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Dillingham, ASU will have to flip the narrative about in-state recruiting

I asked a prominent high school football coach in Arizona what new Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham would have to do to be successful with the Sun Devils.

He had a handful of pointers that started with rebuilding the relationships with the Arizona high school football community.

There are states like Louisiana where almost no top players leave. It serves LSU incredibly well. Arizona is not one of those states.

It actually has the opposite problem. No one stays.


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An all-star cast of players who could have drastically benefitted the Sun Devils over the last handful of years all went elsewhere. It’s a Who’s Who of standout performers in college football.

Quarterbacks Dylan Raiola (2024 five-star committed to Ohio State), Spencer Rattler, Ty Thompson, Kedon Slovis and Tyler Shough to name a few. Running back Bijan Robinson has been pretty good at Texas.

Wide receivers Christian Kirk, Brenden Rice, Kyion Grayes, Kyler Kasper and so many others. Tight end Duce Robinson is looking at USC, Georgia and Texas. Offensive lineman Austin Jackson was a stud at USC and a first-round NFL Draft pick.

Texas A&M landed Anthony Lucas last recruiting cycle. Four-star defensive tackle A’Mauri Washington from Chandler, Ariz., is committed to Oregon as of now. The defensive backs are a loaded group with Cole Martin (Oregon), Byron Murphy, Benjamin Morrison (five picks at Notre Dame this season), Denzel Burke, Kelee Ringo and Lathan Ransom the big names.

Arizona State is not going to land all of them. But some? Any?

One coach I talked to said one of Dillingham’s first charges will be to get donors and alumni excited about the program’s direction so they pony up some money seemingly for NIL deals. That’s part of the recruiting landscape now that coaches need to either embrace or get run over by the Brinks truck.

The numbers are stark: In the last 10 recruiting classes only 18 of 165 players who made the state rankings picked the Sun Devils. That’s 11 percent. There were three entire classes in 2018, 2021 and 2022 where none of the top prospects went there.

Only one time in the last decade did the No. 1 player in the state, N’Keal Harry, end up at ASU and he had a phenomenal career in Tempe before being a first-round NFL Draft pick.

“I’m very happy for coach Dillingham and everything he has already accomplished, and everything he’s going to accomplish at ASU,” said 2024 three-star defensive end Mardale Rowe from Phoenix Brophy Prep.

“We both know the recruiting process isn’t as simple as it seems. Just looking forward to making the right decision for me and my family when the time comes.”

For far too many in Arizona, that decision was not the Sun Devils. Dillingham will look to change that quickly.