Arizona State's defensive front returns all of its starters from the 2012 season, including consensus All-American tackle Will Sutton, but that apparently didn't bother Dodge City (Kan.) Community College standout Marcus Hardison in the slightest.
Hardison, a 6-foot-4, 285-pounder regarded as the No. 14 junior college prospect nationally, committed to Arizona State Friday over Kansas State, South Florida and West Virginia even though his best position may be the one Sutton occupies.
"I've been talking to Will a lot, including last night," Hardison said. "He was just in Seattle to accept an award. I want to push him and want him to push me. That's what I told him. He said that's what he wants, that he wouldn't want it any other way. I also talked to (freshman All-American defensive tackle) Jaxon (Hood). I told them there's no reason we can't all go to the (NFL) League."
ASU led for Hardison following his official visit to the school in November but Kansas State eventually closed the gap and even nudged ahead earlier this month. But Sun Devil assistants Paul Randolph and Chris Ball took a visit in the last week to frigid Kansas to reheat Hardison's fire to be a Sun Devil.
"They love my versatility," he said. "That's one of the big reasons I picked ASU. "I saw the way they move Will around to put him in position to make plays and they do a great job of that with all their players. I'm someone who can play different positions and they have the ability to get me in the right spots. Their guys get a lot of tackles for loss in that scheme and that's (future) money to a player like me."
Hardison said his mother is a big influence on his life and weighed heavily on this decision, but ultimately liked both of his top choices quite a bit after head coaches from ASU and Kansas State visited her in Florida, where the family resides.
"It wasn't easy," he said. "ASU was on top but then K-State took the lead not too long ago but at the end I just kept thinking about it and felt like I had to go to ASU because it was best for me. We're going to be eatin'.
"My mom loved (ASU) coach (Todd) Graham but she also loved (Kansas State) coach (Bill) Snyder so that made it tough. I always listen to her but I don't think there was a bad choice. ASU just kept popping up back in my mind and I thought it was where I needed to be."
Hardison said his plan is to lean out and get stronger and quicker in the off-season and try to arrive at ASU at 270 pounds so that he can play the field end position -- which is where senior Davon Coleman returns -- or the 3-technique spot locked up by Sutton. Coaches will allow him to regain the weight if he demonstrates he can play at his current 285 pounds.
"Man, I am so excited, you don't even know," he said. "I just feel this is like this is the biggest opportunity of my life and is going to put me that much closer to my (ultimate) dreams. Our d-line is about to fierce. Man, just talking about it gets me hyped."