TEMPE — It’s National Signing Day, when 17 and 18 year old boys decide put their signature where there mouth is. A day where fax machines get their biggest workout of the year and after all is said and done, a ritual as tried and true as any other rears it’s ugly head.
Middle-aged men will be complaining and in some cases cursing these young boys and their families.
It’s disgusting…but it happens, every year.
I get it, they want what is best for their favorite team or Alma Mater, but “C’mon Man,” this is a young man who is in most cases still in high school. The biggest decision that I had to make my senior year was whether to go to Burger King or Pizza Hut for lunch; but I never had somebody twice my age calling me out on social media because I just wasn’t in the mood for a Whopper.
Friday Night Lights
High school football is king in Texas.
Despite all the Hook ‘Em, Gig ‘Em and whatever inappropriate things said at Baylor, the state of Texas lives and breathes for high school football.
A whopping 46 players on ESPN’s Top 300 hail from the state of Texas with Georgia and California trailing but not close. 15 percent of the country’s top-ranked players call the Lone Star State home and the third best running back from the talent-rich state has already enrolled in Tempe.
Eno Benjamin is from Wylie East High School in Wylie, Texas just outside Dallas and has been one the best recruiters for the Sun Devils.
An early enrollee, Benjamin could not wait to get on campus and arrived in Tempe the day after announcing his commitment at the All-America Bowl.
Benjamin not only excels on the gridiron but also in the classroom, he is in the Barrett Honors College and looking to major in business law.
The Alabama Connection
The top teams stay at the top due to recruiting and the Alabama Crimson Tide is a perfect example.
Despite losing in the National Championship earlier this month to Clemson, Nick Saban and his coaching squad has had a top recruiting class year in and year out. This year is no different, ESPN.com ranks Alabama at the top of the heap with 24 commits including three 5-star and 17 4-star recruits.
By comparison, Arizona State checks in at No. 37 on the same list with six 4-star and 11 3-star recruits. If ever there was a team to emulate, it would be Alabama: and Arizona State is doing just that.
It started with wooing quarterback Blake Barnett who played in Bama’s first game of the 2016 season defeating one of Arizona State’s most-hated rivals—the University of Southern California.
Barnett was nearly perfect against the Trojans connecting on 5-of-6 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. After seeing limited playing time, Barnett left Alabama after week four and signed with the Devils in December.
It was originally believed that Barnett would have to sit out the 2017 season but Barnett found out the day before National Signing Day that he would be eligible to play opening day due to an appeal ruling.
Next up on the Alabama hit list was Brandon Ruiz.
The Sun Devils just bid farewell to unanimous All-American kicker Zane Gonzalez and were worried that they would never be able to fill his shoe.
The local product out of Gilbert Williams Field High School would routinely nail 70+ yard field goals and was thus heavily recruited by Nick Saban and Alabama. On June 10th, 2016 Ruiz committed to Alabama…seven months later, he opted to stay true and committed to Arizona State.
Flipping former Alabama players and commits is one thing but the real coup de grace is being able to acquire one of the Crimson Tide’s top recruiters.
On Monday, Arizona State announced that Alabama’s Wide Receivers Coach Billy Napier was named Lead Offensive Coordinator. Over the past five years at Alabama, Napier was an integral part of the 2011 and 2015 National Championship teams and coached in the 2016 game.
Prior to his time at Alabama, Napier was the Offensive Coordinator/ Quarterbacks Coach at Clemson under Dabo Swinney.
The 2008 Clemson recruiting class was ranked as the No. 2 class in the country and the 2009 offense set an all-time school record for most points in a season under his tutelage.
Bishop Gorman High School
In Nevada, there is only one high school that matters, and it is Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School. Five of the top six rated players in Nevada are all on the same squad including defensive backs Bubba Bolden and Alex Perry. Bolden had originally committed to Southern Cal but backed out when he learned that his best friend Perry had committed to Arizona State.
In an announcement akin to Snoop Dogg, Jr. committing to UCLA, Bolden re-committed to USC at the All-American Bowl stunning Sun Devil faithful everywhere.
There are still those holding out hope that Graham and company have the clout to flip Bolden to join Perry and Scottsdale Saguaro’s KJ Jarrell, the No. 5 ranked player in Arizona and the No. 28 safety in the country.
If the Devils were to score a coup with flipping Bolden and then he and Perry would go on to perform as expected, it would bode very well for an excellent recruiter like Napier to have a BG pipeline. Imagine the amazing things that the remaining three 4-star recruits from Gorman could have done for Arizona State.
Staying True to ASU
It’s no secret that the “School Down South” has difficulty recruiting when it comes to football. Of the top 20 recruits according to ESPN.com, only three have committed to The University of Arizona. Arizona State on the other hand has been ‘in the mix’ for every top player coming out of Arizona with nine commits from the Grand Canyon State including three of the top five.
The state’s top player, offensive tackle Austin Jackson visited four Pac-12 schools including Oregon, Washington, USC but saved Arizona State for his last official visit on December 2nd. He has kept his selection close to the vest but has since eliminated Oregon from his final three.
Scottsdale’s Saguaro High School had a decent 2016 season.
They dominated each opponent they faced going 14-0 with a phenomenal 183-30 scoring advantage in the 4A State Playoffs and finished the year as the the state’s 2nd ranked team behind 6A State Champion Chandler High School.
In addition to the aforementioned safety, KJ Jarrell, three more of Arizona’s top 20 players are from Saguaro High School and have committed to Arizona State. Offensive guard Corey Stephens, outside linebacker Kyle Soelle and tight end Jared Poplawsksi are all rated as 3-star recruits and will look to maintain the strong pipeline to Arizona State.
Other schools in the southeast Valley are staying true to ASU with the state’s No. 3 and No.4 players coming from Gilbert’s Highland High and Chandler’s Basha High. Both Tyler Johnson and Ryan Kelley are ranked by ESPN as 4-star recruits but only Johnson is listed on ESPN’s Top 300.
The tide is starting to turn, no longer are the top players in the state looking to get away to the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles or the tradition of playing in the SEC or Big Ten. The Sun Devils are on the cusp of greatness and this year’s Signing Day is merely the beginning of something great.
I hope you are along for the ride.