Signing day can be filled with high drama, anxiety, flips

Desert Ridge's Jalen Harris (8) makes a catch over Hamilton's Ezekiel Robbins (5) in the first half at Desert Ridge High School on September 9, 2016 in Mesa, Ariz.

Desert Ridge’s Jalen Harris (8) makes a catch over Hamilton’s Ezekiel Robbins (5) in the first half at Desert Ridge High School on September 9, 2016 in Mesa, Ariz.

It might be the most nerve-racking day in a college football coaching staff’s room.

Signing day.

Will that prized recruit have a change of heart?

Will he be swept off his feet from another school in the last hour?

Sounds of the fax machines will play like symphonies all across the country Wednesday.

For Arizona State, it is hoping to score 11 from this state.

But will there be a flip?

MORE: Twitter is a player in the recruiting game

Scottsdale Saguaro tight end Jared Poplawski could be one of those. He committed before the season to ASU with two of his teammates, defensive end Kyle Soelle and offensive lineman Corey Stephens.

However, recruiters are relentless, even after kids commit.

Three weeks into January, Poplawski received an offer from Oregon. And on Monday, ASU got a commitment from another tight end, Yuma Cibola’s Mark Walton.

“It will be a good idea to be there tomorrow,” Saguaro coach Jason Mohns said about anticipated signing day fireworks at his place.

ASU has been holding out an offensive line scholarship for the state’s most prized lineman, Phoenix North Canyon’s Austin Jackson, who has a No. 35 national composite ranking.

Jackson will announce his college choice mid-morning Wednesday at his school.

WEDNESDAY: National Signing Day in Arizona updates

With Saguaro offensive lineman Sean Seawards committing to UCLA on Tuesday, that is another indication that the Sun Devils feel they have lost Jackson in the recruiting wars to either USC or Washington, his two other finalists.

Seawards’ recruiting heated up in the past two weeks, committing to Boise State, after that had become his biggest offer. But a day later, UCLA offered and brought him in for a visit over the weekend.

Seawards then took to Twitter to announce that he had decommitted from Boise State.

Signing-day anxiety never ceases.

Arizona is hoping for a signed letter of intent from Mesa Desert Ridge defensive end Jalen Harris, whose father, Sean, was an All-American middle linebacker for the Wildcats in the 1990s. Jalen committed last August to UA.

Harris has been hopping from one official trip to the next, looking at Colorado, Illinois and Notre Dame, where last weekend he tweeted out a picture of himself in a Notre Dame uniform with the hashtag “TicToc.”

“It’s up to him at the end of the day,” Desert Ridge coach Jeremy Hathcock said. “Notre Dame might have some magic in it. But I’m pretty sure he’ll stay true to his word.”

MORE: Where might All-Arizona players wind up on Signing Day?

Who can forget the year Scottsdale Chaparral receiver/cornerback Davonte’ Neal didn’t appear at his own news conference at his former elementary school in Ahwatukee, where students were waiting with cutout pictures of Neal? He was expected to sign with Notre Dame, but Arizona was big on his trail. He finally came to the elementary school in the afternoon to announce Notre Dame. He ended up finishing his college career this past season at UA.

Then, there was the year Tempe Corona del Sol defensive tackle Todd Peat Jr. spotted a Nebraska license plate, feeling that was a sign to commit to the Cornhuskers.

This year, everybody is waiting to see what Jackson does.

He isn’t giving any indication, but he has family from California. His grandfather played for USC in the 1970s, during the Trojans’ heyday.

Three-time All-Arizona safety Isaiah Pola-Mao, whom Phoenix Mountain Pointe coach Norris Vaughan believes will be playing on Sundays some day, is expected to sign with USC after committing last week.

Two years ago, Mountain Pointe running back/receiver Paul Lucas flipped from ASU to Oregon State on signing day.

RELATED: TE Walton becomes ASU’s 10th in-state commit

Don’t expect Pola-Mao to change his mind. He is set on being a Trojan. He praised how he felt at home there. And Pola-Mao, who has family roots at USC, is all about family.

Peoria Centennial defensive end/tight end Andrew Nichols will make his college announcement Wednesday, but nobody, not even his coaches, know his finalists.

“He had this dream all his life to be on a stage and pull out that hat,” Dave Nichols said. “God bless him. He worked hard at it, having this day, where he can choose a hat.”

Nichols’ biggest offer would have come from Northwestern, had he accepted on the spot late in the season. But he wasn’t ready to do that.

“That situation was very weird,” Centennial coach Richard Taylor said. “They said, ‘If we offered Andrew today, would he take that offer?’ I said, ‘I think he would.’ The coach called Andrew and said, ‘Would you take that offer?’ And Andrew said no. He was just being honest, because he wanted to look around.

“They appreciated his honesty. That week, his position coach (from Northwestern) came out to look at him. It was between him and another kid. He flies out, and we get rained out. It was lightning that day. So he never gets to see Andrew on the field. He goes back and takes the other guy. If Andrew had played the game, like everyone else, and said, ‘Yes, I’ll take it,’ he probably would be at Northwestern right now. But because he was honest, that didn’t work out.”

MORE: Who will be flipping commitments before signing?

There are always hits and misses in the recruiting process – walk-ons who end up blowing it up in college and carving out a pretty good NFL career, and the four and five stars who peaked in high school.

Former Chandler linebacker Adam Archuleta is the Arizona poster child of the walk-on, defying the odds, making Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year at ASU and having a good NFL career.

So impressed with his rise through his work in the weight room, Desert Ridge named a lift after Archuleta in its workouts.

“My advice to a kid is, ‘Go with the coach who loves you first,’ ” Hathcock said. “They’re been through it all. But don’t be afraid to look at stuff. Late offers means you’re not their first choice. Because you’re sixth on the depth chart, it usually means they weren’t able to get the other five guys, and they’ve got to offer you.”

Suggest human interest stories to Richard Obert at or 602-316-8827. Follow him at

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