Late Saturday night, Jefferson (Ga.) four-star offensive lineman Caleb Chandler had plans to return to Georgia and think over his eye-opening Iowa State visit.
Turns out, the highly regarded prospect couldn’t wait.
Before the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Chandler left Ames on Sunday, he gave his pledge to the Cyclones, giving Matt Campbell and Co. a four-star lineman who is regarded as the nation’s No. 21 overall guard in the 2017 class.
“This is where I belong and coach Tom Manning is the real deal,” Chandler said of his decision to end his recruitment. “[We’re] perfect for each other.”
Chandler, who also held offers from the likes of Florida, Louisville, Maryland, Missouri, Minnesota, Virginia Tech, Purdue and others, has long been a priority for Iowa State and Manning. Iowa State visited Chandler during the spring evaluation period and had been waiting to host him this month.
The Cyclones, who have three other offensive linemen committed in the 2017 class, have been eyeing Chandler as a final piece to that group as the staff works to rebuild the program’s offensive line through recruiting.
His weekend visit made that vision clear.
“After [Saturday], and talking with Zeb [Noland] and the other players from all over the U.S. who decided to come here to Iowa State because of the coaches and the town and how it feels like home, it makes me wanna be a part of that right now,” Chandler said. “[It] makes me wanna be a Cyclone right now, because it feels like home and with this coaching staff and future for this team, who wouldn't wanna be a part of it?”
Chandler spent much of his day Saturday with Campbell, Manning and Noland, including some time watching film with Manning. Iowa State has told its new lineman that he could play anywhere across the offensive line.
“He loves me and wants to coach me. I want him to coach me. We have that special bond,” Chandler said of Manning. “[Our] relationship was already strong before I came, but [Saturday] it got a lot stronger and he says I can play all over the line. [He] didn't say a position but he is the man my coach wants me to play for and he's the guy I can see and want to play for.”
Campbell shared a similar message.
“His message was that the fans are always packing out the games, being loud and crazy,” Chandler said. “By adding me and others to this already good-looking team, it's time to give the fans more reasons to be crazy and loud and win ball games and championships, and I want to be a part of that.”
Now, Chandler will be.
His trip Saturday proved to be only his first.
The Jefferson (Ga.) native quickly connected with true freshman quarterback and fellow Georgia native Zeb Noland, who grew up some 30 miles away in Watkinsville (Ga.). In the years ahead, he now plans to block for him.
“The facilities, coaching staff and players and the campus itself, I love everything about it,” Chandler said of Iowa State. “[I] toured everywhere and hung out and chilled with the coaches and Zeb. Zeb and I lived really close to each other, and having him down here and him telling me about this place and how he fell in love with it, I see what he fell in love with because I fell in love with it all as well.
“We got really close [Saturday], hung out with him almost the entire time and [he said] how special the place is — it really is special — and how they need me and [I can] be a part of something special down here in Ames. I love it down here.”