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June 13, 2012If the last six months are any indication, Arizona State may have something in first-year coach Todd Graham, at least in terms of local recruiting.
The Sun Devils hadn't landed a Top-75 national in-state recruit since Zach Miller (No. 33) in 2004 when Graham secured a commitment from D.J. Foster (No. 71) in January, and on Wednesday he struck again, earning a pledge from Arizona's top ranked 2013 recruit, Lakeside Blue Ridge star Chans Cox.
Cox, the country's No. 58 overall prospect and No. 10 inside linebacker, picked ASU over offers from some of the nation's most prestigious programs including Nebraska, Notre Dame and USC.
"It came down for me to ASU and Notre Dame and once I got down to that I started talking to my family and figuring out my options and with ASU being so close and my parents being able to watch me, that's when I started to get my decision," Cox said. "It is just the fact that I'm going to be close to home and the coaches are great guys and I really like what they're doing, and the fact I'm an in-state guy means a lot and it means a lot to them and that's something I'm looking forward to.
"I had been planning this for a week and when we got there I was able to talk with a lot of the coaches and then just sit down with coach Graham and I just told him that I was ready to be a Sun Devil."
Beginning even before Graham and his staff had wrapped up their short-cycle 2012 class, Cox was aggressively targeted and pursued, making his first visit with the new coaches in January. At the time of his commitment, he'd lost count of how many times he'd been on campus, but it was in excess of 10 including a handful of the team's spring practices.
"I really think they already knew from the beginning because I built such a good relationship with them that they always had a gut feeling I'd eventually commit to ASU but they were very, very ecstatic for me committing," Cox said. "It was smiles everywhere, a great atmosphere, and they were really proud of me and excited about it.
"It just felt like I was able to build a great relationship with them. It's only three hours away and whenever we'd come down to the Valley for a vacation or be going through the Valley we'd just stop by and say hello, take a tour of the campus or check out the academics and it was all really accessible and that's part of what made it so easy."
Cox said the Sun Devils have turned over a new leaf with Graham, and have a chance to build a much sturdier foundation with local recruiting as a result. It's an area ASU has struggled with in recent years as the talent has increased and national programs have cherry picked the Valley.
"What they've done there is great," he said. "The coaches are great guys and I really love what they are doing. They are really installing the character and discipline. That's something that means a lot to me and I really think coach Graham is going to be able to turn the program around. They way they are recruiting the players in Arizona is very aggressive but they are respectful. They just always let you know how much you mean to what they're trying to do and how important it is and I really felt that in our conversations."
It would have been expected for a player of Cox's stature to want to take official visits in the fall, but he said he'd already seen the schools under consideration and felt it unnecessary to do so again.
"I've been to Nebraska, USC and Notre Dame, was looking into getting out to Arkansas maybe but once I decided I was ready, I didn't need to take any officials and I'm really comfortable with my decision," he said. "My family is really happy with the decision I made also. They are behind me for whatever decision but I think they are just as happy as I am they can come down and watch my games."
Cox said he's planning to do everything in his power to help keep the local momentum going now that he's solidly in the ASU column.
"I know Kenny Lacy, Jalen Ortiz, Priest Willis. I know those guys and have been building a relationship with them. Tyler Bruggman I have a good relationship with him also but he felt comfortable with Washington State which is great for him but I'm going to get on some of these other guys and try to get them to ASU."
Capable of playing linebacker or in the offensive backfield as an h-back or running back, Cox said ASU is planning to use him as a devil backer and he has a slight preference to play on defense so it's a role he's excited about.
"I really want to focus on getting more tackles this year, keeping my explosiveness and speed so I can adapt that much faster and be ready to have a chance to make an impact and see the field early," he said.