National Letter of Intent Day, a college football fanatic's day of extreme optimism towards the upcoming season. How pleased will the fans around the valley be about Dennis Erickson's fourth recruiting class?
Erickson set out with one thing in mind this offseason: fill the glaring needs on offense and provide quality, youthful talent at the skill positions and on defense.
The old adage says, "If it is not broken, then don't fix it." Well, Erickson took that saying with a grain of salt, on both sides of the football.
Defensively, the recruiting trail was not necessarily "burnt up" by the Sun Devil coaching staff, looking to find this year's Vontaze Burfict. However, the local fans in Phoenix were holding their breath about the highly touted defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat. Jeffcoat had ties to Arizona State due to his father's allegiance and past playing days in the Valley of the Sun.
Unfortunately, that was not enough to land the high school All-American.
In the end, the Sun Devils did put together a rather solid recruiting class defensively. The standout recruit has to be Nduka Onyeali. The sting of losing out on Jeffcoat was greatly subsided by the commitment of Onyeali.
Erickson and his staff once again invaded the familiar recruiting grounds in Colorado to nab Onyeali from both the Buffaloes and Rams in state, as well as holding off a late surge from Texas Christian and the USC Trojans.
Onyeali has been clocked at 4.5 seconds for the 40-yard dash and can bench 440 pounds. This Colorado prep has the size and strength to play at either defensive end or linebacker.
Another big name recruit that Arizona State landed came from the junior college ranks. Eddie Elder, a safety from San Mateo, Calif., was the 2009 California Junior College Defensive Player of the Year.
Elder's experience and productivity at a collegiate level will prove to be valuable as the safety positions in the Sun Devil secondary are wide open. Since Elder has already enrolled and will participate in spring workouts, he will also have a head start in preparation and a grasp of the schemes come fall camp in August.
Shifting the focus to the offensive side of the ball, the Sun Devils addressed their weaknesses this recruiting season by beefing up the offensive line with six lineman commits, as well as five wide receivers, to ignite a sputtering offense.
Football fans know that a great offense starts with a great offensive line to control the line of scrimmage. With Shawn Lavaou, ASU's top offensive lineman from 2009, graduating, the Sun Devil staff hit the recruiting trail in full force to find bigger and stronger linemen to compete for starting jobs.
Although John Hargis and Garth Gerhart return in 2010 to anchor the offensive line, Brice Schwab, Silvarius Ajawara, Chris De Armas, and Aderious Simmons headline the "big uglies" that signed with Erickson's squad.
Schwab, who has the size and ability to start from day one, should be an instant success for the Sun Devils. Standing at 6'8", 320 pounds, there does not seem to be a matchup that Schwab would shy away from.
As is the case with all six of the offensive linemen that Erickson signed, all of them have the ideal size to provide the push and the protection that a highflying offense needs to thrive.
The smallest offensive lineman in the class is Jamil Douglas, and to classify him as small would be a huge insult to Mr. Douglas, as he stands at 6'5", 255 pounds.
If you are having second thoughts on his upside as a lineman, consider that the Nebraska Cornhuskers thought he was deserving of a scholarship and the responsibility of paving the way for ball carriers.
Another soon-to-be star in the making of this class has to be playmaking receiver, George Bell, a 6'4" receiver with 4.4 40. Many feel that he has the style and production of Chad Johnson, who Erickson coached at Oregon State.
Bell will be working out in the spring and is already enrolled in the spring semester. With that being said, Bell will have a head start on developing the proper chemistry with the quarterbacks competing in the spring.
Deantre Lewis might be the impact player in the backfield that ASU has been missing the past few seasons. Lewis, from Southern California football powerhouse Norco High School, has solid size for a prototypical ball carrier. Lewis stands at 5'10", 195 pounds, and was ranked by Rivals.com as the 38th ranked player in California.
Lewis will add quality depth to the ASU backfield and should show off his speed in Sun Devil Stadium shortly.
There was much speculation and controversy regarding ASU's signees this year. In years past on Signing Day, University of Arizona Head Coach Mike Stoops has been known to take a cheap shot at ASU for accepting commits from recruits who were borderline students, as well as referring to Arizona State as a "junior college."
Those remarks did not sit well with fans in Tempe. This year the Sun Devils signed six junior college athletes, including Eddie Elder, who originally committed to Arizona and Mike Stoops. However, this might not be a case where ASU is enrolling athletes with any or poor academic history, but more of a feel around town that this might be the recipe for a quick turnaround for the Sun Devils.
With the Sun Devils receiving 26 commitments from recruits that have their hearts set on playing for Arizona State, this might be the last recruiting class of the Dennis Erickson era if the results do not improve.
On the other hand, many media outlets are ranking this Sun Devil recruiting class in or around the top 25. So, could this class be the one tagged with the honor of rebuilding a once promising football program?
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