Sun Devils lose QB, load up on JC talent

Arizona State loaded up on junior college talent in coach Todd

Graham’s second recruiting class, but the Sun Devils lost the star

high school quarterback they thought they were going to get.

Joshua Dobbs had verbally committed to Arizona State, but at the

last minute changed his mind and signed with Tennessee, leaving the

Sun Devils without a quarterback recruit for the second year in a

row.

Graham didn’t talk about Dobbs by name but said the plan was to

bring in a quarterback and that changed on Wednesday.

”It’s a tough deal, it’s a tough process,” Graham said. ”In a

lot ways the process is out of hand in how it goes, but you end up

getting what you’re supposed to. There’s nothing about recruiting

that’s fair, but all you can do is know how we’re going to do it,

and we’re going to do things with class and character.”

He noted the team has three quarterbacks returning – starter

Taylor Kelly, Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici.

”We’re fine, more than fine, we’re great at that position,”

Graham said, ”but it is something that we’ll look at to bring

somebody in here, whether it be next year or in the meantime, I

don’t know yet. Obviously, that’s something that developed today.

We wanted to sign one and we didn’t.”

The 27 Arizona State recruits included 10 from junior colleges,

headed by defensive lineman Marcus Hardison of Dodge City Community

College. The list of freshman recruits was topped by linebacker

Chans Cox of Blue Ridge High in Lakeside, Ariz.

Graham made no apologies for dipping so strongly into the junior

college ranks. He said a normal year might have six JC recruits

with this year’s figure skewed by need.

”I think we can sign the best junior college players in the

country, and why not?” he said. ”I think the best junior colleges

in America are in California and Arizona and we think that’s a

formula that can be successful for us.”

Hardison, 6-foot-5 and 290 pounds, was rated the No. 14 overall

and third-best defensive lineman in junior college nationwide by

Rivals.com.

”Marcus is one of the top defensive ends in America,” Graham

said, ”a guy that our fan base is going to love in a hurry. The

thing that attracted him is that we’re one of the best in the

country in getting after the quarterback.”

Hardison reportedly had offers from Baylor, Kansas State,

Florida State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, among others. He

verbally committed to Arizona State three weeks ago.

Another JC transfer lauded by Graham is wide receiver Jaelen

Strong, who comes from Philadelphia via Pierce College. Strong sat

out the 2011 season and has three years of eligibility remaining.

Strong is joined at Arizona State by Pierce teammate wide receiver

Joe Morris.

Among the freshman recruits are brothers Alani and Viliami Latu,

both linebackers from Rancho Cucamonga High School. On Wednesday

morning, safety Marcus Ball from Westerville, Ohio, announced he

had selected Arizona State over Wisconsin. Ball had verbally

committed to the Badgers but withdrew the commitment when Wisconsin

had a change in coaches.

Graham praised Cox as an extremely talented young player who

never wavered in his commitment, despite later interest from

big-time programs, including Notre Dame. The 6-3, 230-pound

linebacker fits the Arizona State mold as an attacking

defender.

”A guy that epitomizes what we want as a football player,”

Graham said.

In fact, defense was the theme of the day for the Arizona State

coach, who guided the Sun Devils to an 8-5 record in his first

season. Fifteen of the recruits are penciled in on defense, helping

to make up for 16 the team loses to graduation next year, Graham

said.

On offense, there were five wide receivers in the recruiting

class, two of them – Ellis Jefferson (Denton) and Cameron Smith

(Copell) – from Texas.

Graham said he knows the program needs to do better in-state but

said that he and his staff have vastly improved relations with the

state’s high school coaches and that improvement in that area takes

time.

The school did nab 6-5, 265-pound defensive lineman Kisima Jagne

from Chandler and tight end Grant Martinez from Notre Dame Prep in

Scottsdale.

The biggest, literally and perhaps in other ways, is 6-4,

303-pound offensive guard Christian Westerman from Hamilton High in

Chandler. He was considered the top recruit in the state two years

ago. He signed with Auburn but has transferred back home.