When four-star safety K.J. Jarrell took his official visit to Arizona State over the weekend, he did so with three high school teammates who had already made up their minds about their college decisions.
Back in June, three-star prospects and Saguaro (Scottsdale) teammates Kyle Soelle, Corey Stephens and Jared Poplawski offered early commitments to ASU, helping set the foundation for what's shaping up to be one of the strongest local recruiting classes in Sun Devils' history.
Jarrell took much longer to decide on his eventual college destination, but by the time he and his teammates were ready to take their official visits to ASU, Jarrell had his mind made up.
"My family, we're Christians, we prayed about it, and we made the decision two weeks ago," Jarrell said. "Even before my official (visit) and it's crazy, I went to my official and you could see how all of these doors opened, you could see how this could actually be true and how it could happened and it worked out good."
On Wednesday, Jarrell became the ninth player from the state of Arizona to commit to ASU, and the third four-star prospect joining four-star Basha (Chandler) quarterback Ryan Kelley and four-star Highland (Gilbert) Devil backer prospect Tyler Johnson as headliners in the Sun Devils' 2017 recruiting class.
ASU extended Jarrell a scholarship offer back in May of 2015, but even though three of his teammates were ready to commit by June of 2016, Jarrell said he was not done researching the schools he might be interested in, so he wasn't prepared to join the trio just yet.
"They were kind of bothering me, I'd say Corey (Stephens) was bothering me the most, trying to get me to commit early," Jarrell said. "But I felt like once they committed, I hadn't done enough research on the schools that I might be interested in at the time. So it wasn't that I wasn't all about ASU yet, I was just still doing my research and towards the end, I just felt like they were the school that wanted me the most and I decided to stay home."
Aside from having the opportunity to continue playing with Soelle, Stephens and Poplawski, playing for the Sun Devils also affords the Bandit/Spur prospect the chance to play in front of his parents, K.J. Sr. and Patti, both of whom attended ASU.
While Jarrell's teammates badgered him about continuing his career at ASU, despite their ties to the university, Jarrell's father said he and his wife wanted to make sure their son was making the best possible decision for his future.
"This was all about his process and his experience and his decision and we as parents were just supportive of that and making sure that he was getting everything he wanted out of his recruitment and what was important to him in picking a school," Jarrell, Sr. said. "Yes, my wife and I went to ASU and we are happy that he's going to be at ASU and nearby and all of that, but this was about him figuring out what was best for him and our support with that."
Jarrell is the third defensive back to commit to ASU's 2017 recruiting class, joining four-star cornerback Alex Perry and three-star Bandit/Spur prospect Ty Thomas, who is already on campus as a mid-year enrollee. With seven days remaining until National Signing Day, the Sun Devils are attempting to close out the recruiting cycle by landing several high-profile defensive backs, and Jarrell's commitment provides the program with an excellent start.
Saguaro head coach Jason Mohns said Jarrell is capable of playing both defensive back and linebacker at the college level and his versatility has made him a more attractive college prospect.
"Just a phenomenal kid, a great athlete and I think a versatile defender," Mohns said. "A kid that can play safety at the third level, he can roll down into the box, he's really physical, he likes the physical aspect of playing safety and that's I think what makes him special. There's a lot of safeties that have great ball skills and great range that can cover, but a lot of those guys don't want to come down and be a factor in the run game and K.J. is not only willing to do that but he likes to do that. I think that's going to really transition well to the next level."
Even though the Sun Devils have experienced significant coaching turnover this offseason, one of the program's new assistants became a key factor in Jarrell's comfort level with his commitment. New defensive coordinator Phil Bennett played a primary role recruiting Jarrell during his official visit, and also made an in-home visit which left an impression on the young defensive back and his parents.
"It's awesome, man, I got a good in-home visit with Coach Bennett, he just kind of told me how he could use me in their defensive schemes and it's all going to work out pretty good, we've got a good deal going on," Jarrell said.
Jarrell's father said he's had the opportunity to research Bennett's work as a defensive coordinator, and that the opportunity to hear what ASU head coach Todd Graham had to say this past weekend helped assure him that his son was making the right choice.
"We had a great experience on the (official) visit, both with Todd Graham and also being able to spend time with Phil Bennett," Jarrell, Sr. said. "I did my research on him and really wanted to see what he was all about and I liked what I read. With Graham, it was just looking him in the eye and getting a feel for him, having confidence in what you're seeing. I think he's serious about his commitment to trying to improve his players' lives in every way he can and that's not just football but that's academics and being a better man."
Jarrell chose ASU over offers from USC and Cal, but the Sun Devils were the only program that Jarrell visited officially. After his on-campus experience over the weekend, Jarrell called Mohns and said he was ready to commit to his hometown school.
"It was all about staying home," Jarrell said. "I feel comfortable here (at ASU) so I see no reason to leave. I can accomplish anything here that I can almost anywhere else."