Gary Doran

Analysis of ASU Recruiting in Arizona over the Past 16 Years

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Almost every one that follows recruiting knows the importance of signing in-state recruits. It’s a given with every program, regardless of size. “Keeping ‘em home” has been the overall theme for the last three coaching regimes at Arizona State in describing recruiting in the state of Arizona. In fact, Todd Graham’s staff even started a “Hometown Heroes” campaign, which included billboards of those Arizona recruits that signed with the Devils, to show local recruits just how important it is for them to sign with ASU. With this in mind, we wanted to see just how well ASU has done in “keeping ‘em home” over the past three coaching staffs. Some of the results may surprise you.

Our data came from Scout.com from the 2002 recruiting cycle to the 2017 cycle in which 307 Arizona high school recruits were signed by Power 5 schools, (we included Utah and BYU signees as Power 5 teams back to 2002.) As a note, five of the signees were long snappers and seven were kickers. During the 16 years analyzed ASU signed one player at each of these positions. Of the 295 other signees, 180 were listed as offensive players, while 115 were defensive players. The analysis will largely concentrate on the 295 recruits for offense or defense.

So just how well has ASU done in keeping local recruits home? Of the 295 signees over the last 16 years, ASU captured 80 of them, or 27-percent, meaning about three out of four of the signees signed with a Power 5 team other than ASU. The chart below shows the ups and down in each of the last 16 years. It’s interesting that Dirk Koetter did so well in his early years in Arizona, whereas there has only been one other year since then where ASU was as successful in the percentage of Power 5 Arizona recruits it signed.

Ten of the sixteen years analyzed saw ASU signing less than 30-percent of the Power 5-level recruits in the state of Arizona. What’s even more troubling is that seven of those ten have happened in the last eight years. Last year was the first year since the 2009 recruiting cycle that ASU signed more than 30-percent of the Power 5-level talent in the state. Starting in 2011, ASU had a string of five years where less than 20-percent of Power 5-level recruits signed with the Devils, however, the last two recruiting cycles have seen an uptick. Also of note , during the Koetter era, an average of 15.4 Arizona recruits signed with a Power 5 team, whereas the average jumped to 19.8 during both the Erickson and Graham tenures; that’s almost a 30-percent increase.

In 16 years, the state of Arizona produced 40 Power 5-level back-end defensive players (safeties & corner backs), yet ASU only signed nine of them. During the same period, the Devils signed ten homegrown Power 5-level tight ends. Clearly the three ASU staffs had to look to other states for back-end defensive help. It was also unfortunate that 80-percent of Power 5-level linemen from Arizona signed with a Power 5 team other than ASU over the last 16 years.

In six years of recruiting the state of Arizona, Graham has averaged signing less than one defensive player per year. In his first four years recruiting Arizona, he signed only two defensive players from within the state. By comparison, offensive minded Dirk Koetter did the best job of signing defensive players in terms of percentages.

The first thing that jumps out at you is that in the first ten years (2002-2011), the state of Arizona produced only four quarterbacks that signed with a Power 5 team, whereas in the last six years, twelve quarterbacks have signed with Power 5 teams. By contrast, in the first ten years, Arizona produced 27 Power 5-level running backs, however, in the last six years there have only been nine. During the Erickson and Graham tenures, the state of Arizona produced 55 offensive linemen that signed with a Power 5 team, but ASU only signed ten of them, or an average of one per year.

Defensive-minded Todd Graham has only signed five Power 5-level defensive players from Arizona during his six recruiting cycles in Tempe. A troubling trend for ASU shows that each new coaching staff is signing a smaller percentage of Power 5-level Arizona defensive recruits. In the Erickson and Graham eras combined, they have allowed an average of better than five out of six defensive recruits to sign with another Power 5 team. Coach Graham’s staff has swung and missed on 18 out of 20 Power 5-level defensive line recruits from within the state, and eleven of 13 in the defensive backfield.

What the Numbers Mean

In looking at the past 16 years of recruiting, “keeping ‘em home” may be more of a wishful slogan than a reality. That’s unfortunate since it appears Arizona is producing a greater number annually of Power 5-level talent. Over the last 13 years, ASU has only had one year in which it averaged signing at least 40-percent of the Power 5-level talent. On the positive side, there has been an uptick in the percentage of Power 5-level talent signing with the Devils in the past two years.

Over the last 16 recruiting cycles, ASU has done a good job of signing homegrown Power 5-level tight ends, and a not-so-good job in signing offensive linemen. It has also done a decent job of signing Power 5-level defensive tackles, but a pretty poor job pulling in cornerbacks.

Dennis Erickson’s staff did the best job, statistically speaking, in signing Power 5-level wide receivers and running backs with almost a 50-percent signing rate, while both the Koetter and Graham staffs have only signed around 20-percent. The one area that all three coaching staffs seem to struggle with is offensive linemen, where the three staffs combined have averaged less than one signee per year.

It is safe to say that Graham’s staffs have struck out in consistently recruiting the state of Arizona’s higher-level defensive talent where misses included the likes of Priest Willis, Cole Luke, Qualen Cunningham, Dedrick Young, Byron Murphy, and others in recent years. So it’s understandable to conclude that when a regime has signed only 12-percent of the local defensive talent, something isn’t clicking. It’s even more surprising when defense is the head coach’s forte. It’s also interesting that offensive-minded Dirk Koetter average pulling in almost half the Power 5-level defensive talent within the state, when neither of the following two coaching staffs could pull in a quarter of that talent.

The bottom line in the analysis is that ASU still has a ways to go to really embody the slogan “keeping ‘em home,” especially on the defensive side of the ball, and the state of Arizona seems to be producing more and more Power 5-level talent. For the Devils, the time is ripe to begin cashing in on the increasing level of local talent.

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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