December 5, 2007

Complete scholarship and recruiting overview: Offense

Arizona State has, by our count, 66 current scholarship players that have eligibility remaining at the conclusion of the 2007 season. If all of them return, the Sun Devils will be able to add no more than 19 newcomers to the 2008 recruiting class. However, it is normally the case for a coaching staff to plan for some attrition (transfer or academic ineligibility being the most common reasons), which is a almost inevitable from one season to the next, and the possibility that one or more prospects who sign Letters of Intent may not qualify for initial eligibility.

Sources close the program have informed ASUDevils.com that it can be expected coaches will sign approximately 20-22 recruits in the class depending on some variables including eligibility issues, recruit transcripts, and elite prospects making signing day, or near signing day decisions. The Sun Devils have 14 verbally committed recruits, which means they will likely only add 6-8 more in the class.

Here is a scholarship/recruiting breakdown of each position on the team:

Quarterbacks

Rudy Carpenter, Senior (rising class listed)
Danny Sullivan, Sophomore
Chasen Stangel, Freshman
Samson Szakacsy, Freshman

Committed: Jack Elway

Additional Need: 0-1(this is a target number excluding already committed recruits)

Breakdown: Normally you'd like to have four or five scholarship quarterbacks on the roster at any given time, or an average of one per class. In the last cycle, the ASU coaching staff addressed a deficit by signing two recruits, both of whom were highly regarded in recruiting circles.

When top target Sean Renfree committed to Georgia Tech over ASU, the staff initially was unsure if it would even sign a quarterback in the class (four returning would be enough to hold the program over to the 2009 class), but Elway improved substantially in his senior season and became a legitimate prospect.

Now, Renfree's situation is a bit up in the air after Georgia Tech fired its coaching staff. Renfree told ASUDevils.com recently that he had spoken to ASU head coach Dennis Erickson as well as coaches at Oregon State and Boise State, the other finalists before his decision.

It appears ASU would at least entertain the idea of signing both Elway and Renfree, and Renfree said he wouldn't be opposed to the idea of being a second QB commit in a school's class.

Running Backs

Keegan Herring, Senior
Dimitri Nance, Junior
Shaun DeWitty, Junior
Jarrell Woods, Junior

Additional Need: 0-1

Breakdown: Erickson had demonstrated throughout his career he's willing to use four or more running backs in a give season, and in recent history at ASU we've seen that a school can find itself thin at the position due to injuries and other issues (witness several seasons ago, when Rudy Burgess and Antone Saulsberry shifted to the position after three scholarship players went down or were suspended. Ideally you'd like to have five or six scholarship running backs.

ASU targeted at least three recruits (Ray Polk, Ryan Bass, Jamal Womble) that ultimately elected to go elsewhere. They are still recruiting and have offered Covaughn DeBoskie, another top candidate, along with soft UCLA commit Aundre Dean and Florida native Brynn Harvey.

A source close to the program informed ASUDevils.com this week that they will also be looking at several as yet unknown JUCO prospects this month in an effort to determine if they can find one good enough to compete for playing time immediately. If they signed a JUCO player instead of a prep prospect, they could really sell elite 2009 recruits on the availability of early playing time due to the depth chart breakdown ahead of them. It's even conceivable they not sign any prospect and then add two in the next cycle.

Wide Receiver

Mike Jones, Senior
Chris McGaha, Junior
Kyle Williams, Junior
Nate Kimbrough, Senior
Kerry Taylor, Sophomore
Brandon Smith, Junior
T.J. Simpson, Freshman
Rodney Glass Sophomore

Committed: Jarrell Barbour, Kemonte Bateman, Clint Floyd (athlete projected to WR by ASUDevils.com)

Additional Need: 0-1

Breakdown: A talented WR group only loses Rudy Burgess unless Jones ends up signing a baseball contract and leaving the team prior to next season, which is less likely than not. Kimbrough has shown in recent practices he's ready to play and Simpson has looked good on the scout team, with Glass also showing much improvement. Then there is Smith, who has also looked good of late in workouts.

Bateman is an elite recruit, considered to be the top WR on the west coast by some and Barbour may be the top recruit in the state regardless of position. Floyd will likely end up at the position as well. There is a chance Allante Battle could end up here as well.

