Many signs around the Tempe campus point to the Arizona State University football program rising. The preseason top-25 polls have already tabbed the Sun Devils as legitimate contenders on the national radar. After all, the Sun Devil athletic department anticipated as much earlier this offseason.
New uniforms across the board have energized a fan base in many capacities, with far more positive responses than negative ones. But, uniforms can only carry a team so far. The players that don the old maroon and gold, and the new all-black threads, are the backbone of the increased optimism.
The Sun Devil football program did not transform from middle of the road Pac-10 competitors to favorites to win the inaugural Pac-12 South overnight.
Dennis Erickson’s devotion to scouring the earth for the most suitable athletes to compete at a championship level filled the cupboard with preseason All-Americans and All-Conference athletes in the likes of Vontaze Burfict, Omar Bolden (injured) and center Garth Gerhart, among others.
Although, the local Sun Devil faithful might grumble over the number of Arizona products featured in ASU’s starting lineup, the bottom line in Erickson’s recruiting strategy has been to secure the best athletes no matter the locale.
Even before the widely predicted good fortune of 2011 begins, recruits appear to be buying into the progressive program Erickson and the Sun Devils have developed.
To date, Erickson has received seven verbal commitments from Golden State natives.
Throughout Erickson’s five recruiting classes, the Sun Devil staff has identified elite high schools within California, Colorado and recently Florida, to plant a pitchfork in the middle of each desired campus.
In years past, prospects from nationally ranked high schools such as Corona Centennial (Calif.), Norco (Calif.), Tesoro (Calif.) and most recently, Long Beach Polytechnic (Calif.), or simply POLY, have been persuaded to succeed in the desert.
In the same light, many local valley prospects have crossed the border to pursue greener pastures.
Perhaps with the NCAA sanctions being handed down to traditional west coast power, USC, the Sun Devils are taking advantage of the Trojans’ ongoing recruiting limitations.
Nabbing four prospects from POLY is a nice feather in Erickson’s cap nonetheless, but the Sun Devils are not content until these athletes are signed, sealed and delivered to Sun Devil Stadium sporting a pitchfork.
Last recruiting cycle, Erickson received only four verbal commitments before the opening kickoff of the 2010 season, with one highly desired recruit switching his pledge from the Sun Devils to the Michigan State Spartans.
Once again, it is only the beginning of June, and Erickson has received seven verbal commitments thus far. The latest commitment for the Sun Devils is yet another Southern California prospect, from another perennial powerhouse program.
Dejon Allen is a 6’3”, 265-pound offensive lineman from Compton Dominguez. Pac-12 South rivals Arizona, Utah and Washington fell victim to the Sun Devils in this recruiting battle, and many more could soon follow.
Compton Dominguez is the next school Erickson’s staff has invaded in the Los Angeles area. The Sun Devil coaches are digging the ditch with the Dominguez Dons, but the proverbial pipeline is not yet fully functioning.
Erickson and ASU recruiting coordinator, Steve Broussard offered four other Dominguez Don athletes the same week Allen received his formal scholarship offer from the Sun Devils.
It is unclear how many of the four recruits will verbally commit, and then sign with the Devils. But, having a current friend and high school teammate to help ease the transition to a new environment is always advantageous.
The recruiting process is still in the embryonic stages, however the early preseason recruiting push has only enhanced the Sun Devils optimism. Although much of the expectations stem from 17 of the Sun Devils projected starters being either juniors or seniors, that same statistic also impacts recruiting.
Will this crop of Sun Devil commits, actually stay committed through signing day?
With the 2011 senior class exceeding 25 members, recruiting efforts will be even more pivotal this season. The gaps will need to be filled, at some point, and with Erickson and Broussard running the recruiting game, Sun Devil fans should find comfort in ASU’s duo.
If fans do not have complete confidence, at least the recruits are showing faith in the rising Devils.
The recruiting trail is being painted with the classic maroon, gold, as well as the new attitude and the back-in-black color scheme.
Perhaps the new Sun Devil branding is paying off, sooner than most anticipated.
ASU athletic director Lisa Love might have said it best, “That’s a color right there that really speak to the generation of student-athletes competing now and will be recruiting in the future. The attitude it brings…They love it.”