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February 3, 2011

ASU strikes it rich at QB, finds value in Valley

The vast majority of nationally ranked recruiting classes include 20 or more signees so it was clear from the outset with a small outgoing senior class, Arizona State wasn't likely to position itself among the nation's -- or even the Pac-12's -- top recruiting classes in terms of rankings.

That doesn't tell the whole story, however.

While there are some high-profile in-state prospects who elected to accept offers from national programs -- all of whom were courted very early in the process by the Sun Devils -- there was very good value in the class both locally and out of state.

Nothing was perhaps more impressive about ASU's haul than what it was able to accomplish at the quarterback position, where it was one of just several colleges nationally to sign two players ranked among the Top-15 nationally at either pro-style or dual-threat quarterback.

The Sun Devils haven't excelled at the quarterback position in recent years but the additions of Michael Bercovici, the No. 14 dual-threat quarterback in the class nationally -- with the No. 2 rated arm-strength -- and No. 8 dual-threat Michael Eubank should significantly increase the likelihood the position will be strong in future years.

Bercovici has already enrolled and is working out with the Sun Devils already. He's earned rave reviews for his powerful arm and quick release after putting up huge numbers at Taft High School in Los Angeles, Calif.

Eubank, 6-foot-5, 233 pounds, was the Most Valuable Player at the National Underclassmen Combine All-American game throwing three touchdowns and earning the nickname of "Baby Cam" after Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton.

"You take [Eubank] and Mike [Bercovici], and I don't know if there's a team in the country that signed two quarterbacks as good as we did," Erickson said. "A lot of times, you look at positions, and as we know, over the last couple of years here, you better have one to win a lot of football games. To me, one quarterback might be worth two or three recruits, depending on how good they are."

Locally, Mo Latu and Vivii Teofilo are high upside linemen who are physically well developed for their age with a good athletic quotient.

Latu, 6-foot-3, 306 pounds, moved into the Rivals250 late in the cycle after earning rave reviews during the Under Armour All-American practice week and spurned Oregon for Arizona State. Capable of playing defensive tackle or center at the highest level, Latu is also a 'yes, sir,' 'no, sir,' type of young man who is going to be a consummate team player.

Considering Latu is a nationally ranked player, No. 2 at center overall, it's a big statement of confidence that ASU coach Dennis Erickson said he might still be underappreciated.

"Having watched, and having had him in camp, he might be the most underrated player that we signed," Erickson said. "He's 310 lbs. and he's strong. He's a force at defensive tackle, and the things that we do, he could come in and play some as a freshman."

Teofilo, 6-foot-3, 295 pounds, is already as physically put together as many of the offensive linemen currently with the Sun Devils. In selecting ASU over Oregon State, a program that has traditionally done an excellent job evaluating and developing offensive linemen, Teofilo is a good get. Teofilo is a state champion wrestler at the heavyweight level and as a result has very good coordination, balance, understand of leverage and how to use his hands. He's also very humble and hard working as a diligent weight room enthusiast for years.

"This guy is a guard that's physical, big and athletic," Erickson said. "He's probably very underrated compared to some of the people who have played that same position. We're excited about him."

The Sun Devils also got a high quality local outside linebacker prospect who can run and hit and has a high football IQ and extreme passion for the game in Mountain Pointe star Isreal Marshall, the No. 15 ranked prospect in Arizona.

Linebackers coach Trent Bray, himself an all-league linebacker at Oregon State, said Marshall reminds him of Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Barnett, a former teammate of Bray's at the school.

"He was the first linebacker that we did offer," Erickson said. "He played safety, and then moved up, but he can run. He's the kind of guy that we want in our defense. I'm really excited about him and what he can do."

ASU also signed Gary Chambers, a lanky and vertical explosive 6-foot-3 195-pounder at Ironwood it targeted early, as well as Scottsdale Community College punter Josh Hubner.

Notes

  • The Sun Devils have a small 14 man class but only two additional scholarships to award at this time, with a projected 83 out of a maximum 85 now allotted. Erickson said they may try to make another addition or two in the coming weeks. The signing period runs through the spring.

  • Kipeli Koniseti was a 2009 signee who did not enroll at ASU initially but earned qualification status. He's transfer from College of the Sequoias with four years to play three seasons. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder projects to middle linebacker. He led Sacramento (Calif.) Grant to a state championship playing quarterback and linebacker two years ago.


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