Ideally in a system like the one ASU runs, you'd like to have 11-12 scholarship receivers. ASU will have 11 including Barbour, Bateman and Floyd assuming all qualify academically and assuming nobody on the team leaves unexpectedly. So perhaps one or two more would be idea.

The top realistic targets left on the board are Gerell Robinson, Jarrett Sparks, Charles Satchell and A.J. Pickens. Satchell and Pickens could play defense in college, so their versatility is a plus. We expect ASU to likely get one of these four, but the position would probably be in good shape for the foreseeable future even if the Sun Devils stayed with its current commits only.

Tight End

Andrew Pettes, Senior
Jovon Williams, Junior
Lance Evbuomwan, Sophomore
Dan Knapp, Freshman

Committed: Steven Figueroa

Additional Need: 1 (JUCO)

Breakdown: ASU loses three of its top players at the position in Brent Miller, Tyrice Thompson and Brady Conrad, and others are unproven, so this is an important spot to watch in the next year.

The staff went after elite recruits Kavario Middleton, Blake Ayles and Ryan Deehan but all three committed elsewhere. They are actively pursing JUCO prospect Maurice Graham, considered by JCGridiron.com to be the top junior college tight end in the nation, but Graham is being diligent about his decision, even after visiting ASU officially last week. He is planning several additional visits before a decision. The Sun Devils have not zeroed in on any other top JUCO tight ends as yet but appear to be intent on looking for one to add next season. They really need to have at least six scholarship tight ends and only have five scheduled to be with the program as of right now.

Those close to the program believe Knapp has a chance to be a very good player, but an arm injury kept him off the practice field the last couple months, after a concussion forced him to miss much of camp and the subsequent month. Pettes is the most likely replacement for Miller's position at this point, unless Dane Guthrie moves back to tight end, which is not out of the question. Williams is in the mold of Thompson. Evbuomwan is a good natural athlete with great size but he has to become better with his assignments at the line of scrimmage if he's going to have a chance to play.

Offensive Line

Paul Fanaika, Senior
Shawn Lauvao, Junior
Richard Tuitu'u, Junior
Thomas Altieri, Sophomore
Garth Gerhart, Freshman
Adam Tello, Freshman
Michael Marcisz, Freshman
Matt Hustad Freshman

Committed: Po'u Palelei (expected to re-sign), Zach Schlink, Patrick Jamison, Andrew Sampson, Kyle Johnson

Additional Needs: 1

Breakdown: With five seniors departing, the offensive line will have more of a different look next season than any other position group on the team. There are only eight scholarship players returning, which is very shallow, perhaps 4-6 players fewer returning than would be idea. It's obvious then, that ASU's coaches, anticipating this problem, signed five offensive linemen in the class last year, including Po'u Palelei who did not qualify academically.

Palelei is expected to re-sign and perhaps enroll this spring if he's able to get past the NCAA Clearinghouse, and four others have verbally committed to signing February, all of whom are high school players. Amazingly, ASU could have as many as nine freshmen offensive linemen, including redshirts, on the roster next year, against just four non-freshmen returnees. More than anything, that shows the weak job did by the previous staff in this area in their final 1-2 years.

The Sun Devils appear relatively set at center and guard with the roster additions and returning players, but tackle remains a real concern. Tuitu'u, Tello, Marcisz and Hustad are the returning players who could play tackle, with only Tuitu'u having any game experience whatsoever. In anticipation of this, the staff is aggressively pursuing JUCO tackle Andrew Mitchell, who visited the campus several weekends ago, and hosted two ASU assistants for an in-home visit this weekend. ASU is considered to be a leader for Mitchell, though he has not commented publicly in the last week or so since taking a subsequent official visit to NC State. He also has trips set for Kansas State and Oklahoma State. Due to ASU's returning situation at tackle, Mitchell could well be the most important offensive target left on the board.

As a backup option to Mitchell, the Sun Devils are very interested in JUCO tackle Cedric Mack. Mitchell is a December graduate, while Mack won't be out until the spring. ASU is also this week looking at additional possible JUCO offensive tackles, evaluating alternative recruits.

Overall

We expect ASU will add about four more offensive recruits in the class, give or take one. It's difficult right now to determine precisely how that will breakdown position-wise, but a JUCO tight end and a JUCO offensive tackle are the biggest positions of need.

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