This is the time of year when many lucky high school seniors have the opportunity to select a hat of their next school and pledge to don that prestigious university's colors for the next four years. But for Arizona State, the time for winning is not four years down the road—the winning must commence immediately.
The coach's hot seat has begun to simmer, and the grumblings of displeased alumni and loyal fans in Phoenix have started to rain down on the sun-drenched campus. So Dennis Erickson and his staff set out on a mission to find the best possible athletes in the country to drive this program in the right direction, once again.
Many times the casual fan who likes to follow his local school or beloved alma mater tends to just look at the rankings of ESPN, Scout.com, and Rivals for his recruiting fulfillment.
As coaches and staff members evaluate talent, you can be sure that they don't care about how many stars a player received. The 40-yard dash, bench press, overall weight room numbers, and the aptitude and final product the athlete shows on the field—those are the numbers and ratings that the Arizona State coaching staff has analyzed precisely in recruiting.
A top 25 recruiting class does not happen overnight, or in seven days. The recruiting process is nearly a two-year marathon of evaluating thousands of possible players to then narrow that field down to about 20 or 25 future student-athletes.
This past year for ASU was a rocky one, to say the least. Constant ups and downs, speed bumps, and virtual road blocks found their way onto the Sun Devils' schedule, and the recruiting efforts were affected both positively and negatively through every single step.
But now is the time of year when coaches sell their respective programs, and for Arizona State, there are plenty of positive selling pitches. The most important and resounding might include playing time and future success, because recently there has not been much past success in Tempe on the football field.
However, this class might turn the tide and catapult this "sleeping giant" in the desert to future Pac-10 success.
Erickson and his staff have addressed their glaring weaknesses thus far in recruiting, and the best might be yet to come.
Erickson has already signed and enrolled three talent-rich junior college transfers, including highly touted, game-changing receiver George Bell. Bell also drew offers from Nebraska, Oregon, Colorado, and in-state rival Arizona, among others.
Accompanying Bell in Tempe will also be Chris De Armas, an offensive tackle from El Camino College in California. De Armas (6'4", 295 pounds), who originally committed to play at South Florida in 2005, will attempt his second stint at a Division I university.
Now, ASU's third early enrollee happened to be stolen right out from Arizona's Mike Stoops' grasp. Eddie Elder, a 6'0", 190-pound safety from San Mateo College, originally committed to play for the Wildcats up until a recent official visit to Tempe.
In all three of these commits, the Sun Devils filled massive holes with players that can contribute early and will have the experience of going through spring drills with the team.
ASU's offense was bland to say the least, but that vanilla style of offense might have been due to the lack of a consistent downfield threat. The four-star wide receiver can stretch the defense with his size and speed, being clocked at 4.42 seconds. In 2008, Bell had 80 catches for 1,263 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The loss of Ryan McFoy and Jarrell Holman in the secondary will hurt, but, once again, Erickson and his staff addressed this weakness and signed Eddie Elder to compete for the job in the spring.
Erickson did not stop there with his defensive recruitment, either. The Sun Devils have already gained commitments from Devan Spann, an undersized cornerback from Gardena, Calif., and, among others, Nduka Onyeali, an impressive athlete from Denver, Colo., who will ideally fill the void of the departed Dexter Davis.
Onyeali is 6'1" and 240 pounds, and, to couple with his size, he also runs a 4.5 forty-yard dash. His speed and size will be an added element to ASU's already daunting defense; the question is whether is an outside linebacker or a defensive end.
Onyeali might be a safety blanket for a future commit the Sun Devils have lined up down the road.
The Sun Devils have been eying that instant replacement for Davis at defensive end; however, ASU might have to wait until signing day to hear from All-American Jackson Jeffcoat from Plano, Texas.
As many might question, "Why would possibly the best athlete in the whole class choose ASU over the nation's elite?" Well, Jeffcoat's father played at Arizona State, and the appeal to play on a potentially dominant defense at ASU and to produce instantly are also positive selling pitches to Jeffcoat.
Jeffcoat would not be the only player in recent years to have so much hype and commit to ASU in hope of rejuvenating the program, though. Just last year, Vontaze Burfict committed to play for Erickson and the Sun Devils, and that turned out pretty good in year one.
Now this recruiting season, Jeffcoat could join the aforementioned Bell, a four-star tight end in Josh Fulton, a highly sought-after running back from recruiting hotbed Norco, Calif., in Deantre Lewis, and quite possibly the top offensive tackle in California, Brice Schwab. Schwab originally committed to play for USC, but once Pete Carroll jumped ship and went north to lead the Seattle Seahawks, Schwab opened up his recruitment, and the Sun Devils landed a 6'8", 320-pound offensive line anchor.
There is no doubt that the Sun Devils have holes to fill. No one is going to say a 4-8 record was good season, and the coaches are not settling on average talent. Erickson and his staff have established their recruiting hotbeds all over the southwest, ranging from California, the Great Northwest, and into Texas and Colorado.
As of right now, Arizona State has 22 commitments from athletes all over the country; three of them are signed and enrolled, and don't be surprised if there are a few more tricks up ASU's sleeves to pull in some more top-tier talent come signing day on Feb. 3.