December 6, 2007

Complete scholarship and recruiting overview: Defense

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 defensive position on the team:

Defensive Line

David Smith, Senior
Dexter Davis, Junior
Luis Vasquez, Senior
Dane Guthrie, Senior
Jon Hargis, Sophomore
Saia Falahola, Sophomore
Jonathan English, Sophomore
Paul `Unga, Senior
Eric Tanner, Junior
Wes Evans, Senior
Alex Asi, Senior
Zach Nisulu, Sophomore
James Brooks, Freshman
Bo Moos, Freshman
Tranell Morant, Senior

Committed: Zeb Togiai

Additional Need: 1-2

Breakdown: As you can see, the Sun Devils have a lot of players scheduled to return along the defensive front, in fact more than any other unit on the team. If you include Morant, who will apparently apply for a sixth season of eligibility (we included him among our 66 returning scholarship count; exclude him and ASU has 65), there are 15 returning players here, assuming Falahola and Guthrie remain on the defensive side of the ball.

That breaks down to seven returning tackles (eight if you include Togiai, whom we project at tackle or as a swing player) and eight ends. Those numbers are really fine as is, though if there is unexpected attrition from the program in the off-season, this is one of the more likely positions where it will occur. Several of these players will probably not see much action in their Sun Devil career if they remain in the program, just based on the numbers. You're not going to be going four deep at end or tackle unless there are injuries and youngsters Hargis, Falahola, English, and Brooks looks like they'll be playing a lot.

The Sun Devils are continuing to recruit several ends, most notably Jamaar Jarrett, at the high school level, and JUCO players Mangum Mauga and Devin Johnson. Mauga is a swing player who could also see some time at tackle, especially the way ASU has used some of its linemen this season. At tackle, Lawrence Guy and Kendrick Payne have offers. Our best estimate is that ASU brings in at least one more defensive linemen, and perhaps one each at end and tackle. It is our understanding there are some additional JUCO tackles the Sun Devils are evaluating this week as well.


Linebackers

Travis Goethel, Junior
Mike Nixon, Junior
Morris Wooten, Senior
Gerald Munns, Junior
Jeff Bereuter, Sophomore
Ryan McFoy, Junior
Jamarr Robinson, Sophomore
Chad Lindsey, Junior
Antone Saulsberry, Senior
Garrett Judah, Senior
Oliver Aaron, Freshman
Derrall Anderson, Freshman

Committed: None

Additional Need: 1

Breakdown: Like the defensive line, this is another position group where you lose very little numbers-wise and return just about everyone, Robert James being the obvious exception. It's also a place where you might have some unexpected attrition. One of the big things with this group is that there are too many middle linebacker types and too few outside linebacker types, which was a byproduct of different philosophies from the last coaching staff to this one. Nixon, Wooten, Munns, Robinson, Judah and Saulsberry are all better suited for the inside on this defense, but the problem is that the team only needs four at a maximum. Judah and Saulsberry didn't sniff the field this season and the plain reality is that's unlikely to change. We will say, Judah had an excellent showing in the "Scout Bowl" a month or so ago.

Nixon and Munns will only be juniors next year, while Robinson will be a sophomore, so recruiting a middle linebacker isn't particularly important, and that's a good thing because it's a down year at the position in Arizona and across the region.

At outside linebacker, Aaron was the defensive scout team player of the year and he's expected by many within the program to step into the spot vacated by James and be very good right away. Anderson also impressed on the scout team and he could be in the mix at the other outside spot, but will probably backup Goethel. McFoy has the athleticism but he's struggled this season after getting a slow start in camp due to injury. Whether he remains at linebacker or is moved back to safety is unclear. Bereuter and Lindsey have a chance to earn playing time and Robinson has the potential to play outside if need be, as do Nixon and Munns (though they are better suited to be inside).

The need here is for one more outside linebacker. ASU is chasing hard after Brandon Magee, but two of his teammates have committed to the University of Arizona. DeWitt Stuckey[db] visited the school even as he was committed to Oregon. He isn't commenting on his recruitment publicly. [db]Alex Pattee, Brandon Phillips and Josh Kaddu could also be options, but the Sun Devils probably only need one here.

Defensive Backs

Troy Nolan, Senior
Rodney Cox, Senior
Jeremy Payton, Senior
Omar Bolden, Sophomore
Travis Smith, Junior
Angelo Fobbs-Valentino, Senior
Grant Crunkleton, Junior
Jarrell Holman, Junior
Jonathan Clark Freshman
Colin Parker Freshman

Committed: Josh Jordan, Allante Battle (athlete projected to position by ASUDevils.com), Deveron Carr, Terell Carr

Additional Need: 1-2

Breakdown: The Sun Devils lose one relevant safety Josh Barrett and cornerbacks Justin Tryon, Chris Baloney and Littrele Jones, not to mention Chad Green who had been atop the depth chart at one spot before his car accident.

In Jordan, Terrell Carr and Deveron Carr the Sun Devils have three recruits who will almost certainly play corner. Battle is pretty much a toss-up between receiver and corner. One might think that adding three our four corners is too many in a class, but if you look at the number of players departing, and the fact that ASU shifted both Holman and Clark from corner to safety in fall camp, it makes sense. Of the ten returning scholarship defensive backs, only three (Bolden, Smith and Crunkleton) are corners, which is less than half of most teams' target number of seven or eight. ASU really needed corners. The fact that Bolden is a star in the making does make the situation a little better for the Sun Devils. If Smith, Crunkleton or perhaps Terrell Carr can fill the other spot well, ASU should be in good shape. ASU won't add another recruit here unless it can get an elite type talent, such as Aaron Hester or Robby Green.

At safety, the Sun Devils return seven players, and that number may increase if McFoy is moved back. Four of those players, however, will be seniors next year, and the other three have never played even a game at the Division I level, so they'd like to get at least one recruit here, and even with that, they'll probably target JUCO players in 2009. Rahim Moore visited, but his committed to UCLA. Keelan Johnson is committed to Nebraska, but looking seriously at ASU. He would be added as an athlete, but most likely eventually wind up at safety. Charles Satchell is being recruited as an athlete, and he could wind up on defense if he picks ASU, but we have him currently slotted to receiver. Jarrell Barbour has already committed to ASU and has been told he'll play receiver, though he would also make an excellent safety prospect. The Sun Devils are also said to be looking at several potential JUCO targets at the position this week and next.

Special Teams:

Thomas Weber, Sophomore

Committed: None

Additional Need: Unclear

Breakdown: With scholarship punter Jonathan Johnson graduating, it's unclear if ASU will continue to use Weber as its punter and not add a scholarship player to fill the spot. Weber was at best so-so throughout the year. If ASU does add a punter, most likely it will be a recruited walk-on.

Overall

Defensive line isn't nearly the position of need like it was last year, but the Sun Devils will still likely take at least one more on top of Togiai and possibly two. At linebacker, they'll almost certainly add a speedster on the outside, but that's it. In the secondary, cornerback is full unless they can get an elite talent, but they would very much like to reel in a safety. All told, we can expect about four more defensive recruits to commit, give or take one. It's basically the same situation as the offense.

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