Sun Devil fans have had the perception of securing local talent in the “Valley of the Sun” would propel Arizona State’s football program into the Top 25 consistently. Although, that sentiment is easier said than done for any major program, even Southern California or nearby UCLA.
In Dennis Erickson’s 2011 recruiting class, the number of homegrown talent might alarm many Sun Devil purists. However, in the coming weeks that initial perception could change.
As of right now, Erickson’s staff has only secured three commitments from Arizona natives, including one punter/kicker.
With only 12 prospects committed, and two already signed and enrolled, the Sun Devils will have six or seven scholarships remaining to hand out. This is where local talent, and quite possibly the biggest name players, could sign letters of intent.
If you do not know the name Christian Westerman yet, in the near future the college football experts will make everyone in the country quite familiar come national signing day. Firstly, Westerman is the type of local product that maroon and gold fans salivate over year in and year out.
Hailing from Hamilton High School in Chandler, AZ, Westerman is a mammoth offensive lineman at 6'5", 295 pounds. Not only does Westerman have the stature to be a dominant, instant impact performer for the Sun Devils, but his footwork and technique also has recruiters frothing at the mouth.
Normally, a local valley product like Westerman would shop his talent and skill set elsewhere, typically out of state. Westerman followed suit until just recently.
The Texas Longhorns were lucky enough to receive an early verbal commit from the Hamilton Husky lineman, but in recent weeks, Westerman has backed off from that agreement. As the top ranked offensive guard (Scout.com), Westerman has the pick of the litter from the aforementioned Longhorns, National Championship participants Auburn, USC, Oregon and virtually every BCS Champion in recent memory.
However, as Westerman’s recruitment was opened back up in mid-December, the Arizona State Sun Devils resurfaced as a contender. According to Westerman’s father, Chris, Erickson’s Sun Devils are a “serious contender” in the race to acquire his talents.
Whether or not ASU is a long shot or a sure bet is a serious question. Honestly, the only folks who know that answer are inside the Westerman household.
On December 17th, it was reported that ASU defensive line coach and local recruiting guru, Grady Stretz met with Westerman for over an hour. Although an hour meeting is a good start, a much longer and in-depth conversation will be needed at Westerman’s home with Erickson to seal the deal.
But Sun Devil fans, do not hold your breath on Westerman signing with ASU. Certainly, he would be the shinning star in the 2011 recruiting class if the Sun Devils manage to receive his signature, but Erickson’s staff has a number of reserves in line.
With all five starting offensive linemen returning for the first time since the Bruce Snyder era, offensive linemen are not an immediate priority. Westerman would be a steal for the hometown Devils and could easily be inserted into the starting lineup as either a guard or a right tackle, but there are three other local linemen, and many out of state athletes that Erickson has his eyes on.
Cyrus Hobbi from Scottsdale Saguaro is a pretty hot commodity as well. Receiving offers from Nebraska, Michigan, Arkansas and USC among others, Hobbi has been visiting ASU on numerous occasions the past two years. Ranked as the ninth best offensive guard in the nation (Scout.com), the chips might fall in order after Westerman commits to the school of his choice.
Another name to keep watch of locally will be Vi Teofilo from Moon Valley High School. Although Teofilo does not carry the same cache as Westerman or Hobbi, as a backup option to those stallions, he will have time to redshirt and grasp the offensive concepts of Noel Mazzone’s spread offense and Gregg Smith’s blocking schemes.
However, the out of state recruiting that Erickson has accomplished in recent years has produced in droves. As the recruiting class exhibits this season, that same philosophy is in place.
Keeping with the theme of offensive linemen, Akeem Gonzales from Bishop Alemany in Southern California, looks to be the closest thing to a sure bet for ASU up front.
At 6'4", 250 pounds, Gonzales has the flexibility to play both sides of the ball, which Erickson and the ASU staff has always admired in a true athlete.
One last product to keep an eye for Sun Devil traditionalists is Todd Peat. Hailing from Corona Del Sol in Tempe, AZ, Peat is as local as any high school athlete can get, outside of Tempe High School alone.
Other than just being a true homegrown kid, Peat can flat out play. With a solid 6'3", 280-pound frame, Peat has been an All-Region selection since his sophomore season at Corona Del Sol. With the accolades, countless postseason honors and scholarship offers sent Peat’s way, he is the defensive version of Christian Westerman.
Schools across the country have been invading Arizona to snag talent away from the inconsistent Sun Devils and sputtering Wildcats, and Peat is no different. Rated as the 10th best defensive tackle prospect (Scout.com), Alabama, Miami (FL), Nebraska and Stanford are all attempting to pry the Grand Canyon State linemen away from the hometown Sun Devils.
The question going forward will be, how many of these top-tier local athletes will take their talents out of state? With elite level talent like Everson Griffen (USC), Kristofer O’Dowd (USC), Devon Kennard (USC), Glen Love (UCLA), Nick Rowland (Oregon), Markus Wheaton (Oregon State) and Prince Amukamara (Nebraska) among many others opting to leave the state of Arizona recently, Erickson would be wise to pick the local crops first, before opting to ravage foreign land.
Then again, Erickson’s recruiting methods thus far has the Sun Devils poised to make a run at the Pac-12 Conference crown.