season.
Despite him saying this was the best team he's had at Arizona State, they've limped to a 4-4 record through 8 games. They also seemed to be limping through recruiting with a class that had them ranked closer to the bottom than the top of the conference despite the success of the last two seasons. The 2015 class was ranked in the top 20 in the nation according to the 247Sports composite rankings, but this class looked like it would not come close to approaching that kind of success.
Then came N'Keal Harry.
For the first time since Graham has been at ASU, the Sun Devils were able to land the top recruit from their own backyard after missing out the state's best player the previous four years. Arizona has had big time elite prospects from the state every year like Andrus Peat, Priest Willis, Kyle Allen, and Christian Kirk and none of them chose to stay home to play their college football. Finally, that's changed with Neal choosing ASU early this week.
Harry can be an immediate difference maker in the Pac-12 and is one of the top receiver recruits in the nation. Already 6'3" and 211 pounds, he has the size of a Jaelen Strong, but with greater ability to take it to the house every time he touches the football. He has the potential to not only be one of the top players in the conference, but the entire nation.
To see what a player like Kirk is doing at Texas A&M as a freshman and having him choose to leave the state has to be tough to watch for ASU fans. Now they can get excited about what kind of things Harry can do as a freshman in 2016.
Graham and his staff don't appear to be done adding more elite in-state prospects either. It's expected that 4 star, and 4th ranked prospect overall in the state or Arizona, athlete Chase Lucas will commit to them next week. Another local 4 star, 2nd ranked prospect in Arizona, cornerback Byron Murphy is planning on joining their class as well at some point. They already jumped up from 9th to 5th in the conference recruiting rankings after Harry committed and they'll get another nice bump if those two do as expected and join Harry in the class.
Arizona has always been a state that produces some elite prospects, but they rarely have stayed to play in the state. If Graham can continue to add guys like Harry, Lucas, and Murphy to compliment what they do in the junior college ranks and California, then their record this year will much more a blip on the radar than a downward trend. They'll be back to winning 10 games a year with the potential to win even more.