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Feb. 4, 1998

ASU Signs 21 to Letters of Intent

TEMPE, Ariz. - Arizona State University head football coach Bruce Snyder signed 21 student-athletes to national letters of intent to study and play football, ASU announced Wednesday.

ASU may announce other student-athlete signings over the next few days.

This year's ASU class is one of the most highly-touted in the school's history. It includes a top quarterback from the state of California, two highly-regarded junior college defensive linemen who are expected to provide immediate help, four top-flight running backs, a quality wide receiver, several defensive backs and additional help along the offensive line.

Two players who signed letters with ASU today who originally signed in 1996, but did not attend ASU are Parade Magazine All-American Ralph Zarate of Tucson and Kyion Grayes of Fullerton, Calif.

In alphabetical order, the signees include:

One of three Texas products is James Beal (6-3, 260), a defensive lineman from DeSoto, Texas. Beal, who hails from the same high school (DeSoto) as current Sun Devil cornerback Courtney Jackson, was an all-Area selection by The Dallas Morning News. Beal chose ASU over Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Baylor and SMU.

The quarterback is Matt Cooper of Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, Calif. Cooper, a former teammate of current Sun Devil left guard Scott Peters, was one of the top two quarterbacks at the Northern California Combine. As a junior Cooper completed 95 of 180 passses for 1,591 yards and 14 touchdowns. Cooper was selected as a "one" in the Creme of the Crop by The Contra Costa Times. Amador Valley High and future ASU teammate Scott Peters was a "one" last year. He was selected all-Region by SuperPrep and took Amador Valley to the sectional championship game. Cooper selected ASU over Stanford, California and Oregon.

One of two defensive backs from the state of Arizona is Willie Daniel (6-0, 195) from Phoenix St. Mary's High School. Daniel hails from the same high school that produced current Sun Devils Ryan Kealy and Tariq McDonald. Daniel was listed under "Others" in The Long Beach Press-Telegram's "Best In The West" poll. As a junior, Daniel collected 56 tackles and had four interceptions. He was listed as a "senior to watch" by Student Sports Magazine while a junior and was a preseason all-America by SuperPrep. Daniel was coached by Pat Farrell.

One of two flybacks signed is Jake Each (6-1, 240) of Muscatine, Iowa. Each, who starred at Muscatine High School, averaged 6.0 yards per carry in earning all-state, all-conference and all-metro accolades at Muscatine. Each won the Bill Roach Award, given annually to the school's Most Valuable Player. Each also played linebacker and tallied 115 tackles. He is a member of the National Honor Society and was all-conference academically. Each earned player of the week kudos four times from local media outlets and lettered three times in football. Each selected ASU over Michigan State, Iowa and Iowa State. Each was coached by Jerry Teal.

One of the top defensive backs is local Peoria product Brandon Falkner, a 6-0, 185-pound cornerback from Peoria High School. Falkner was named to Phoenix Metro Magazine's Super All-State Team as a senior while leading his team to a 6-2-2 record in 1997. Falkner also won the state's Tyrone Byrd Award, given annually to the state's best defensive back. Falkner posted 65 tackles, 28 assists and added two fumble recoveries, two interceptions and 12 pass deflections last year. As a junior, he collected 33 solo stops, 21 assists, one fumble recovery, three interceptions and nine pass deflections. Peoria recorded a 7-4-1 record that season. Falkner was a three-year starter and never missed a game. He was listed as a "senior to watch" by Student Sports Magazine while a junior and was a preseason all-America by Prep Star Magazine and by SuperPrep. Falkner also was honorable mention all-America by USA Today and was named to The Tacoma News-Tribune's "Western 100" squad. He was listed under "Others" in The Long Beach Press-Telegram's "Best In The West" poll. He won the defensive Most Valuable Player Award at the Bruce Snyder ASU Football Camp last summer. Falkner was coached by Doug Clapp.

Erik Flowers (6-4, 240) is one of the heralded JC defensive line recruits. Flowers, who comes to ASU from Trinity Junior College in Athens, Texas, is a member of Prep Star's Top 100 Junior College players. Flowers was a JC Gridwire and NJCAA first-team all-American. Flowers, collected 15 quarterback sacks, 97 tackles, two fumble recoveries, one interception and had numerous quarterback hurries. He was coached at Trinity by Scotty Connolly, whose team was 12-0 and ranked No. 3 in the nation in 1997 while winning a National Championship. He attended Roosevelt High School in San Antonio, Texas and won a state championship there his senior season.

