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Pac-12 Football Recruiting Profiles: Arizona State Sun Devils

ASU gets a deeper look in a series examining the 5-year recruiting trends of every team in the Pac-12 conference.

NCAA Football: Arizona State Spring Game Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to a series in which I will be profiling the football recruiting trends and habits of each team in the Pac-12 conference over the past 5 seasons. That means I’ll be including the 2014-2018 classes which concludes with the incoming freshmen this upcoming season.

The data I used does not include every single offer and commit for every program but it does include the vast majority. The cuts I made were deliberate. To see more information about what specifically is in the data set and an explanation of any metrics I used, please check out this article here which has all of the information you could want and more.

Check out the first edition of the series when I looked at Arizona. With that out of the way, let’s get started.

Program Overview

The Sun Devils had a great start to the last 5 years as 3rd year coach Todd Graham led Arizona State to a second consecutive double digit victory season after a bowl game win over Duke. Unfortunately for them, that would be the high water mark of Graham’s success. ASU dipped to 4th in the Pac-12 South and finished with a losing record after a bowl game defeat. The pattern of mediocrity continued with 5-7 and 7-6 seasons in 2016 and 2017. Three consecutive years without at least 8 wins was enough for the brass in Tempe and Graham was let go at the end of the year. Herm Edwards took over in a frequently questioned move but did a surprisingly good job putting together a last minute recruiting class for 2018.

General Recruiting Statistics

Average Offer: 3.56 stars, 0.901 composite rating (6th in conference)

Average Commit: 3.28 stars, 0.876 composite rating (6th in conference)

Average # of Offers: 181 (1st in conference)

Recruiting Style: Offers- Spray and Pray, Quality- Middle of the Road

No team in the conference offered as many players over the last 5 seasons as the Arizona State Sun Devils. And the number of offers I have listed understates things because Arizona State relies on JUCO players as much as any school in the conference which aren’t counted in these figures. If you count all players then ASU has offered at least 200 players in each of the past 5 seasons including a staggering 263 in 2018. It’s common to see a spike in offers after a coaching change since you have offers from two different coaching staffs included but that’s still a gigantic number.

Still, ASU has been able to secure enough high level talent that you can’t say they hand out a lot of completely unwinnable offers. Only 10% of their offers went to players rated more highly than their highest rated recruit. The Sun Devils may not be among the conference’s recruiting elite but they’re more than capable of bringing in several high 4-star guys per class. However, Todd Graham’s dismissal makes more sense after seeing that the average star rating of an ASU recruit dropped all 5 years from the 2014 high point down to 2018 (3.38 to 3.13).

Best Recruiting Win: N’Keal Harry- Class of 2016, WR. 4 stars, 0.9736 composite rating.

“While he threw for 40 yards and a pick last season, getting Blake Barnett from Bama in 2017 has held the most hype in ASU recruiting over the last five years. As for production on the field, N’Keal Harry has been as dominant as advertised.”

-Josiah Destin, House of Sparky

Worst Recruiting Loss: Christian Kirk- Class of 2015, WR. 5 stars, 0.9891 composite rating.

“This has to be Christian Kirk. He played high school ball at Saguaro, which was a dozen miles from Sun Devil Stadium, and then scored two touchdowns on ASU in the season-opener. Kirk, who just got picked by the Arizona Cardinals in the second round, obviously did well for himself at Texas A&M.”

-Josiah Destin, House of Sparky

Recruiting Map Profile

Arizona State Offers 2014-2018

It isn’t surprising that the program that offered the most players handed out offers to so many different states. Arizona State offered players in 39 of them over the last 5 seasons. At that point they should’ve just offered the most highly rated recruit in the last 11 to try to win recruiting all squares bingo. However, 66% of their offers went to the trio of California, Texas, Louisiana, and Arizona so their focus stayed in those areas for the most part. And despite those 39 different states with offers, they only had multiple commitments from 6 of them (the 4 mentioned plus Colorado and Nevada) which suggest their actual recruiting reach isn’t that large.

Highest Success States

Arizona: +16.03%, California: +5.53%, Colorado: +1.25%

The Sun Devils can definitely take the in-state crown as kings of Arizona. Of the 26 most highly rated recruits to stay at home, 17 of them went to Arizona State and 9 to Arizona. ASU actually only gives out 6% of their offers to Arizona natives and yet they comprise almost a quarter of the total roster.

Arizona State doesn’t rely on California quite as substantially as Arizona does but Californians still make up more than a third of the Sun Devil roster. There really isn’t a third state where they do particularly well. Colorado kind of wins third place by default.

