With the 2010 college football season arriving on the horizon, teams across the nation will soon welcome their incoming crops of new talent to plug holes in the depth chart.
Some make a quick impact, some are preserved for future use, and whether the contributions are minimal or massive, new arrivals can collectively be a significant difference in a team's productivity.
Arizona State University's 2010 signing class was heavy on offense, including several excellent athletes at running back and wide receiver with substantial depth along the offensive line.
Led by standout running back Deantre Lewis (pictured), ASU's Class of 2010 has the chance to make its mark.
Joe Healey of DevilsDigest.com breaks down each offensive player and his outlook for each athlete's expected contributions this season.
After four-star prospect Peter Thomas rescinded his commitment to ASU in favor of a four-year starting opportunity at Colorado State, the Sun Devils were in need of a quick fix in terms of a 2010 signing at quarterback.
Though the options were limited, Kelly, out of Eagle (Idaho) High School, is a prospect with upside who could be intriguing to watch develop over the years at ASU.
The Gatorade State Player of the Year in Idaho, Kelly was rated as the No. 84 quarterback prospect in the country by Scout.com after completing 182-of-265 passes (68.7 percent) for 2,509 yards with 22 touchdowns in addition to 1,005 rushing yards with 10 scores.
Measuring in at 6'3", 185 pounds, and capable of running a 4.65 40-yard dash, Kelly was the only player in the state of Idaho this past year to sign with a BCS conference team and is an agile runner and accurate passer who could be a solid fit for ASU's new quick strike offensive scheme.
Kelly initially committed to Nevada but switched instantly once ASU, his favorite team since childhood, pulled the trigger on him.
Very likely to redshirt in 2010, Kelly will enter fall camp behind scholarship quarterbacks Brock Osweiler, Samson Szakacsy, and Steven Threet, as well as redshirt freshman walk-on Cole Rarrick.
Undoubtedly the top high school prospect to sign with ASU this February, Lewis arrived in Tempe by way of Norco High School, one of the more prominent programs in Southern California and the alma mater of several current Sun Devils as well as last year's Heisman Trophy runner-up, Toby Gerhart of Stanford.
Lewis shredded high school defenses last year to the tune of 2,383 rushing yards on 237 carries (10.1 avg) with 31 touchdowns, en route to earning a four-star rating by Scout.com as well as being ranked the No. 22 running back recruit and No. 260 overall prospect.
A first-team All-State honoree, Lewis totaled 4,669 rushing yards and 58 touchdowns during his three-year career.
Speedy and assertive, the 5'10", 189 pounder has recorded a 4.37 40-yard dash timing and hits holes with determination and burst, which if transferred to the college game will give him the resume of an instant impact contributor.
With four scholarship running backs departing from the 2009 roster, the Sun Devils face a tremendous need for quality depth at the position this season.
Sophomore Cameron Marshall figures to be the early odds-on favorite to start, however, Lewis can immediately join the battle for second-team repetitions.
He likely will face the toughest resistance from redshirt sophomore James Morrison who, though he is the longest-tenured running back on ASU's roster, did not record a carry in seven games played as a redshirt freshman last year.
Rated as the top senior running back in the state of Arizona, Walstad of Chandler High School became the Sun Devils' first verbal commitment to the 2009 class when he pledged approximately one year before he was able to ink his signature.
A sturdy runner with the ability to shed defenders and gain yards after contact, Walstad missed time as a senior and split duty as a junior so his varsity career statistics—122 carries for 1,057 yards and eight touchdowns—likely are not indicative of his true abilities.
The 5'11", 210 pounder comes to ASU after playing for one of Arizona's up-and-coming prep programs, as Chandler High has recently sent alumni to play football at schools such as California, Oregon, Stanford, and Washington. Arizona's reigning Gatorade State Player of the Year, quarterback Brett Hundley, will guide the Chandler offense this season and ultimately take his talents to either UCLA or Washington.
Scout.com ranked Walstad as the No. 51 running back prospect in the nation and the No. 12 overall recruit in the state of Arizona.
To begin his collegiate career, Walstad in all likelihood will redshirt but could work his way into the lower end of the active depth chart.
Regardless of his contribution in 2010, Walstad quickly became a Sun Devil fan favorite as he immediately committed to ASU upon receiving an official scholarship offer, never wavered from that pledge, and frequently promoted the university by emphasizing that it was a dream opportunity for him to be able to join the Sun Devil football program.
Washington originally signed with ASU in 2009 out of Phoenix’s Desert Vista High School, but for a variety of reasons including an existing injury, he greyshirted and postponed his enrollment until this spring.
Similar to freshman running back Taylor Walstad, Washington split time during the bulk of his high school career with athletes who have gone on to FBS competition so his statistics may not indicate his true athletic talents.
