February 7, 2008

Capitalizing on success, building for the future

The 2008 Recruiting Class put together by Dennis Erickson, recruiting coordinator Matt Lubick and the rest of the staff has created much excitement in the Sun Devil Nation. This class the Sun Devils brought is not the highest ranked class in recent memory, however when you break down the class by the numbers it can be argued that this is the best class in recent ASU history as measured on signing day.

For the purpose of this story we are going back to first year in the Rivals.com database which is 2002. The 2002 class coincidently was also the first class of the Dirk Koetter era in which Koetter and his staff had a full year of recruiting under their belts and weren't benefited by the commitments made to the previous coaching staff.

Obviously a high number of recruits can skew a class rating on the national level. ASU signed 27 recruits this season, which is among one of the largest classes in the nation but back in the 2002 season ASU signed even more with a total of 31 recruits. That 2002 class was the highest ranked class in this seven year period. It was ranked 18th nationally and 3rd in the Pac-10 compared to this years class which was ranked 21st nationally and 4th in the Pac-10.

However, when one breaks down the key parts of the two classes one can argue that this 2008 class is superior. The average star ranking for the 2008 class is 3.15 which is higher than the 2.90 of the 2002 class. The 2002 class signed five 4/5 star players, however only two of those players were from the high school ranks. The 2008 class features six four star players and all of them come from the high school ranks. ASU also signed three members of the Rivals.com Top-100 in this year's class but in 2002 ASU failed to sign a single member of the Rivals.com Top-100.

There are several other factors that make the 2008 class the best in recent memory. As already mentioned, ASU signed three members of the Rivals.com Top-100. In the six previous classes, ASU signed a total of two members of the Rivals.com Top-100. ASU also signed five members of the Rivals250 this year. Since Rivals started the 250 list in 2005, the highest number that signed with ASU was three. ASU also signed seven members of the California Top-100 this year. That is also is the highest number ASU has signed since that list has been put together. Also, when you average together the rankings California recruits received, the 2008 class blows away all of the previous classes.

ASU also reversed a few other bad trends of the past few recruiting classes this year. When Erickson arrived in Tempe many expected him to hit the junior college ranks hard to rebuild the program. Well, the 2008 class had the lowest percentage of junior college players since the 2002 class. This shows that while Erickson filled several key areas of need including offensive tackle, defensive line and cornerback from the junior college level, he did not rely on the junior college players to fill spots they were unable to fill from the high school ranks.

Erickson spoke today of building a fence around the Arizona high school talent and the 2008 class showed that he that meant that. From 2005-2007 ASU signed a total of 13 high school recruits over those three classes. The Sun Devils also watched as the state's top rated players in those three years left the state. In this class ASU signed eight high school recruits and a ninth if you want to count Track and Field recruit Allante Battle. Even more important, ASU signed the state's two top rated players in Gerell Robinson and Jarrell Barbour along with the Arizona's top two rated offensive linemen, Zach Schlink and Patrick Jamison.

So while the true measure of a recruiting class is how the players perform once they hit the field, Sun Devils fans can feel good about the class that Erickson and his staff brought in this year. In many ways the 2008 class is quite remarkable. When Erickson arrived in Tempe, he and his staff were totally focused on catching up and closing out the 2007 class. That left them behind with establishing relationships with the top juniors that would make up the 2008 class, and yet they still managed a consensus Top-25 class.

After putting together a 10 win season and having the ability to build longer-term relationships with the recruits that will make up the 2009 class, Sun Devils fans can feel comfortable the program is in great shape to continue to build upon its on-field success in 2007 and recruiting success in 2008, in the coming cycle. There are strong indications that ASU is the leader, or at least a co-leader for a Rivals.com Top-100 member, Vontaze Burfict, and among the leaders for the two Arizona members of the Rivals.com Top-100, Devon Kennard and Corey Adams.

2008 was a really good recruiting cycle. Might 2009 be even more impressive?

We're about to find out.

See you again this time next year.

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