Coming into his first full year of recruiting for the Arizona State Sun Devils, head coach Todd Graham faced a difficult task: convince the top prep talent in Arizona to stay home to pursue their gridiron dreams rather than commit to high-profile schools out of state.
Graham certainly understood the challenge before him. Long considered a “sleeping giant” in college football, ASU has a history of missing out on coveted four- and five-star recruits in its own backyard. Sun Devil fans hoped the personable, hard-charging Graham, with the help of his new coaching staff, could change the fortunes of the program by bringing in blue chip talent.
Look no further than Chans Cox, a standout athlete at Lakeside (Ariz.) Blue Ridge High School, who verbally committed to ASU on June 13.
Cox, listed at 6-foot-3, 235-pounds, was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 2013 recruit in Arizona and No. 58 nationally overall. During Blue Ridge’s championship 14-0 season in 2011, he rushed for 682 yards and 13 touchdowns, caught 10 passes for 142 yards and three scores, made 61 tackles and, as if that’s not enough, averaged 41.3 yards per punt.
Cox is the biggest in-state commitment for the Sun Devils since Scottsdale Saguaro running back D.J. Foster pledged to the team last January.
“Arizona State fans have been congratulating me,” Cox said. “They all seem genuinely happy for me. It was a big moment, so it was great to see that everyone was excited. I appreciate that fan base so much.”
During his high school career, Cox, who was clocked at 4.53 seconds in the 40-yard dash at a combine, attracted the attention of elite college programs like Nebraska, USC and Oregon. But, as it turned out, the decision to commit to Arizona State was an easy one for him.
“I really feel good about ASU,” Cox said. “I know there are bigger programs out there. I know I can play at Notre Dame. I know I can play at USC. But I love what ASU is about. I want to be on that ground floor that helped turn it around, be part of that.”
Arizona State reportedly wants Cox to play “mike” linebacker, a position that involves making tackles and controlling the defense with calls and directions. The mike linebacker keys the running backs and the quarterback because he’s in the middle of the defense and goes where the ball goes.
Blue Ridge coach Paul Moro believes Cox has the toughness and versatility to contribute to ASU as a freshman. “He’s smart enough, he’s big enough, he’s fast enough,” said Moro. “He just has to learn the system. Coming in for spring ball, he’ll pick it up real fast. He’s a smart kid. And he’s football smart.”
Moro added, “He’s the type of guy, when you get to meet him again, you go, ‘No way, this guy is a giant.’ I don’t know if he’s as big as Terrell Suggs. I don’t want to compare him to Terrell Suggs.”
By choosing to play for the in-state Sun Devils, Cox will make a statement about the changing landscape of college recruiting in Arizona — and the future of ASU football.
“I think this shows Arizona State fans that Todd Graham is going to get good players,” Cox said. “It’s not just me, either. It’s about all the guys of this class…all of the guys who are committed and buying in.”