ATribune reader commenting on a story concerning Arizona State football recruiting eight days ago suggested one way for the Sun Devils to improve is to sign the local talent.
He estimated there were 30 NCAA Division I-A prospects and if ASU got 20, the program would be better. Nice thought. If only it were that easy.
The magazine Texas Football annually tracks Division I-A prospects by state, in part to brag about high school football in Texas. Last year, Arizona had 20 high school players sign with Division I-A programs, to rank 25th nationally. But just because a player signed with a Division I-A program doesn’t mean he’s good enough to beat USC. And therein lies the problem for ASU — and Arizona for that matter.
The state isn’t producing enough seven (on a scale of 1-10) and higher prospects who can win in the Pac-10. They may be good enough for the WAC or the Mountain West but not talented enough to get to a New Year’s bowl.
Fact is, we’re in a football drought just as we are in a real drought. In 2000, according to Texas Football, there were 32 Arizona prepsters signing national letters of intent. That’s a staggering 37 percent drop-off. In 2001, ASU signed nine state players. Yes, ASU would be better off if Loren Howard stayed at home instead of going to Northwestern, if Mike Brown, Tyrone Byrd, Kenny Wheaton, Rashad Bauman, Eric Johnson, Marquis Cooper, and Terry Johnson, just to name a few, had stayed at home.
But some prospects prefer going away to school, some actually have an academic pursuit they found better at another institution, and sometimes coaches mis-evaluate prospects, as was the case with Wheaton.
The point is, you can’t get them all as the reader suggests.
But right now there’s not much there to get.
What’s hurting both schools is the fact that Tucson, the state’s secondlargest city, is a virtual wasteland for football prospects.
Eugene, Ore., which is one-fifth the size of the Old Pueblo, has just as many scholarship athletes (three) in the Pac-10 as Tucson.
Two of the three Eugene products are starters, while none of the Tucson residents are.
Where have all the Riki Grays, John Mistlers, Vance Johnsons, Fred Sims, Harry Holts, Rodney Peetes, Mike Dawsons, Sean Harrises, Steve McLaughlins, Mario Bates and John Finas gone?
How can a city of 750,000 be so devoid of college football prospects?
That McClintock High School team of 1985 — the one that had Cleveland Colter, Drew Metcalf, Art Greathouse and Kent Kiefer — had more legitimate prospects than Tucson has had in the past few years.
In Maricopa County, one of ASU’s biggest suppliers of talent, Phoenix Maryvale, is in a dry spell.
Among known oral commitments, Arizona and Oregon are tied with five prep prospects intending to play in the Pac-10.
Meanwhile, the state of Washington has 21 of its sons planning to sign national letters with Pac-10 schools.
The way things have been going, there won’t be another homegrown offensive line like ASU’s 1986 Rose Bowl championship team, which featured tackle Jim Warne (Tempe), guard Randall McDaniel (Avondale), center Kevin Thomas (Tucson), guard Todd Kalis (Phoenix) and tackle Danny Villa (Nogales).
The recruiting job for ASU’s Dirk Koetter and Arizona rookie Mike Stoops is that much more difficult because of the current talent drought. Both coaches are probably keeping their fingers crossed that the mommas and daddies producing males in 1986, 1987 and 1988 have a few more Pac-10-caliber prospects among them in the coming years.