Todd Graham's position by position review of the ASU football recruiting class
TEMPE, Ariz. -- "Next slide."
Todd Graham wanted to educate Arizona State football fans about his 2015 recruiting class. So on National Signing Day, as part of a live webcast, the Sun Devils head coach went through a slideshow presentation, covering every one of his 22 recruits committed to ASU. It was promotional, sure, but it also gave a great deal of insight into where each prospect could fit in.
ASU has some flexibility to add to this class, especially at receiver, where they have no commitments at this time. In case you missed it, here's a complete, position by position overview, with the help from Graham.
As last season showed with the injury to starter Taylor Kelly and (from a national perspective) champion Ohio State, the backup quarterback position could make or break a season. Mike Bercovici kept ASU competitive when Kelly went down, and now he's the starter, the Sun Devils have added Brady White and Bryce Perkins to compete for the backup job with Manny Wilkins and Coltin Gerhart.
Keep an eye on: White may be the big recruiting get, but Perkins took Chandler High School to its first state title since 1949. He's a winner.
Graham says: "Mike (Bercovici) has one year, so it's very, very important that as we looked at this class that we bring in guys that can compete to be the next guy. We think we've done that, hit that one way out of the park."
Soon-to-be-senior D.J. Foster's move to wideout opened up playing time, but the Sun Devils backfield will nonetheless be diverse in skill sets next season. They sweated out the decision of 241-pound 4-star Virginia Beach, Va., back Jaason Lewis, who held firm in his commitment, and also brought in Morie Evans from Huntsville, Texas.
Keep an eye on: Lewis, like pinball Demario Richard and upright Kalen Ballage, has the ability to run and catch, but his size is what separates him and coule lead to playing time as soon as this year.
Graham says: "That position you want to be more physical and have more depth."
This was a major focus for Graham's class. ASU brought in two more traditional tight ends in junior college transfer Raymond Epps and freshman Tommy Hudson. Hudson, at 6-5, could add weight to his 250-pound frame and has great hands, while the smaller Epps can block ends but also move to wide receiver at times.
Keep an eye on: JayJay Wilson was a 4-star linebacker recruit, but it sounds as if the Sun Devils might use the 6-3, 230-pounder on offense. He could fight for time with tight end Chris Coyle and the other tight ends in his class as a smaller 3-back.
Graham says: "You've seen the production we've had in the past drop down a little bit this year. And that's something that we're going to help ourself in these three guys that we signed, 3-back and tight end positions."
There were five players in the offensive line group -- with Dillon Faamatau expected to play on offense despite being listed as a defensive lineman. Size and in-state success defined this group, and it'll allow for Arizona State to fill in a true two-deep rotation. By rankings, four-star 322-pound Zach Robertson leads the class.
Keep an eye on: Steve Miller. Graham said Shawn Griswold, the head coach of sports performance, is impressed with Miller's athleticism.
Graham says: "You go out to watch our practice next year and you look at the five offensive linemen that we're adding to this group, you're going to notice something very, very different. We are going to be a lot bigger."
There's a heavy Louisiana influence here, which is unique for a Pac-12 school (though Arizona also recruits the state heavily). The shining star of the class, Californian Joseph Wicker, is seen as a Will Sutton type. He and the other members of the class bring size and explosiveness that ASU hopes will help them pick and choose their blitzing a little more. Defensive ends George Lea, from New Orleans, and Jalen Bates (Kaplan, La.) will be joined by junior college transfer Deonte Reynolds, who will likely play nose tackle.
Keep an eye on: Wicker and Lea could be the studs, but Graham and director of recruiting Patrick Suddes believe Bates could be the most underrated prospect. At 6-5 and 240 pounds, Bates might see time at Devil-backer early but with added weight will likely end up on the line.
Graham says: "One of the things in this class, (we) wanted to get more physical and explosive inside ... more pass rushers, guys that can go one-on-one. Obviously it allows us not to have to send five and six guys all the time."
It could be tough to find snaps with the depth already at linebacker, but the Sun Devils clearly need to fill the Devil-backer role. The highest-rated player of four linebackers in the class is junior college transfer Davon Durant, who could fill in at the hybrid Devil-backer immediately. Graham said he'll be moved around but usually be in a two-point stance. Otherwise, there'll be a bit of added depth for next year, if not this one should injuries strike.
Keep an eye on: Graham considers Khaylan Thomas similar to current Sun Devil linebacker D.J. Calhoun. Others in the recruiting world have compared the 6-2, 220-pound freshman from Etiwanda, Calif., to former ASU linebacker Vontaze Burfict because of his highlight-reel hitting abilities.
Graham says: "(Durant) at linebacker, we really wanted to get faster, explosive, and we wanted guys when they blitzed, that we can power rush guards and be able to dominate them physically, not having to rely on running around people when we're blitzing."
Graham's top priority moving forward is preventing big plays through the air. Stanley "Scrappy" Norman, a 6-0, 180-pound, 4-star player from Gardena, Calif., was a big get. So, too, was landing Kareem Orr out of Chattanooga, Tenn., late in the process.
Keep an eye on: Norman's nickname hints at his competitiveness and confidence, both of which stood out to Graham.
Graham says: "Obviously, we put our hands on people. We are a press team. We want guys that can be physical and tackle."