February 18, 2008

Part II: Matt Lubick discusses signing class

Not long after signing day, ASUDevils.com spoke at length with recruiting coordinator/safeties coach Matt Lubick about many of the prospects the Sun Devils added in the 2008 class, including all of the 12 players that he was responsible for as the primary recruiter. The following are his quotes on some of those who will be joining the program in the coming season.

On Tom Njunge: "He's here now doing a good job and he's a good kid. Offensive line is a developmental position. That's one of those things where -- every other position, especially the skill positions, you have to have real athletic ability. Offensive line is the one spot where if you work hard and you know your assignments, and you're tough, you can overcompensate a lot and you're going to play. Now I'm not saying he's not athletic. He's one of our most athletic offensive linemen. He's a true tackle that has great feet and long arms. He's from Africa. He walked onto the football field as a (high school) junior. He didn't know what football was. He didn't move over from Africa until he was like 10. Nobody even knew about him when he was a freshmen at JC because he was so raw but he really jumped out as a sophomore."

On A.J. Pickens: "This is a guy coach (Dennis) Erickson was really excited about. I went down to this combine and he played tailback. Four Pac-10 teams where there and all offered him after the combine because nobody could cover him in space. We compare him to Rudy Burgess. He's got great route running ability. He's extremely explosive. He's great at changing direction. He can make sharp cuts. He puts his foot in the ground is and north/south in one step. He's got great ball skills. He catches balls behind him and everything out in front. He's just a prototype slot wideout with electrifying speed."

On Andrew Sampson: "I think his film speaks for itself. He's got all the thins we're looking for. He loves football, he is a 4.0 student. He is very physical. He's a lot like (Garth) Gerhart in that sense and he might have a chance to come in and play right away as a freshman. We are excited as heck about him. Coach (Gregg) Smith loves guys who are physical and will just knock you off the ball and he's that way. He's in shape and strong -- probably the strongest of all the guys we signed."

On Toa Tuitea: "We ranked him as the No. 1 tight end (among uncommitted and available prospects) and he might have been the No. 1 defensive end. He's so versatile. He's got a great frame, a great work ethic. He can run. He's got good ball skills. He's tough, he can finish his blocks, he's a great pass rusher. He goes to a school that is not a good football school historically. I don't think they've had a Pac-10 recruit come out of there in 20 years. A lot of guys (recruiters) don't go there in the spring. Arizona offered him before us. Washington State did too. He had two SEC offers. We're really excited about that guy. We're not even sure where we're going to put him but we're excited."

Lubick also spoke with us about several prospects that he was not responsible for recruits, but felt really stood out to him:

On Otis Jones: "Defensive tackles are hard to find and I feel we got some in this class. He's got great upside. He's explosive and he can move. He's got a fire about him. He's got a good personality and a good work ethic."

On Keelan Johnson: "He's a guy who might have the best frame in the class and the best physical tools to work with. He plays above the rim (in basketball). He has athletic ability that some of the guys we have right now don't have, even a really good player like (Troy) Nolan. He's not as strong as Nolan and has a ways to go obviously before he can be compared to a guy like Nolan as a player but he has terrific potential. There's a lot of stuff we need to work with him on but there is almost no ceiling with a guy like that. He can be pretty darn special."

Lubick also provided several us with several additional nuggets of valuable information on several subjects:

On what they look for in a defensive tackl: "At d-tackle we want guys that are stout that can't get moved around but can still get off the ball and get down the line of scrimmage and are explosive and can collapse the pocket. They have to have an explosiveness to rush the passer but they cannot get moved off the ball. You have to have stout guys who don't get moved off the ball."

On the difference between SAM and WILL linebacker in the ASU scheme and how that plays out in recruiting: "Not a big different. They both have to play in space. Their pass coverage responsibilities are the same things, especially in man. Weakside guy, we blitz more, use him more coming off the edge. Strongisde guy has to play over the tight end and play physical on the tight end. But there isn't a huge difference."

On what type of recruit can play early: "When people ask, who is going to play early, it's not always the best athlete. You've got to have confidence, you've got to have maturity and you've got to be smart. That's the whole thing. You've got to understand your assignments and execute. You've got to be confident that you can play with guys older than you and athletic ability is probably third when it comes to playing early."

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