As a senior in 2008 in which injuries affected his availability, Washington carried only 63 times for 245 yards with three touchdowns as a member of a platoon system.
A purposeful runner with strength and speed, the 5'11", 211 pounder was unanimously rated as the No. 2 running back prospect in the state of Arizona behind Sun Devil teammate Jamal Miles and is regarded as a top-notch overall athlete.
Many have speculated whether his college destiny is in fact at running back or a different position, and though Washington was able to participate in spring drills, he may have an uphill climb to work his way into the active depth chart in 2010.
Anderson was a very reliable receiver on a talented Lakewood (Calif.) High School team and received offers from BYU, LSU, and Washington, which makes it challenging to comprehend why he was only rated the No. 117 wide receiver prospect in the nation by Scout.com.
Boasting a solid size-to-speed ratio by running a 4.43 40-yard dash at 6'1", 185 pounds, Anderson showed excellent hands and separation abilities while serving as a key target for stud quarterback Jesse Scroggins who will begin his collegiate career at USC this fall.
As a senior in 2009, Anderson hauled in 45 passes for 836 yards (18.6 avg) with 10 touchdowns, and for his career he totaled 115 receptions for 1,922 yards and 29 scores for Lakewood, statistically making him the squad’s top wide receiver all three varsity seasons he played.
In all likelihood, Anderson will serve as a redshirt member of the scout team this year, partly for developmental purpose and partly due to the fact that including Anderson and the other freshman arrivals, ASU has roughly a dozen scholarship receivers on the roster, creating little room for the newcomers to play immediately.
Of all the newcomers ASU will have welcomed this offseason, George Bell may be the one who emerges as the most significant impact player of the group. Bell boasts an excellent frame (6'3", 198), deep speed, and the ability to make tough plays in traffic.
A two-year standout at Southwestern Community College in San Diego, Calif., Bell arrived on campus at ASU in January and was highly impressive as he acclimated quickly to ASU’s offense and on several occasions showed the penchant for big plays he exhibited the past two years in which he combined for 134 catches for 2,068 yards and 17 touchdown receptions.
When his community college career concluded, Bell ranked second on Southwestern’s career list in catches, receiving yards, and touchdowns. Bell graduated from San Diego (Calif.) Senior High School and subsequently signed with Southern Oregon, but chose to go the junior college route out of the belief that he could eventually play at a higher level—a decision that has paid significant dividends.
Bell received a four-star ranking from Scout.com and was generally considered as one of the top two or three junior college receivers in the country for this year’s class.
Following his remarkable play in the spring, Bell became a very plausible candidate to start as a junior in 2010 and is largely expected to be one of the most notable first-year contributors in the Pac-10 Conference this season.
Bell is expected to be a key reason to believe the Sun Devil offense will put forth a marked collective improvement this year.
A very productive, efficient receiver out of a competitive playing environment, Randy Knust flew way under the recruiting radar—boasting only an offer from SMU to compete with that from ASU—but he has the physical makeup to become a contributor for the Sun Devils.
At 6'3", 200 pounds, Knust brings very solid size to the position, while he reportedly is capable of running a 4.41 40-yard time and totaled 48 receptions for 1,261 yards with 14 touchdowns over the course of his junior and senior seasons at The Woodlands (Texas) High School.
Modestly ranked by Scout.com as the No. 130 wide receiver prospect in the nation, Knust has proven himself as a playmaker and though he will unlikely be a contributor in game action as a true freshman, he has the foundation in place to be molded into a solid player in the years to come
Slight in stature, Middlebrooks makes up for his lack of size with big boy speed, posting scorching times of a 4.38 40-yard and 10.48 100-meter dash at the high school level, enabling him to overcome his 5'9", 176 pound standing.
Primarily a running back at Fountain Valley (Calif.) High School, Middlebrooks likely will line up at wide receiver for the Sun Devils but has the ability to handle the ball out of the backfield whether as a runner or a receiver.
As a senior in 2009, he rushed for 1,347 yards with 20 touchdowns and added 22 receptions for 316 yards with four touchdowns. He totaled over 3,000 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards over the course of his varsity career, adding 47 overall touchdowns.
Ranked as the No. 105 running back in the nation by Scout.com, Middlebrooks, perhaps mainly because of his size, was not recruited on a national scale but ultimately chose ASU over offers from Arizona, Utah, and Washington, among others.
With the new Sun Devil offense focused on quick strikes and sudden plays, Middlebrooks may hear his named called as a true freshman if he can speedily assert himself in fall camp and pick up on the nuances of being a Pac-10 contributor.
Though members of his junior college brethren to transfer to ASU this year—mainly George Bell, Eddie Elder, and Brice Schwab—have garnered much more fanfare, Willie has recently been named as a potential impact player in ASU’s offense, largely because of his size and physicality.
