The first-year coaching staffs at Arizona and Arizona State are eager/determined/desperate to get the stronger foothold into in-state recruiting, and striking first in the Territorial Cup couldn’t hurt.
Todd Graham’s first recruiting class at ASU included running back D.J. Foster, who might turn into the Devils’ version of Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey.
Rich Rodriguez hired Scottsdale Chaparral High coach Charlie Ragle, establishing a pipeline to a school that traditionally has sent players to Tempe. Ragle is UA’s assistant operations director and liaison for high school relations.
Graham countered by hiring veteran Valley high school coach John Wrenn to a similar position.
Both programs have work to do. Of the top 10 in-state prospects last year, as ranked by Rivals.com, seven of them left the state — including five to rival Pac-12 schools.
Here’s a look at 10 in-state prospects who stayed and who could make a difference when Arizona and Arizona State clash Friday night:
Arizona RB Ka’Deem Carey, Tucson Canyon del Oro High
Well, of course. He has 570 rushing yards just in the past two games (which is more than Tulane and Washington State have had all season).
Carey’s best day as a freshman came in last season’s win over Arizona State — 13 carries for 92 yards, four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Carey is the nation’s leading rusher this season with 1,585 yards, and can you imagine how bitter Arizona fans would be if he was wearing ASU colors? He nearly committed to ASU — he called it a “great school” this week — but picked the Cats on Signing Day.
So, he’s a hometown hero who has especially impressed with how hard he plays, how tough he runs.
“I love contact,” he said. “If you’re not going to come at me 100 percent, then you’re going to pay.”
As for ASU?
“They are going to come with than 100 percent, so I have to be ready for that,” he said.
Arizona State CB Deveron Carr, Scottsdale Chaparral
The senior is an experienced cornerback who has started 32 games in his career, including every one this season. He has 21 tackles this year, with one interception and seven pass break-ups. Graham said last week: “I think Carr is probably the most improved player in the program.”
Carr had five tackles and a pass break-up vs. Arizona last season.
Arizona LB Jake Fischer, Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge
The junior is Arizona’s leading tackler with 98, putting together a successful comeback season after missing 2011 because of a torn ACL.
He remembers his first trip to play at ASU in 2009, walking out of the tunnel at Sun Devil Stadium.
“You had 60, 70-year-olds with ASU stuff on, flipping the guys off as they were walking out,” he said after Tuesday’s practice. “It shows that no matter how old you are, you’re always going to rep your colors. I like that.”
Arizona LB Marquis Flowers, Goodyear Millennium
The junior is adjusting better all the time to linebacker after being moved from safety late in fall camp. Flowers has 38 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and two sacks, in the past four games. He also has two interceptions, both against USC, in that span.
“He’s still learning. It’s like going to job training,” defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel said a few weeks ago. “For him to be doing some of the things he’s doing is remarkable.”
Flowers has the kind of ranginess and athleticism Arizona likes in its outside linebackers, although this could be just a one-year thing at outside linebacker, depending on how next year’s defense shapes up.
“He’s done it unselfishly,” Casteel said. “That I think speaks volumes for the way he is. I’m sure he’s thought of himself as a safety. He’s helped our football team immensely.”
Arizona State RB D.J. Foster, Scottsdale Saguaro
Foster was the centerpiece of Graham’s first recruiting class, and he hasn’t disappointed, sharing caries in the backfield with Cameron Marshall and Marion Grice, and being active in the passing game.
Foster has 85 carries for 443 yards and is third on the team in receptions with 34 for 484 yards. He has six total touchdowns.
Graham, in one of his weekly press conferences last month, recalled his first impression of Foster during recruiting.
“I watched him score 10 touchdowns in one game. My first impression on film was, ‘Wow, this guy’s a special player,’” Graham said.
“The dynamics of his ability to run the ball and his ability to catch the ball are special. He’s not a very big guy but he’s a really good inside runner. He’s a complete back. On film, I thought, ‘This is a guy we have to get.’ …
“He’s a guy that’s all in and is buying in. I think he is becoming a leader as a true freshman and that’s pretty hard to do.”
Arizona S Jourdon Grandon, Avondale Westview
He missed the Colorado game two weeks ago because of a concussion, then was used in a reserve role last week at Utah. Before that, he started the first nine games, and he ranks fifth on the Wildcats with 55 tackles.
In a banged-up secondary, the more he can play Friday, the better it will be for Arizona.
Arizona State NT Jaxon Hood, Chandler Hamilton
This has been one of the storylines of the week with the Hood family having a player on each side of the rivalry. Jaxon is a true freshman at Arizona State. Tevin is a junior nose tackle for Arizona.
“I won’t go out of my way to say anything (this week), but I’ll let him know what the deal is,” Tevin said.
And what’s the deal? Jaxon figures to have a chance to make a bigger impact. He has started every game at nose tackle — remarkable for the true freshman — and has three sacks. Tevin will see time behind Sione Tuihalamaka.
Arizona State FS Keelan Johnson
Johnson, a senior who has four interceptions and 73 tackles, can’t forget Arizona celebrating on the Sun Devil Stadium turf last season.
“When they were down here they stomped on the pitchfork,” he said this week. “That’s one of the things I’ll remember and I’ll use it to my advantage.”
And what kind of challenge does he see from the Arizona offense?
“It all comes back down to what we need to do,” he said. “As long as we can stop the run and rattle the quarterback, everything else should take care of itself.”
Arizona State WR/PR Jamal Miles, Peoria High
He has had a disappointing senior season after being one of the nation’s top all-purpose threats a year ago. Miles scored nine times in 2011 — six by receiving, two on kick returns and one on a punt return — but has zero scores this season.
All it takes is one good game — one key play — against Arizona to change how everyone feels about his senior year.
Arizona S Jared Tevis, Tucson Canyon del Oro
The former walk-on has been quite a find for Rodriguez, and Tevis was probably the team’s best defender through the first month of the season before being sidelined by an ankle injury.
That kept him out for two games, and he hasn’t made as many big plays since his return, although you never know when those big plays are going to happen. He had two interceptions and three forced fumbles in the first four games.