Lowest Success States

Texas: -3.25%, Florida: -3.09%, Louisiana: -2.65%

You have to give Todd Graham’s staff credit that they were pretty good at not wasting their recruiting resources. Having their lowest success rate at just -3.25% is by far the best in the conference. While over one-fifth of their total offers went out to Texas, they hit on a high enough percentage to make it worth it. That number was 10% for Louisiana but once again they brought in enough talent to make the investment pay off. ASU couldn’t reel in a single recruit from Florida but they only comprised 3% of their total offers so it was a hit the coaching staff could afford.

Non-Conference Rival- Nebraska Cornhuskers, 47.83%.

It turns out that both Arizona schools cross paths frequently with Nebraska. The 46 players with offers from both that committed to one or the other is the second most of any non-conference school for ASU behind only Oklahoma. Once you drop down to 3-star players it’s essentially an even split but Nebraska holds a 12 to 9 edge on 4-star or better players. The Sun Devils also came into Nebraska and grabbed TE Jared Bubak in 2016. That is the only player from the state of Nebraska with a Cornhusker offer to end up in the Pac-12 over the last 5 years.

Non-Conference Big Brother- Texas Longhorns, 4.76%.

Yeesh. As soon as the Longhorns offer an Arizona State target they can basically just pack up and go home. This is complete and utter domination. 40 out of 42 players choosing between the two chose Texas over Arizona State. The only two victories for ASU were 2017 4-star RB Eno Benjamin and 2015 3-star OLB Marshall Wallace. Although it should be noted that 30 of those 42 were from Texas and 0 from Arizona. Texas doesn’t even bother offering prospects in Arizona (just 3 in 5 years). They don’t need to.

Non-Conference Little Brother- San Diego State Aztecs, 75%.

The Aztecs and Sun Devils have only done battle 20 times but the results have been decidedly in ASU’s favor. However, give credit to the Mountain West powers that they beat out Arizona State for a pair of 4-star players back in 2015. Otherwise 14 of the 16 most highly rated players that chose one or the other decided to go to Tempe.

Arizona State Pac-12 Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 12.60% 6
2015 11.52% 6
2016 3.91% 11
2017 7.64% 9
2018 7.50% 8
Overall 8.73% 7

This table shows how often Arizona State gets a commitment from a recruit that has at least one other Pac-12 offer. One reason for the Sun Devils’ tail off in results on the field is pretty evident looking at the past 3 years of recruiting results. 2016 was by far the low point even though they were able to hold on to a pair of 4-star local recruits including the dynamic WR N’Keal Harry. But otherwise they missed out on the other 95 of their most highly rated 97 high school targets that had at least one other Pac-12 offer. Herm Edwards held steady in 2018 despite a condensed recruiting season and a slew of publicity questioning his hire.

Arizona State Pac-12 Weighted Recruiting Win % (2014-2018)

Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
Year Conf H2H % Conf. Rank
2014 39.20% 5
2015 34% 6
2016 7.47% 9
2017 17.83% 7
2018 17.34% 8
Overall 23.17% 6

The degree of difficulty raises Arizona State’s weighted numbers to flip flop them ahead of their in-state rivals. But even though they usually do better when looking at the weighted numbers, there’s still no excusing the last 3 years of recruiting results given the built in recruiting advantages that ASU has. From a reputation standpoint the Sun Devils should be a top half of the conference recruiting power. Whether the coaching change will get them back there remains to be seen.

Early Outlook for 2019 and Beyond

Herm Edwards did a solid job of putting together a 2018 recruiting class but the 2019 recruits have yet to fully buy in. The Sun Devils don’t have a single commitment at the moment for next year but admittedly it is still quite early. This season will go a long ways towards determining whether the Herm Edwards model of replicating an NFL front office can be successful. Early Vegas O/U Win Total projections have the Sun Devils at just 5 wins for 2018 which is second lowest in the conference. If that actually comes to pass, it isn’t likely to inspire confidence that he’s the right guy for the job among recruits.

The 2019 class has 9 players from Arizona with a 0.87 or higher composite rating which corresponds with a high 3-star or better rating. That number has been between 5 and 7 since 2014 so this is one of the best crops of Arizona talent in years. 3 of those 9 for 2019 are already committed outside the Pac-12 and ASU absolutely needs to hit on at least a couple of those players or else they’re likely to drop even further.

You can follow me @UWDP_maxvroom