TEMPE – Let the competition begin. And the celebration.
The four-way battle for Arizona State’s starting quarterback job is set for spring practice with the addition of Dillon Sterling-Cole out of Westfield High in Houston, one of 18 new Sun Devils welcomed during National Signing Day Wednesday.
Sterling-Cole will join returnees Bryce Perkins, Brady White and Manny Wilkins in the competition to replace 2015 starter Mike Bercovici, who played his final game for ASU in the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl in January.
“This was the guy that I thought would possess the skills that we were looking for,” coach Todd Graham said of Sterling-Cole. “Tremendous discipline in his footwork. A guy that has rushed for 21 touchdowns, 7,000-yard passer and if you look at the efficiency and the few interceptions he’s thrown it’s phenomenal.
“Obviously we’ve got three guys that are going to compete this spring and he will be the fourth one added in and will have an opportunity,” Graham said.
The celebration centers around Graham finally landing the No. 1 player in the state and No. 1 wide receiver in the country. Welcome aboard, N’Keal Harry from Chandler High.
“I can’t tell you how much I’ve worried about this young man, over the time,” said Graham. “I mean, this guy is special. To be able to sign the No. 1 player in the state and the No. 1 wide receiver in the country is pretty special.”
Harry was ranked by ESPN as the No. 1 prospect in Arizona and his style of play is similar to former Sun Devil wideout Jaelen Strong. Harry finished his high school career with 119 catches for 2,715 yards and 25 touchdowns.
To Graham, Harry choosing to wear a Sun Devil uniform is more than just a signing.
“You look and see a guy of this caliber could have went anywhere in the country,” Graham said. “He wants to be part of our program. And I think it speaks volumes about our program and what we have to offer and how he feels about this community.”
While Harry was one of the biggest recruits for Graham, the coach beamed about his newest class.
“As a coaching staff we felt like that this, no doubt, we met our needs that we had. Would we have liked to add a few people? You always wish you could add a few people, but at the end of the day, man, you want to end up with the ones you’re supposed to have and we feel really good about this class,” Graham said.
Eleven of the 18 were rated four stars or higher by at least one recruiting service, and eight rated in the top two of their positions nationally.
They all embody what Graham is looking for in players.
“We are looking for the best and the brightest with the best character that fit our program, and we feel good about this group here,” Graham said.
Of significance was the shoring up of the offensive line.
The newcomers on the line are Cohl Cabral, A.J. McCollum, Tyson Rising and Marshal Nathe – all noted for their quickness and blocking.
“We like recruiting offensive tackles that can play both guard and tackle, so signing four in this class we felt like we really met our needs there,” Graham said.
Two other notable recruits are tight end Jared Bubak and punter Michael Sleep-Dalton.
Bubak is out of Lincoln Christian High in Nebraska and was a member of the West squad at the Semper Fi All-American Bowl, which honors student-athletes who excel on the field as well as in leadership roles off the field.
“This guy embodies what we’re about: Character, discipline, physicality, toughness, smart. I’m so impressed to be able to go in and get this caliber of player out of Nebraska,” said Graham.
Graham is looking for Sleep-Dalton, a native of Geelong, Australia to bring a new level to special teams.
“We have researched in the league what Utah has done with an Australian-style punter,” said Graham. “So we searched and I wanted an Aussie punter. So we got Old Sleepy coming in here.”
Sleep-Dalton is transferring from City College of San Francisco where he was one of top JUCO punters in the nation.
“He was the number one junior college punter in the country and a guy that can kick with both feet,’ said Graham. “He can roll to the right and kick with his right foot, roll to the left and kick with his left foot. A tremendous athlete.”