One of the trio of wide receivers is Joey Graves (6-1, 175) of Florence High School in Casa Grande. Last year Graves caught 34 passes for 623 yards and eight touchdowns. He had 86 catches for over 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns in the past two years. He holds school records in career receptions and for catches in a single game. Graves was a member of the Super All-State team by Phoenix Metro Magazine and was honorable mention all-America by USA Today. He also was listed under "Others" in The Long Beach Press-Telegram's "Best In The West" poll. He was a member of Tom Lemming's Dream Team and was all-Region by PrepStar. Graves chose ASU over Arizona, UCLA and Oregon. He was coached by Randy Robbins.

Kyion Grayes (6-0, 185, pronounced KEY-on) is a well-decorated defensive back. Grayes hails from the same school that produced original signing class mate Larry Montgomery. He rushed for 1,729 yards on 255 carries for a 6.78 yard-per-carry average. Grayes scored 21 touchdowns and also garnered three interceptions as a defensive back. Grayes set Troy High School records for most touchdowns (21), most points (126) and most touchdowns rushing (21) in a single season. He also set single game records for most touchdowns (4), most carries (44), best average per carry (20.4), most touchdowns rushing (4) and most plays (44). Grayes was all-Freeway League and team Most Valuable Player as a junior and all-Freeway League, league Most Valuable Player and all-C.I.F. as a senior. Against Fullerton High, Grayes had 24 carries for 237 yards, four touchdowns, nine tackles and two quarterback sacks. Against LaSerra High, he collected 265 yards, three touchdowns, seven tackles, two sacks and an interception. He was the 100-meter, 4 x 100-meter relay and long jump champion in the Freeway league. Grayes, who captained the football and track and field teams, lettered three times in football and twice in track and field.

Todd Heap (6-5, 220) is the Arizona 4A-5A Big School Player of the Year by The Arizona Republic and was the East Valley Two-Way Player of the Year by The Mesa Tribune. He also earned first-team all-East Valley by The Mesa Tribune. He also won the Ed Doherty Award, presented annually to the state's top high school football player by the Active 20-30 Clubs of Arizona. Heap amassed 44 receptions for 749 yards and 15 touchdowns last year for state champion Mountain View High. In the state championship game at Sun Devil Stadium, Heap caught a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion, threw for a touchdown and led a defensive effort that stopped Tucson Amphitheater short of a first down late in the game to preserve a 28-24 victory and a 14-0 season. His career records at Mountain View include career receptions (79), touchdown receptions in a game (3), touchdown catches in a season (15) and touchdown catches in a career (25). As a linebacker, Heap tied for second on the team in tackles, led the team in solo tackles, was second in interceptions (5) and tied for third in quarterback sacks (5). Heap made the 1997 Super All-State team by Phoenix Metro Magazine both as a tight end and as a linebacker. He was the magazine's 5A Player of the Year as well as the Phoenix Metro Player of the Year and the Mesa City Player of the Year. USA Today selected Heap as an honorable mention all-America pick and The Long Beach Press-Telegram gave him eight votes (out of a possible 10) which gave him first-team status. He also made The Tacoma News-Tribune's "Western 100". Heap's 15 touchdown catches was second most in the state. He was listed as the No. 4 tight end in the nation in the preseason by SuperPrep and was an all-American selection by that publication this month. Also a basketball player, Heap helped lead Mountain View to a three-year 37-3 varsity record and back-to-back state championships. This year's team is also in the state title hunt. Heap played for coach Bernie Busken. Heap chose ASU over Brigham Young, Stanford and Arizona.

Falkner's teammate, running back Kyran Jones (6-1, 175), is a PrepStar Dream Team all-American and was rated the No. 10 running back in the nation by SuperPrep. He also is a Top 100 player as noted by CBS Sportsline. After a sensational senior season, Jones was named first-team "Best In The West" (seven votes) by The Long Beach Press-Telegram and is a member of The Tacoma News-Tribune's "Western 100" team. Jones, whose first name is pronounced KY-ruhn, also was named to Phoenix Metro Magazine's Super All-State team and was honorable mention all-America by USA Today. Jones amassed 1,460 yards and 30 touchdowns in eight games before suffering an injury in the first quarter of the ninth game of his senior year. As a junior, Jones rushed for 2,094 yards and scored 32 touchdowns. His single-game high of 388 yards is an all-time Arizona prep record. He also earned second-team all-Arizona honors by The Arizona Republic. Jones selected ASU over Washington, UCLA, Arizona, Texas and Nebraska.

