ASU Football: A Small 2011 Recruiting Class Will Reap Big Rewards
At first glance, the Pacific Ten recruiting rankings might discourage the average Arizona State fan.
The tenth place ranking by Scout.com, does not seem fitting for a team that is climbing to the upper-echelon of the new Pac-12.
But don’t get discouraged Sun Devil fans, sometimes numbers lie. In the case of Dennis Erickson recruiting athletes, the star grading system applied by various recruiting services rarely grades accordingly for under-the-radar players.
Erickson is a big fan of under-the-radar prospects, and the 2011 recruiting class is a prime example.
Matt Ramondo, a lineman from New Mexico, is a perfect example of not only adding depth, but also creating competition at key positions.
Ramondo is 6-foot-4,285 pounds, and can play both sides of the line.
Grady Stretz, ASU’s defensive line coach, recruited Ramondo from Las Cruces, NM, and was intrigued by the future Sun Devil’s speed and hand technique.
Stretz might enjoy watching Ramondo’s quickness and pass rushing ability, but his strength will translate immediately to the college level. Ramondo benches 315 lbs, power cleans 260, and can squat nearly 500 pounds.
With Sai’a Falahola graduating, the Sun Devils needed a defensive lineman to fill the gap.
Erickson beat out Michigan State, Oregon, UCLA, and rival Arizona for the New Mexico native’s services.
Keep in mind, Will Sutton, a freshman sensation a year ago will be returning to the football field as well.
Sutton was ruled academically ineligible before the ’10 season, but is on track to return in the Spring.
Falahola might be the biggest loss for the Sun Devils, but a close second would be wide receiver Kerry Taylor.
The former Hamilton Husky (Chandler, AZ) had an up and down career in maroon and gold, but his senior season was by far his best.
With three of Taylor’s seven touchdowns coming in 2010, he seemed to come up big when the Sun Devils needed a play.
The Territorial Cup versus Arizona was a perfect example.
Taylor was called upon to catch a clutch, 54-yard pass right before the fourth quarter to set up a field goal,and to run a masterful route to get open for a two-point conversion.
Taylor will be missed, but the Sun Devils sought out size and speed in a local prospect to fill the void for next Fall.
Gary Chambers, from Ironwood (Glendale, AZ) is one of those under-the-radar players that Erickson likes.
Chambers is 6-foot-3 and nearly 200 pounds.
He caught 77 passes for 1,158 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Erickson and wide receivers coach Steve Broussard will have the benefit of at least one season to mold Chambers to their liking.
That is one of the perks that depth plays in a football program.
For the first time in a long time, ASU has the ability to redshirt players.
At receiver, Mike Willie, Gerrell Robinson, Aaron Pflugrad, Jamal Miles, T.J. Simpson, and George Bell all saw significant game experience last season, and Bell was the only receiver to catch under 25 passes.
Needless to say, Chambers will have time to learn Noel Mazzone’s high-octane offense.
Even in the case of stud California quarterback Michael Bercovici, the time to learn the offensive system behind Steven Threet and Brock Osweiler will help in the long run.
Bercovici started out at Westlake high school in California—just like former Sun Devil great Rudy Carpenter—but later transferred to Taft in Woodland Hills, CA.
In his final game two weeks ago, Bercovici led the Toreadors to the semi-final game against Carson, and came up just short of playing in the City Championship.
Although, Bercovici came up one game short of a championship, fellow Sun Devil commit Dillon van der Wal won a championship of his own with Oaks Christian (Westlake Village, CA), against Bercovici’s former team, Westlake.
Van der Wal might be listed as a tight end at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds, but he also doubled as a defensive end, tallying 107 total tackles—73 unassisted.
Sun Devil coaches will have the luxury of evaluating Van der Wal and making a decision between offense and defense, similar to John Hargis and Sai’a Falahola as underclassmen four years ago.
And let’s be honest, Erickson has a pretty good track record for spotting talent and pure ability.
With ten recruits verbally committed to date, Erickson’s squad is ranked 63rd nationally by Scout.com.
But, don’t be upset fans. It will be okay. The Sun Devils are addressing needs and filling in the gaps where necessary.
The 2011 recruiting class likely will top out around 15 or 16 signees, but the Sun Devils are in the hunt for a few big names to add to their already solid class.
First, the local products that Erickson’s staff has been pursuing for the past two years, might be the biggest “gets” in the 2011 class.
Cyrus Hobbi, an offensive lineman from Saguaro (Scottsdale, AZ) has an offer from every major football power, including his local favorite, ASU.
If you “respect” the star rating system by recruiting sites, Hobbi is a four star prospect, and the ninth best guard in the country.
To say that signing Hobbi would be “huge” is a major understatement.
At 6-foot-3, 285 pounds, Hobbi would be the one “college-ready signee”, but that is all speculation until he signs on the dotted line.
With Hobbi left to make a commitment, three other Arizona prospects, Todd peat, Vi Teofilo and Mo Latu, are still in the Sun Devils sights.
And with the Sun Devils “beefing up” across the board, don’t be surprised if Erickson picks up another quarterback.
With Threet (senior) and Osweiler (junior) set to battle it out for top spot, Szakacsy (senior) and Taylor Kelly (redshirt freshman) are the other scholarship quarterbacks in their sights.
Walk-ons Cole Rarrick and Justin Sieczkowski round out the quarterback stable, but after Threet and Szakacsy graduate, the crop gets pretty bare in experience.
Erickson has signed two quarterbacks in the past, with Szakacsy and Chasen Stangel in 2006, so Bercovici could have another teammate on the horizon.
A name to watch will be Michael Eubank.
If the name is unfamiliar, the school he attends will spark interest immediately. Eubank is a 6-foot-5 220 pound quarterback from ASU’s Inland Empire pipeline in California, Corona Centennial.
The buzz regarding Eubank is that he wants to be “The Guy” at his school of choice. ASU, as noted above, is a little top heavy under center, but if Eubank takes a redshirt season, year two in Tempe might be fruitful as “The Backup” to Osweiler.
Then, with the right amount of seasoning, Eubank will be ready to feast on opponents.
But for now, ASU fans can find satisfaction in a class small in number, but large in production.
There will not be many impact players in Erickson’s recruiting class, but the Sun Devils are not forced to find instant impact performers.
The program is building upon an already deep and athletic roster, and with Erickson hand picking the talent, Sun Devil fans should like their chances in the new Pac-12, for years to come.
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