Arizona State Recruiting Plan Already Aggressively Taking Shape Under Kenny Dillingham

Many around Arizona State wondered if Kenny Dillingham would win over their recruiting backyard. He and his staff didn't take long to answer that question.

Are the days of witnessing Scottsdale and Arizona-based prep football talent drifting away from Arizona State already coming to an end? Kenny Dillingham won’t coach in his first game as head coach until August 31, but he’s already claiming wins, the kind of wins that ASU fans have additionally clamored to see: local recruiting wins.

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Dillingham and Company Already Putting Aggressive Stamp on Recruiting Trail & Portal

At his opening press conference back on November 27, the 32-year-old fired off this message loud and clear, resonating across the desert.

“We need this entire valley to come together,” Dillingham said to reporters. “You want to win at the highest level? You want to maximize this place? We need everybody in this room to get involved.”

He continued, saying, “We need the Valley behind us. We need the state behind us. We need butts in seats. We need everything that this valley has, all in because I am all in.”

He and this new staff have proven to be “all in” with going after talent in close proximity but also bringing talent back “home.” Here are the notable prized local pickups Dillingham and company have reeled in since their arrival:

Class of 2023

Bram Walden: The former Oregon Duck, who was the state’s No. 1 prospect by 247Sports for the 2021 class, returns home after starring at state powerhouse Saguaro High of Scottsdale. The now 6’5″, 302-pounder was offered by the last regime under Herm Edwards but ended up drifting north.

He’s one of the prized transfer portal additions lured back to AZ via Dillingham and company. He’s also reuniting with his high school coach Jason Mohns, the new tight end coach at ASU.

Jake Smith: While the 6’0″, 200-pounder is now at his third collegiate stop after being with Texas and USC, the Class of 2019’s No. 2 prospect from AZ is a prized transfer pickup for Dillingham and the Sun Devils. He was also the nation’s No. 11 overall prospect out of Norte Dame Preparatory of Scottsdale.

Jacob Conover: The Ex-BYU Cougars quarterback was the No. 1 pro-style passer in the portal. But he’s another being brought back to the valley as he starred for Chandler High. He was also the No. 14 ranked prospect in AZ in a class that featured another state star in Spencer Rattler, the No. 1 rated player.

DeCarlos Brooks: Keeping with the theme of past top 20 prospects from the ’19 class, Brooks was the 19th rated AZ prospect but signed with Cal – which had Charlie Ragle on the staff helping run point of his recruitment and featured Beau Baldwin at offensive coordinator.

Now, both coaches are at ASU and the Chandler High RB standout returns home.

Tate Romney: The linebacker and Chandler High grad along with Conover and Brooks is another from BYU trekking back to his home state via the Dillingham regime. Romney was No. 25 in the state while in a 2020 class featuring future NFL cornerback Kelee Ringo and 2023 first-round running back Bijan Robinson. He was a state champion at Chandler.

Krew Jackson: The Queen Creek High standout at linebacker originally signed with Kansas State. But after winning the Big 12 with the Wildcats, he entered the portal, and ASU swooped him up. He was the No. 17 safety in Walden’s same recruiting class.

Tristan Monday: Arizona’s No. 8 rated prospect at defensive tackle for 2022 was considered a significant signing for Wisconsin, long considered a heaven for linemen. Now, the Saguaro star becomes one of the top local returnees via the portal for ASU.

The 6’4″, 276-pounder is best known at Saguaro for delivering an astonishing 79 career tackles for a loss in his prep career.

Lenox Lawson: The 5’11”, 175-pound wide receiver was a top 25 prospect in the state of Arizona by 247Sports Composite. He’s straight from high school, having starred at Red Mountain High in nearby Mesa – located less than 20 minutes west of Tempe.

Sirri Kandiyeli: Also from Mesa, the 6’3″, 270-pound interior offensive lineman from Mountain View High was ranked in the top 30 by 247Sports composite.

That’s just the 2023 lineup. But Dillingham and the Sun Devils staff have continued grinding away for 2024.

Who ASU has Gotten Early Commitments From

The Sun Devils are already past the double-digit mark for early verbal commitments in the Dillingham regime. But four are in-state talents.

Class of 2024

Dylan Tapley: The towering 6’4″, 205-pounder made his decision on April 15, following his epic junior season that saw 17 touchdown receptions and eight interceptions on defense for Desert Mountain of Scottsdale. He’s AZ’s No. 10 ranked prospect by 247Sports composite.

James Giggey: Another 6’4″ talent, the linebacker Giggey out of Bradshaw Mountain in Prescott Valley started out as an NCAA Division II target. But ASU offered in June, and he verbally committed on June 12. The 235-pounder additionally got on the Arizona Cardinals’ radar – naming him their High School Player of the Week on Oct. 30.

Ramar Williams: Dillingham and ASU continued to tap into defense early with this 6’4″ edge rusher from Eastmark in Mesa, who committed on June 17. He delivered 14 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks his junior season.

Kanyon Floyd: Even ASU and the 2023 staff are making waves in the special teams department – receiving a verbal commitment from the nation’s No. 2 punter for 2024. And he’s another prized local get out of Horizon in Scottsdale.

Has This Approach Already Surpassed What the Last Regime Accomplished?

Long story short, this revamped staff and re-emphasis on backyard talent are way ahead of the last staff.

Take one good look at the 2022 ASU class, the last of the Edwards regime. Not one prep recruit signing represented the home state. California had the most reps at three.

Furthermore, tackle Joey Ramos was the only Arizona representative who was added through the portal in ’22. The 2021 class was another scarce on homegrown recruits, with Queen Creek tackle Isaia Glass the only in-state recruit in a class that again emphasized the Golden State.

The 2020 class didn’t fare much differently either. While ASU scored eight four-star prospects, including the son of NFL star wide receiver Chad Johnson and freakish 6’6″ wideout Johnny Wilson from Cali, inside linebacker Will Shafer and offensive tackle Ben Bray were the lone AZ representatives. And both weren’t even considered top 20 AZ prospects.

The most number of in-state players Edwards and company landed was five through their 2019 class. The Devils’ highest-rated recruit, though, was quarterback Jayden Daniels out of Cajon High in San Bernardino, CA’s No. 3 ranked QB who has since taken the QB reins at LSU. And before that, Edwards’ first recruiting class of 2018 only had one Arizona player.

If this is the beginning of what Dillingham meant by bringing “the valley together,” he and the 2023 staff are off to a hellacious start with going after people representing America’s 48th state and the surrounding Tempe community.

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