Damien Niko, a 6-5, 295-pound projected offensive tackle hails from Mesa's Mountain View High School. Niko, pronounced NEE-koh, signed with ASU after considering UCLA, among others. He was a three-year starter for Mountain View, which won back-to-back state 5A Championships at Sun Devil Stadium in 1996 and 1997. Niko was an honorable mention all-America choice by USA Today and a first-team 5A East Valley Region selection by The Mesa Tribune in both 1996 and '97. He was listed as a "senior to watch" by Student Sports Magazine while a junior. He was a preseason all-America by Prep Star Magazine and was all-FarWest by SuperPrep in its preseason issue. He also was a member of Phoenix Metro Magazine's Super All-State team and a member of the "Super Dozen" by The Arizona Republic. Niko also made The Tacoma News-Tribune's "Western 100" list and was listed under "Others" in The Long Beach Press-Telegram's "Best In The West" poll. Niko, who is a finalist for the Brian Murray Award, presented annually to the state's top offensive lineman, was coached by Bernie Busken.

The other tailback is J.R. Peroulis, a 6-1, 200-pound back from Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, Colorado. Peroulis (pronounced Purr-OOO-lus), who high jumps 6' 6" and is a sprinter on the track and field team, rushed for 1,871 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. He was a member of the Colorado Class 5A All-State first-team and helped Grand Junction to a 6-4 record. He rushed for 313 yards in one game. Peroulis chose ASU over Nebraska, UCLA and Colorado State.

Mike Pinkard (6-5, 220) is another highly sought-after prospect who earned the fifth-best ranking among tight ends in the country by SuperPrep and was an all-American selection by the same publication. Pinkard, also was an all-American selection by PrepStar and was listed as the No. 2 tight end in the Big 12 Region. The Thornton, Colorado, native, who runs a 4.5 in the 40-meters, caught 30 passes for 627 yards and eight touchdowns in 1997. In addition to averaging 40 yards per punt, Pinkard also played defensive end, posting 13 quarterback sacks and recovering three fumbles. He returned one for a score. Pinkard chose ASU over Colorado.

Ryan Ransom-Pittinger (6-6, 235) is a preseason all-American by both SuperPrep and PrepStar magazines. A defensive lineman from Long Beach Wilson High School, Ransom-Pittinger had 60 tackles and eight quarterback sacks in eight games last year. He missed part of the season with an injured right leg. He was listed as the No. 97 player in the Far West by SuperPrep at season's end. Ransom-Pittinger chose ASU over USC and Arizona.

Jawell Samilton (6-4, 290) is a transfer from Los Angeles Southwest College. He helped lead Los Angeles Southwest to a 7-4 record in 1997. Southwest head coach Henry Washington called Samilton, "a run-stopping machine" and added, "they don't get any better." He earned first-team all-State honors on defense in Region II from the Junior College Athletic Bureau/California Community College Football Coaches Association. Samilton will play defensive tackle and chose ASU over USC.

Darrell Turner (6-1, 240) is a flyback/defensive end from Mayfair High School in Bellflower, Calif. A punishing blocker, Turner was listed as one of the top 23 players in Southern California by The Long Beach Press-Telegram and is a member of The Tacoma News-Tribune's "Western 100" squad. He was an all-Suburban League choice at both fullback and defensive end and collected 11 quarterback sacks and one interception as a junior. Turner, who selected ASU over UCLA and Wisconsin, was coached by Mitch Fitch.

ASU went to Utah to sign linebacker Mason Unck (6-3, 210) of Ogden. Unck (pronounced Unc, as in Uncle), who starred at Bonneville High School, runs a 4.6 40-yard dash. In 1997 he earned all-region, all-area and all-state kudos. Unck also earned honorable mention all-region in 1996 in basketball. As a senior, Unck collected 85 tackles, two interceptions (one for a touchdown), two caused fumbles, five fumble recoveries, eight quarterback sacks and six pass deflections. As a junior, he registered 92 tackles, three interceptions (two for scores), three caused fumbles, four fumble recoveries and five sacks. Last week in a basketball game, Unck scored a career-high 34 points and collected seven rebounds, seven steals and seven blocked shots. Unck selected ASU over Michigan State, Colorado, Brigham Young and Washington State.

A tackle prospect is Adam "Big Country" Williams (6-6, 295) from Garland, Texas. Williams is a Texas Top 100 selection by The Dallas Morning News as well as a second-team choice on Dave Campbell's Texas Super Team. Williams was rated as the #42 player in Texas by SuperPrep and was an all-Region honoree this season. He was second-team all-state in the preseason and honorable mention in 1996. Williams earned first-team all-District and all-state honors in 1997 and was a member of PrepStar's all-Region team in '97. Williams chose ASU over Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor.

