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The recruiting landscape of ASU Football, two weeks before NSD 2017

Where the Sun Devils stand at, and what to expect of the final recruiting days.

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Oregon Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

The final stretch of the recruiting season is ahead of us. Every football team is travelling across the country one last time to ensure their future with young, talented recruits for the coming years.

It is especially true for Arizona State. The next two weeks leading to National Signing Day 2017 on February, 1st are going to be crucial, for many reasons.

Despite a second sub .500 season in a row, the Sun Devils have just 14 players committed to the football program as of today, while Todd Graham & co. are trying to reload the machine with fresh talents. It seems pretty light but ASU seems to have switched the recruiting approach this time around.

Less players but more talented ones.

14 commits is one of the lowest bar in the nation in terms of pledges, setting the Sun Devils at the 43rd spot in the national teams rankings, according to Scout. Only ahead of Stanford, Clemson, Utah and TCU in the Top 50. This could be worrying.

Under Todd Graham, ASU has had a history of putting up together Top 30 recruiting classes consistently, and it seems it will not be the case in the 2017. The class is not empty, although.

Arizona State football recruits (01/18)

Name Position Position Rank Stars State
Name Position Position Rank Stars State
Eno Benjamin RB 10 4-star TX
Alex Perry CB 15 4-star NV
Ryan Kelley QB 17 4-star AZ
Tyler Johnson TE 13 4-star AZ
Blake Barnett QB 4-star CA
Trelon Smith RB 42 3-star TX
Corey Stephens OG 46 3-star AZ
Loren Mondy OLB 58 3-star TX
Jared Poplawski TE 60 3-star AZ
Ty Thomas S 63 3-star TX
Kyle Soelle TE 72 3-star AZ
Curtis Hodges WR 165 3-star AZ
D.J. Davidson DT 3-star AZ
Brandon Ruiz K 1 (?) 3-star AZ

It gets interesting if you look at the average recruit stars rankings. Scout has Arizona State currently sitting at the 19th place within this classification (3.36), a few points behind the record mark achieved by the Sun Devils in 2015 (3.43).

This is a good testament of the quality for the class of 2017.

Even tough ASU is ranked behind teams the Sun Devils usually out-recruit, like Minnesota (41st), Rutgers (38th) or Illinois (37th), do not get ahead of yourself and panic. Watch out for a late surge before and probably on National Signing Day.

Let’s say this has been the plan all along. Arizona State has changed its stand towards recruiting by offering and staying close to 4-star high school players more than 3-star athletes. Big risks, big rewards.

This strategy also means pledges are expressed later during the process and closer to National Signing Day, a moment in which blue-blood programs tend to come out winning the battles against second-tier universities like Arizona State. We shall see what that works out for the Sun Devils, but as today, they are waiting on many decisions that could potentially change the face of the program.

Five 4-star high school recruits already committed or signed their NLI at the moment (Benjamin, Perry, Kelley, Johnson and Barnett). In 2016, at the end of the process, ASU signed six 4-star prospects, including JUCO transfers. The class of 2015, arguably the best recruiting class of Todd Graham’s tenure in Tempe, boasted nine 4-star players.

The previous two recruiting classes were composed of a dozen more prospects than this year’s, and yet, high-end talent can be found within the same proportions.

And the best might be coming very soon.

Arizona State football targets (01/18)

Name Position Position rank Stars State Other interests
Name Position Position rank Stars State Other interests
Joseph Lewis WR 1 5-star CA Nebraska, Oregon, USC
Austin Jackson OT 6 5-star AZ USC, Washington
Gary Johnson ILB 3 (JUCO) 4-star KS Louisville, Oregon, Texas, USC
Greg Johnson ATH 8 4-star CA Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, USC
Todd Harris S 9 4-star LA Alabama, Indiana, LSU, TCU
Isaiah Pola-Mao S 12 4-star AZ USC, Washington
Brad Stewart CB 13 4-star LA Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Virginia Tech
Tareke Lewis CB 12 (JUCO) 4-star CA Utah (soft verbal)
Jahvonte Dean CB 20 (JUCO) 4-star TX Alabama (soft verbal), Miami (FL), Utah
George Moore OT 24 (JUCO) 4-star CA Auburn, California, Oregon State, Utah
Isaac Slade-Matautia OLB 30 4-star HI Colorado, Nebraska, Oregon, Washington State
K.J. Jarrell S 31 4-star AZ California, USC
Bryan Jones DE 32 3-star LA Arkansas, Baylor, Florida, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Oklahoma
Evan Fields S 43 3-star OK Kansas State, Notre Dame, Oregon, UCLA
Odua Isibor DE 55 3-star AZ Oregon, Texas A&M, UCLA
Ali Gaye DE 65 3-star WA Louisville, Ole Miss, Washington
Amaud Willis-Dalton OLB 79 3-star TX California, Duke, Minnesota, West Virginia
Gavin Holmes WR 88 3-star TX Baylor, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon
Tyon Merchant CB 100 3-star TX Arkansas, Houston, SMU, Texas State

Out of the 15 high school recruits mentioned above, plus 4 players out of junior college, Arizona State should expect to sign a third of them. And that would be an excellent number.

It seems unlikely that ASU will receive the pledges of more than two/three 4-star and three/four 3-star recruits, but such a scenario would bring the count of recruits closer to 20 and potentially one of the best ratio of 4-star prospects ever recorded by the Sun Devils. 5-star local prospect Austin Jackson could even become the cherry on the cake if he decides to stay true to his home state (although USC seems to be the favourite).

Anyway, according to a report from Scout last week, ASU is slated to host quite a few big names before the first Wednesday of February, also known as National Signing Day :

ASU plans to host five-star wide receiver Joseph Lewis, four-star junior college cornerback Tareke Lewis, four-star athlete Greg Johnson, four-star offensive tackle George Moore, four-star cornerback Brad Stewart, three-star wide receiver Gavin Holmes, three-star defensive end Ali Gaye and three-star cornerback Tyon Merchant.

Later on in January, the Sun Devils expect to host four-star safety K.J. Jarrell and three-star defensive end Odua Isibor, a pair of high-profile local products who can add to what's shaping up to be an impressive haul from the state of Arizona in ASU's 2017 class.

A lot is still bound to happen in Tempe as National Signing Day looms quickly. The main recruiting effort was targeted for the month of January, and we shall see in a couple weeks how the dividends pay off. Todd Graham might be playing his head coaching job on the results of this recruiting class.

Here are my confidence picks for potential ASU recruits that were mentioned previously in this article:

Arizona State confidence picks (01/18)

Where's the pen already? Good things around the corner Playing in the background Many prayers needed
Where's the pen already? Good things around the corner Playing in the background Many prayers needed
K.J. Jarrell (4) Austin Jackson (5) Gary Johnson (4) Joseph Lewis (5)
Evan Fields (3) Isaiah Pola-Mao (4) Greg Johnson (4) Jahvonte Dean (4)
Amaud Willis-Dalton (3) Brad Stewart (4) Todd Harris (4) Isaac Slade-Matautia (4)
Gavin Holmes (3) Tareke Lewis (4) Ali Gaye (3) Bryan Jones (3)
Odua Isibor (3) Greg Moore (3)
Tyon Merchant (3)