Tight end Mark Walton commits to Arizona State

Cibola (Yuma) tight end Mark Walton committed to Arizona State on Monday evening, becoming the 10th player from the state of Arizona to join the Sun Devils' 2017 recruiting class.

Arizona State is closing in on landing a historic local recruiting class, and with two days remaining until National Signing Day, the Sun Devils decided they weren't done adding recruits from the state of Arizona.

On Monday evening, Cibola (Yuma) tight end Mark Walton announced his commitment to ASU, becoming the 10th Arizona-based player to pledge to the Sun Devils' 2017 recruiting class.

"Amazing," Walton said of the opportunity. "I've been wanting to go to ASU for the longest time. This feels amazing." 

Walton is the first two-star prospect the Sun Devils have accepted a commitment from in the current cycle, and is the 17th player to commit to ASU's current class. Walton is the second tight end prospect to commit to ASU, joining three-star recruit Jared Poplawski out of Saguaro (Scottsdale), but the Sun Devils may have a difficult time keeping Poplawski's commitment after he visited Colorado officially over the weekend.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Walton chose ASU over reported scholarship offers from Florida Atlantic, San Diego State and Vanderbilt. Walton visited Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt officially before heading out to Tempe over the weekend. 

"I've always liked them cause they're in-state, and ever since I started playing football and knew I had the potential to play in college, I just was hoping that ASU would offer me." 

Walton said the Sun Devils didn't start showing interest in him as a prospect until last week, when senior defensive analyst Conrad Hamilton reached out to him.

"Last week, coach Hamilton called me and he was like, 'Do you want to take an official visit to ASU this week?' and I was like, 'Yeah, sure, I'm down. Then right after that, the Vanderbilt coach called me, so that's why I went there on a mid-week official visit."

Walton said the Sun Devils initially considered grayshirting him, and that he was considering other colleges as options, but Walton told SunDevilSource a phone call with new ASU offensive coordinator Billy Napier on Monday shored up his decision. Walton said Napier told him he'd be receiving a scholarship and wouldn't have to grayshirt. 

"I went to ASU and then on Sunday is when they offered me. At first they weren't guaranteeing me to come in this fall, I could have potentially grayshirted, but coach Napier called me and said we want to bring you in for sure, 100 percent this fall."

In his final season at Cibola, Walton played tight end and outside linebacker, recording 39 receptions for 690 yards and 10 touchdowns. 

Walton's commitment comes two after head coach Todd Graham hired former Alabama wide receivers coach Billy Napier as the program's new offensive coordinator.

Napier's only previous experience as an offensive coordinator came at Clemson under head coach Dabo Swinney, and Napier's offense incorporated tight ends more frequently than former ASU offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey did in his lone season at ASU. Lindsey left the Sun Devils 10 days prior to Signing Day to become the offensive coordinator at Auburn under former Graham assistant and current Tigers' head coach Gus Malzahn.

If ASU signs both Walton and Poplawski, the program will have six tight ends on the roster heading into 2016. The Sun Devils graduated three-year starter Kody Kohl, but return senior Grant Martinez, junior Jay Jay Wilson, sophomore Thomas Hudson and redshirt freshman Jared Bubak in 2017. 

Walton is the second player to commit to ASU on Monday, joining four-star safety Evan Fields who announced his decision at his high school Monday morning. 

With the addition of Walton, the average star rating of ASU's commits is now 3.35, which is slightly below the program record of 3.43 set back in 2015. 

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