02/06 - ASU football gets defensive - East Valley Tribune: Sports

02/06 - ASU football gets defensive

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Posted: Wednesday, February 5, 2003 10:48 pm | Updated: 1:53 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Dirk Koetter was on the phone when he heard a commotion inside the Arizona State football offices at the Carson Center.

Turns out secretaries and coaches were celebrating the arrival of an unexpected letter of intent, one from All-American cornerback Chijoke Onyenegecha of the City College of San Francisco.

Onyenegecha was one of several headline recruits who fell ASU's way Wednesday on national signing day.

Fittingly, the player causing all the noise was a defensive player because Koetter's third class is one where defense took precedent over offense.

A recruiting class that doesn't have a running back has a notable hole in it, but it appears there were no holes among the defensive players signed.

Onyenegecha is listed at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. He has run a sub-10.3 100 meters; he has a cousin who runs track at ASU. He brings the size the Devils will need to match up with 6-4 Reggie Williams at Washington, 6-5 Mike Williams at Southern California, 6-3 Tab Perry at UCLA, 6-3 Devard Darling at Washington State and the rest of the tall receivers that are now in style.

"He was the biggest surprise of the day," Koetter said. "There was a lot of whooping and hollering when his letter came in."

Onyenegecha was a gangly 178-pound corner in high school.

"We thought we were out of it for the longest time," Koetter said.

ASU also picked up another junior college All-American in cornerback Chris McKenzie of Glendale Community College. “He's another speed burner,” Koetter said.

"In this league you have to have guys who can cover," Koetter said.

Onyenegecha and McKenzie won't arrive until Camp Tontozona. But Koetter said their signings will allow defensive coordinator Brent Guy to move Brett Hudson back to safety from corner. Also Lamar Baker, out all last season because of injury, will move to safety. Meanwhile, R.J. Oliver, Mike Davis Jr., Josh Golden and Emmanuel Franklin, who is also coming back from injury, will try to improve before the JC transfers arrive.

Up front, defensive tackle Gabe Reininger, a third-team JC All-American, is already enrolled and will join returnees Brian Montesanto and Shane Jones, a JC transfer from a year ago.

Having lost three senior linebackers, JC transfer Justin Burks, who is also enrolled, would appear to have a clear path to the starting lineup. Freshman Jamar Williams was the fourth linebacker. Jordan Hill, a Utah signee, returned from a Mormon mission and joined the team last fall and will be a candidate. Also returning is Ishmael Thrower, a JC transfer who missed last season because of injury.

Koetter would not speculate on the impact of the defensive newcomers, but said they would be given every chance to play.

Overall, the Sun Devils signed four SuperPrep All-Americans and six members of the Tacoma News Tribune's Western 100 list of the top prospects in a nine state area among its 22 new players.

"The cornerstone of this class is speed," Koetter said.

Koetter broke from his predecessor, Bruce Snyder, in signing a pair of quarterbacks, both SuperPrep All-Americans. A late pick up was Sam Keller of Danville, Calif., who had orally committed to Michigan. Keller phoned ASU in early January to see if the Devils were still interested. Koetter said he told Keller about Mike Affleck, who had pledged during the football season.

"We did not plan to take two quarterbacks," Koetter said. But he said Keller was too good to not sign.

ASU did not sign a running back because there are two sophomores and two redshirt freshmen already on the roster.

"I don't think there was a guy on our board that we thought we could get that was better than those four guys," Koetter said, adding that he wanted to "create some distance" in the classes among the running backs.

ASU also came up one player short at wide receiver.

As a result, wide receiver and tailback will be priorities next year.

"This class really allows us to balance our numbers, especially on defense," Koetter said.

Koetter attributed much of the success of the class to the current players.

"We have excellent chemistry. When you have excellent chemistry you can't hide it," he said. "The players had a huge, huge role in recruiting."

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