Another defensive back is Alfred Williams (6-2, 200) of Irvine, Calif., Irvine High School. Williams was a tailback at the beginning of the season, rushing for 219 yards and four touchdowns in the first game, but missed the remainder of the campaign with a leg injury. Williams is a member of The Tacoma News-Tribune's "Western 100" list. At the beginning of the season Williams was being recruited by Michigan, UCLA and Washington State among others. Williams chose ASU over Oregon.

Aaron Winterswyk, a 6-4, 235-pound prospect at both tight end and defensive end hails from LaHabra, CA and Sonora High School. He caught 18 passes for 377 yards and scored three touchdowns as a junior. Winterswyk (pronounced Winters-WIKE) was named to The Tacoma News-Tribune's "Western 100" list. He was selected a preseason all-America by SuperPrep and Prep Star Magazines. Winterswyk was coached by Mark Takkionen at Sonora and selected ASU over Colorado, Texas and California.

Ralph Zarate (6-5, 290) of Tucson High was selected to the 1996 Parade Magazine all-American team and received seven votes as a member of The Long Beach Press Telegram's "Best In The West" team. A Class 5A All-State selection by The Arizona Republic, Zarate was listed as the "consensus top pick out of Arizona" by Student Sports Magazine and was a starter since his sophomore season. He was first-team all-city and all-Southern Conference as a senior and he won the Brian Murray Award, presented annually to the state's best interior lineman. A three-sport star, Zarate averaged 18 points and 14 rebounds per game in basketball and was a starting first baseman and pitcher in baseball. Zarate also was first-team all-city and all-Southern Conference as a junior. An excellent pulling lineman and downfield blocker, Zarate bench presses 375 pounds and was named a first-team preseason all-American by Student Sports Magazine. Zarate was listed on PrepStar's "Best In The West" list and was the No. 5 offensive lineman in the West.

1998 Arizona State University Football Signees

Name                        Pos.    Yr. Ht.  Wt.  Hometown (Last School)     
James Beal                  DL      Fr. 6-3  260  DeSoto, TX (DeSoto)       
Matt Cooper                 QB      Fr. 6-4  210  Pleasanton, CA (Amador)                                                     Valley)
Willie Daniel #             DB      Fr. 6-0  195  Phoenix, AZ (St. Mary's)
Jake Each                   FB      Fr. 6-1  240  Muscatine, IA (Muscatine)
Brandon Falkner  !`@#*      DB      Fr. 6-0  185  Peoria, AZ (Peoria)
Erik Flowers ^              DL      Jr. 6-4  240  San Antonio, TX (Trinity Valley CC)
Joey Graves  `              WR      Fr. 6-1  175  Casa Grande, AZ (Florence)
Kyion Grayes                DB/ATH  Fr. 6-0  185  Fullerton, CA (Troy)
Todd Heap  !+@#*`           TE      Fr. 6-5  220  Mesa, AZ (Mountain View)
Junior Ioane                DL      Jr. 6-5  285  Ephraim, UT (Snow CC)
Kyran Jones  !+@#*`         TB/ATH  Fr. 6-1  175  Peoria, AZ (Peoria)
Damien Niko  !`@            OL      Fr. 6-5  295  Mesa, AZ (Mountain View)
J.R. Peroulis               TB/ATH  Fr. 6-1  200  Grand Junction, CO (Grand Junction)
Mike Pinkard!`@#            DL      Fr. 6-5  220  Thornton, CO (Thornton)
Ryan Ransom-Pittinger  @#   DL      Fr. 6-6  235  Long Beach, CA (Wilson)
Jawell Samilton  ^          DL      Jr. 6-2  290  Los Angeles, CA (S'west CC)
Darrell Turner  !#          FB/DE   Fr. 6-1  240  Bellflower, CA (Mayfair)
Mason Unck                  LB      Fr. 6-3  210  Ogden, UT (Bonneville)
Adam Williams  #            OL      Fr. 6-6  295  Garland, TX (Garland)
Alfred Williams  !          DB/ATH  Fr. 6-2  200  Irvine, CA (Irvine)
Aaron Winterswyk  !@#       TE/DE   Fr. 6-4  235  LaHabra, CA (Sonora)
Ralph Zarate  &+=@          OL      Fr. 6-5  290  Tucson, AZ (Tucson)

& Parade Magazine All-American
+ Long Beach Press Telegram's "Best In The West" First-Team
% Long Beach Press-Telegram's "Best Of The Rest" Team
! Tacoma News-Tribune Western 100
` USA Today All-American
* Phoenix Metro Magazine Super All-State Team
@ All-America by Prep Star Magazine
^ Top 100 Jucos by Prep Star Magazine
# All-America by SuperPrep
= SuperPrep 1998 Far West Top 100 (1997 for Zarate)

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