It's not the Territorial Cup and it's not the Pac-12 Championship, but the upcoming weekend for the Arizona State football program rivals the importance of a game week for the Sun Devils.
Beginning on Friday, Arizona State will host at least 15 recruits on official visits for the class of 2014 that the Sun Devils are looking to lock down before Signing Day on Feb. 5.
The Sun Devils are hosting a wide variety of recruits from solid commitments like 4-star quarterback Manny Wilkins to "on the fence" recruits like 3-star offensive lineman Alex Anderson and even a few recruits who have verbally committed to other universities like 4-star offensive tackle Kenyon Frison.
On Wednesday, House of Sparky editor emeritus Brad Denny tweeted out a list of recruits taking an official visit to Arizona State this weekend compiled by devilsdigest.com.
The Anatomy of an Official Visit
Official visits are a football program's best chance to show off to potential signees because it allows the program to pay for a recruit's travel expenses, meals, on-campus events, and regional entertainment options while giving coaches access to recruits in an on-campus setting for 48 hours.
An official visit affords coaches the opportunities to pull out all the stops, and showcase why attending their university and playing for their team is the best decision a recruit will make.
On official visits, recruits have the opportunity to spend time with future teammates as current players "host" a recruit during the weekend visit. Coaches will often pair recruits with players in their position groups, or with players who have done an excellent job at helping recruits firm up their commitments in the past.
The visits aren't geared toward just the players, as a recruit's parents are also invited on the trip which allows coaches and athletics personnel to help convince parents that their son is making the right decision.
For Arizona State, Friday Jan. 17 marks the beginning of a 48-hour whirlwind tour that could make or break the recruiting cycle. If the Sun Devil coaches perform well, they'll keep every current verbal commitment and convince a few of their high priority targets that committing to Arizona State is the best choice. If they don't succeed, then Arizona State has a chance to lose a few current commits making the trek to Tempe this weekend.
The Solid Verbals
Arizona State is fortunate to have a number of solid verbal commitments visiting the school this weekend. Solid verbal commitments are the players most likely to keep their pledge to sign with the Sun Devils on Signing Day, but they're also advantageous in that they can help convince other recruits to join them.
The Sun Devils made sure that quarterback recruit Manny Wilkins would be in town this weekend, as Wilkins has played an incredible role in the class of 2014 recruiting cycle. Wilkins has worked on fellow recruits to commit to Arizona State and he's practically served as an extra coach on the recruiting trail. The Sun Devil coaching staff will have Wilkins working on their top uncommitted priorities all weekend to ensure that they get a future player in the ears of peers with a big decision to make.
Other solid verbals visiting this weekend include local recruits in 4-star wide receiver Tyler Whiley and 3-star offensive lineman Quinn Bailey as well as Texas natives and Allen High School products Chad Adams and Christian Sam.
In total, a majority of the recruits visiting this weekend are very likely to keep their commitments for the next three weeks and a strong showing from the coaching staff will only reinforce that idea.
The High Priority Targets
Technically speaking, if all of Arizona State's current verbal commitments signed on Signing Day, then Arizona State wouldn't really have room to take on an extra recruit. The Sun Devils have maxed out on scholarships for this recruiting cycle, but there are still players they're willing to accept for the class of 2014.
The player visiting this weekend that Arizona State would most like to make an impression on is 4-star junior college wide receiver Eric Lauderdale. Lauderdale stands 6-foot-2 and weighs just under 200 pounds and could start opposite Jaelen Strong if he ended up in Tempe. Lauderdale will choose between Arizona State, Florida, Nebraska and Oregon and has tweeted that he'll make his decision after an official visit to Oregon on Jan. 24.
Arizona State has a few 3-star recruits visiting this weekend who have interest in the program in running back J.T. Gray and cornerback Kweishi Brown, but the Sun Devils' top priority does not appear to be joining the party this weekend.
Offensive tackle Casey Tucker is a 4-star recruit out of Hamilton High School and would represent a critical commitment if he chooses to sign with Arizona State in February. Tucker visited Stanford last weekend and was admitted to the university academically (a big hurdle for some Cardinal recruits) but he will still visit Arizona State.
If the Sun Devils can snag either Lauderdale or Tucker, they'll consider the end of this recruiting cycle a major success.
The Soft Verbals
According to devilsdigest.com, Arizona State has three soft verbal commitments visiting this weekend. Running backs Kalen Ballage and Demario Richard will be coming to Tempe as well as offensive lineman Alex Anderson.
Anderson is a curious case as he de-committed from Arizona State last week before being scheduled to take an official visit to Oklahoma State. However, his potential offensive line coach at Oklahoma State, Joe Wickline, was named the offensive coordinator at Texas on Wednesday. Anderson re-upped his commitment with the Sun Devils, and will now visit Arizona State and Texas before making a decision.
Ballage is a 4-star recruit with an incredible amount of athleticism. He would be a tremendous recruit for Arizona State to land as Rivals.com considers him the No. 1 recruit in the state of Colorado. Ballage has also shown interest in Nebraska and Washington, but a strong weekend at Arizona State could make all the difference.
As for Richard, he's the most likely of the three soft verbals to stick with Arizona State. Manny Wilkins has recruited Richard hard and Richard played with Wilkins, Tyler Whiley and Kammy Delp in the Semper Fidelis Bowl in early January. Richard appears content with his pledge, and we think this weekend will likely seal the deal with his commitment.
Arizona State has two recruits visiting this weekend who have committed to other universities already. Offensive guard Ty Barrett and offensive tackle Kenyon Frison are both 4-star recruits who the Sun Devils are likely recruiting if they lose out on Anderson's commitment and don't receive a pledge from Casey Tucker.
Barrett is committed to Texas Christian University while Frison has pledged to Utah, but both are considered soft verbals. If Arizona State can flip one of the two, it will have shown the power of this Sun Devil coaching staff to bring in recruits and impress them on official visits.