Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Where the talent comes from

For ASU, figuring out where to harvest football talent that will allow them to compete at an elite level has been a difficult task. ASU's history in the Pac-10 shows an almost schizophrenic change of regional emphasis -- even more often than the seven head coaches who have occupied the head coaching position for the program.

When ASU has been most successful -- the two Rose Bowl years in 1986 and 1996 -- it has been predominantly California based, supported by strong Arizona recruits and/or strong juco personnel.

The 1986 starting 22 featured: 14 from California, 7 from Arizona, and one from Michigan. What's startling was the lack of a single junior college transfer among the starters, but this was based on the strength of the early 80s classes Darryl Rogers' staff brought in. If I recall correctly, ASU landed what was regarded by some to be the No. 1 prep class in the country in 1982, highlighted by a dominance of San Diego and strong showings around the rest of California.

The 1996 starting 22 featured: 12 from California, 5 from Arizona, 4 from nearby western states such as Nevada, Texas, and Idaho, and 1 straggler (Eazy Pat Thompson from Louisiana). This squad was scrambled from a lot of different parts, and included four juco transfers -- all on defense.

In my opinion, based on the history of the program in the Pac-10, this is what I think we should have learned:

- You have to own your backyard. That doesn't mean you take anyone from Arizona with a few accolades, but you definitely can't let five kids from the West Valley sign with Nebraska, and perhaps two of the most lauded Arizona recruits ever sign with USC. That wasn't the current staff's fault, but it's something they have to address immediately.

- You have to go head-to-head in California, and you can't turn your head to the east before you've got a solid footing. Before Oregon and Washington began raiding the state, ASU had a strong presence in Southern California, particularly in the early 80s with Darryl Rogers excellent recruiting staff. That staff recruited what was essentially the majority of the 1987 Rose Bowl team. Now it means fighting off a seemingly insurmountable USC presence, in addition to strong recruiting staffs for UCLA, Oregon, Cal, and Washington. Oregon State is gaining ground, too. Less to go around? Maybe, maybe not. But you have to win battles there if you expect to finish in the upper tier of the Pac-10. (See the Koetter era)

- Texas is probably a mirage. Sure, it looks beautiful there with such an enormous state and loads of talent. But Texas already feeds all the numerous in-state schools as well as all the best programs in the Big 12 and Big 10. SEC schools have been known to successfully cherry pick there, too. ASU probably has to have a presence in Dallas and Houston, but they can't devote California resources to Texas (see the Marmie years). You probably treat west Texas like you treat New Mexico -- you only go there when there's probable cause.

- You can fill a few mistakes with the right jucos, but you can't make mistakes in your juco evaluations, and it cannot replace strong recruiting in both California and Arizona. If either Cali or Arizona falters in two or more classes, no amount of juco help can be found to fill the holes. (See the late Snyder years)

- The desert appeals to older folk. It's a more difficult sell to younger kids, even those in ice-and-snow country in the Midwest. We have a different culture, and we're still in a big city. And, of course, it's very hot here into October. You talk to the kids in places like Illinois, Ohio, Florida, and Louisiana, but you don't pull people off bread-and-butter recruiting regions to do it. You take your best shots at the kids who seem sincerely interested and leave the rest alone. (See both the late Marmie and Snyder years).


Anonymous said...

Very good analysis. I find it particulary troubling when so many high, national profiled talent, in a state that is not known for producing elite athletes, decide to play ball out of state. What out cry there would be if this happened at Ohio State, LSU,etc. I hope that this is an anomaly, and not how H.S. kids view the state school programs. No doubt DE and staff must try to turn this around next yr.

Anonymous said...

I pretty much agree with your detailed analysis, however, I do take exception with one of your comments. You wrote that we can't have two years in a row where recruiting falters in our recruiting hotbed states.....see Synder years.

Actually the last two years of the Synder regime saw 8 of the 42 high school recruits make it into the NFL. Synder's last recruiting class in 2000 had 6 out of 23 of the HS recruits make it to the NFL. (That's 1 in 4 recruits!)

Solomon Bates - CA
Shaun McDonald - AZ

Terrell Suggs - AZ
Skyler Fulton - WA
Mike Karney - WA
Jimmy Verdon - CA
Drew Hodgdon - CA
Andrew Walter - CO

Gaddabout said...

"Actually the last two years of the Synder regime saw 8 of the 42 high school recruits make it into the NFL. Synder's last recruiting class in 2000 had 6 out of 23 of the HS recruits make it to the NFL. (That's 1 in 4 recruits!)"

The attrition rate in the last four years of Snyder's recruiting classes were some of the worst in ASU history. Guys didn't qualify, guys didn't finish school. On the field, it was never a shortage of top line talent, but overall depth was severely lacking.

You can't judge a class by how many NFLers it produces. Even six NFL players (and we're talking two regular NFL starters out of that group) can't carry a team if the other 18 guys don't contribute something. You need the Brent Bernsteins and the Victory Leyvas -- perhaps marginal NFL free agent invites -- to provide support, and there just wasn't that kind of depth on Snyder's late teams. That is a recruiting problem, a major one at that.

State87 said...

Win at home and the home talent will stay home. Comparing the recruiting in Texas today and what coach Kush was able to do in the 60's and 70's is apples and oranges. Kush landed kids like JJ because there wasn't a decent program in 1000 miles of Dallas that threw the ball in a pro style offense back then.

That's no longer the case. Until you can outdraw, outspend and outplay Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, they are still going to take the top of the crop in Texas.

Kush made a killing on under recruited tough minded offensive lineman out of rual Pennsalvania and Arizona. Kids that new how to work hard, get their hands dirty and kick somebody in the ass. The ABOR have pretty much killed our ability to look at those types of kids anymore. Recruiting at ASU is different today and let's hope that coach E can figure out his own niche.

Right now coach E needs field turf at Tontozona, a indoor field house at Kajikawa, 20,000 paying Sun Angels and 70 thousand screaming fans in SDS on Saturdays. He thinks he can compete with anybody on the recruiting trail with those tools.

Anonymous said...'s me again.

It's interesting you say that the last four years of Synder recruiting was one of the worst for ASU. I looked at his last three years and noticed that 37% of the high school recruits ever contributed during their 4/5 years. (22/61)

I looked at Koetter's first two years in the same light and it was only a 40% contribution rate. (16/40) That may speaks volumes about how poor Koetter's recruiting may look once all his recruits use up their 4/5 years.

I really respect your football/recruiting......any comments?