(Photo: Gabrielle Mercer/WCSN)
Last season, ASU football flexed its recruiting muscle in the state of Arizona, showcasing the edge Todd Graham’s staff had on its rival down south. Graham’s Texas connections proved valuable as well with five commitments from the Lone Star state.
Now, as the 2018 recruiting season gets underway, ASU looks to extend its influence to the west and find a foothold in California. Dubbed the #GoldRush by ASU coaches on Twitter, the Sun Devils have landed four recruits from southern California in the month of June alone — three of which are rated four stars by Scout.
— Coach Rushing (@TJRushing20) June 20, 2017
The highest-profile — and most recent — addition to the 2018 recruiting class is St. John Bosco running back Demetrious Flowers, who announced his commitment on Twitter Tuesday. Locking down a commitment from a player who garnered interest from Wisconsin, UCLA, USC and Washington is an eyebrow-raising accomplishment.
It’s clear that Graham wants to establish a pipeline in the state of California to prove his mettle on the recruiting trail. It’s an area where you’d be hard pressed to fault his program despite a lackluster last two seasons.
Graham feels the heat, and it’s not because the Phoenix area is reaching record temperatures this week. It’s on him to deliver a quality season or risk succumbing to the “what have you done for me lately” culture that permeates throughout college football. Bringing in quality players from outside Arizona — particularly a hotbed of talent like southern California — is one way to alleviate the pressure.
Graham’s recruiting achievements in the last two years should partially soothe Sun Devil fans growing ever-more impatient with their head coach. That doesn’t mean his seat is getting any cooler, though. Recruiting is one thing, but results are another. On-field production and visible progress are the only thing that will calm the nerves of the ASU faithful.
Right now, Sun Devil fans have plenty of reason to be skeptical. The departure of Armand Perry and Kareem Orr creates even more uncertainty in one of the worst defensive backfields in the country. However, this development — along with a number of other positional openings on both sides of the ball — provides an opportunity for Graham’s recruits to shine.
If young players like Ty Thomas, Evan Fields and Chase Lucas exceed expectations in their newfound roles, that reflects positively on Graham. He needs these guys to live up to their potential or risk giving up 75-yard touchdown after 75-yard touchdown en route to a sub-.500 season.
ASU fans won’t settle for another 6-6 or 5-7 campaign. They don’t make trophies for an appearance in the Foster Farms Bowl.
But recruits wouldn’t commit if they didn’t believe in the direction the program is heading. By landing high-caliber players this early in the process and planting roots in California, it’s clear that Graham is articulating his vision when he steps off the Boom Bus and Boom Copter.
It remains to be seen if that vision becomes reality.