ASU Football: Dennis Erickson Looks To Build a Fence with Victories in 2011

Kristian SiutaCorrespondent IIFebruary 5, 2011

TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 02:  Head coach Dennis Erickson of the Arizona State Sun Devils during the college football game at Arizona Stadium on December 2, 2010 in Tucson, Arizona. The Sun Devils defeated the Wildcats 30-29 in double overtime.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Recruiting is ultimately graded, and often times speculated, based upon filling wants and needs of the football program. Wednesday afternoon Dennis Erickson announced Arizona State’s 2011 recruiting class with a few candid remarks. 

As the names, stats and accolades of all 14 new Sun Devils rolled off Erickson’s tongue, the ensuing questions by members of the local media took a turn for the worst. 

The names of the top-tier offensive linemen in the state of Arizona that ventured to other campuses across not only the Pacific-12, but also to the Big Ten and Big XII, took priority. 

Even remarks regarding negative recruiting tactics of other competing coaches against the ASU football program, as well as Erickson’s health, and future stability brought a chuckle out of the 63-year-old coach.

“I’m a young 63 (running his fingers through his hair)…I have more energy now than 10 or 15 years ago,” he said.

That might very well be true, but currently, rival coaches speaking to high school recruits have ample ammunition against the Sun Devils.

In all fairness, the Sun Devils have not had a winning season since Rudy Carpenter’s junior year in 2007. Since then, three straight seasons have culminated with ASU being left out of the constantly growing bowl picture. 

The days of warm weather, sunshine and gorgeous co-eds no longer sells high school athletes on venturing to the Tempe campus. 

As Erickson stated, “But when you win football games all that goes away. It’s simple.”

Arizona State finished with a mediocre 6-6 record, and many recruiting experts labeled this recruiting class as middle of the road, and underwhelming. ESPN’s Ted Miller graded ASU’s recruiting class as a straight C.

The pure numbers and prospect rankings do not jump out at you, but Erickson signed 14—more than serviceable—prospects, including two top-15 quarterbacks nationally. USC was the only other school to claim that honor.

Just a reminder, since ASU’s last winning season, Danny Sullivan, Brock Osweiler, Samson Szakacsy, Steven Threet, and again Brock Osweiler have started for the Sun Devils at quarterback.

Needless to say, being able to solidify the most important offensive position for the next four or five years is a tremendous accomplishment by Erickson. 

With all five offensive linemen returning from 2010, as well as eight other hefty scholarships beneath them on the depth chart, ASU still signed three more “big uglies” to fill in depth.

If I were an All-American offensive lineman like Cyrus Hobbi, and wanted to compete early and often, I would have ventured off to USC as well. And, growing up in Los Angeles, I respectfully “dislike” the Trojans.  

Sure, fans in the valley wanted and probably felt they needed Hobbi, or Todd Peat Jr, among many others, just for the simple fact of retaining the best homegrown talent for their hometown team.

However, even the best programs in the country cannot secure all of the top local talent for themselves. 

Granted, USC has the pick of the litter amidst NCAA sanctions, but even Eric Sondheimer of the LA Times made note of how many top athletes in the southland are heading to schools other than USC and UCLA, including one of the newest Sun Devils, Michael Eubank.  

After subpar seasons by both Arizona State and Arizona recently, the in-state recruiting grounds of the Phoenix Metro area are considered “fair game” for national recruiters. Even Joe Paterno flew out to Arizona for some offensive line help.

As Erickson said, “There are a couple holes in that fence, but [Arizona] is still our No. 1 goal.”

In terms of filling needs, ASU addressed areas of concern with only 14 scholarships available. Although fans like to gloat over how many four- and five-star athletes their program picked up, in the end, no matter how heavily recruited a prospect might be, the players still need to prove it on the field for the next four years. 

Upon closing the book on the 2011 recruiting cycle, ASU’s sights are firmly set on a highly anticipated 2011 football season. Although it is still February, there is no doubt that the Sun Devils' best recruiting pitch for next year will be the results Erickson’s team displays on the field. 

Erickson closed the presser by saying, “Next year we will have 25 scholarships and I mean it’s a big year for us, recruiting wise.” 

Undoubtedly, the quantity of recruits from 2011 to 2012 will increase with matriculation, but the overall quality of prospects will hinge upon ASU’s success in the first year of the Pac-12 conference.