At 6'4", 215 pounds and fiercely aggressive by nature, Willie brings a tough mentality to the Sun Devil gridiron while also providing the seasoning befitting of a two-year junior college contributor.
During his career at Cerritos (Calif.) College, a school that has provided ASU with multiple solid players over recent years, Willie totaled 76 receptions for 1,106 yards with four touchdowns in 22 games and earned a three-star rating from Scout.com
Cerritos’ top receiver and a second-team All-Conference honoree in 2009, Willie reportedly runs a 4.48 40-yard dash and will be an intriguing player to watch quickly develop in fall camp. With a multitude of receivers likely to earn ample action in 2010, Willie is likely to be in the thick of the action for playing time and will be counted on to contribute quickly.
The top high school offensive lineman ASU signed this past February, Ajawara starred at guard for Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Tesoro High School and earned third-team All-State honors for his efforts as a senior.
Tabbed as the No. 22 offensive guard prospect in the nation, Ajawara was a teammate of ASU’s potential starting left tackle, Evan Finkenberg, while at Tesoro High and showed the abilities at the high school level to be a highly competent guard at the collegiate level.
Due to solid depth at both guard spots, Ajawara, as with all of ASU’s freshman offensive linemen, are all but guaranteed to redshirt in 2010
A native of Miami, Fla., De Armas took an atypical path to ASU—he originally signed with South Florida out of high school prior to leaving college to help support his family. Eventually, he ended up at El Camino Junior College in Torrance, Calif., where he formed into a consistent, nasty interior lineman.
De Armas arrived at ASU in the spring and enters fall camp as a primary reserve at either guard position, and brings a mean streak and power to the line with a weight room résumé that includes a 375-pound bench press, 425-pound squad, and 275-pound power clean.
A junior with three years to play two, De Armas likely will be a key reserve or potential spot starter at any of the three interior line spots.
Douglas may be a year or two away from being prepared for Pac-10 action, but his athletic upside gives him sensational potential at left tackle for the Sun Devils.
A former tight end who saw action late in his high school career on the offensive line, the 6'5", 252 pounder from Cypress (Calif.) High School was rated as the No. 65 offensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com and reneged on Utah to be a Sun Devil when the opportunity emerged, while Nebraska was also in the thick of things for his services.
Aggressive yet nimble, Douglas likely will redshirt in 2010, but gives the Devils an interesting option at tackle for future use.
Undoubtedly the biggest swing in favor of the Sun Devils prior to National Letter of Intent signing day was the decision made by gargantuan tackle Brice Schwab to rescind his pledge to USC and decide to enroll at ASU.
Primarily motivated by coach Pete Carroll’s departure to the NFL, all 6'8", 320 pounds of Schwab quickly switched from being a Trojan to a Sun Devil and participated in spring drills at ASU.
A four-star prospect and unanimously rated among the most dominant junior college offensive linemen this offseason, Schwab had a feast of offers to choose from, including scholarships from Florida State, LSU, Oklahoma, Penn State, and other national powers.
Schwab instantly became the big man on campus—literally—as he is the largest player on ASU’s roster. After beginning spring drills at left tackle, he was later moved to the right side, the position at which he spent the majority of his career at Palomar Community College in San Marcos, Calif.
A native of Pennsylvania, Schwab will enter fall camp as the top right tackle and intends to remain in the starting lineup all season in 2010.
(Photo courtesy www.DevilsDigest.com)
Having only started his organized football career at the junior college level, Simmons carries perhaps the most interesting storyline of the members of this year’s signing class for ASU.
Absolutely massive at 6'7" and over 300 pounds, Simmons was a standout basketball player in the state of Louisiana before, on his own accord, visiting the University of Miami to inquire about a potential collegiate football career.
Miami’s staff advised him to relocate to California and begin at the junior college level. After becoming a solid lineman at El Camino Junior College in Torrance, he earned a scholarship offer to attend ASU.
Likely to compete to start at left tackle, Simmons is probably this year’s biggest “boom or bust” candidate as his combination of size and athleticism stands unmatched among ASU lineman.
However, his grave lack of game experience may handicap his ability to contribute. Also working against him is the fact that he has already utilized a redshirt season, giving Simmons only two seasons to play at ASU.
To begin camp, he will likely be among the top reserves for projected starting left tackle Evan Finkenberg, but with a noticeable splash he may reorder the starting lineup along the offensive line.
An All-Region performer at right tackle for Sherman Oaks (Calif.) Notre Dame High School, one of the state’s elite programs, Sulka likely will add future depth at tackle for the Sun Devils.
Ranked by Scout.com as the No. 117 offensive tackle prospect in the nation, the 6'5", 270 pounder is regarded as having excellent technical skills and chose ASU over San Diego State and UNLV.
Sulka likely will redshirt in 2010 and add depth at tackle beyond that point.