By Hod Rabino • ASUDevils.com
A prospect committing to a school sight unseen is certainly uncommon even in the unpredictable world of college football recruiting. Brandon Aiyuk though did take that leap of faith when signing with ASU in February and his experience in Tempe over the weekend only enhanced his already strong sentiments about the program.
"I'm liking the school even more now," Aiyuk said after his visit. "I got to watch practices on Thursday and Friday, and I really liked the energy in practice. I like the quarterback, Manny Wilkins and the no. 1 wide receiver (N'Keal Harry) and I already knew about these guys before I saw them (in-person).
"I was hanging out with Terin Adams and Koron Crump who are both JUCO guys. I didn't know the facilities were as nice as they would be, so I was kind of shocked when I saw the locker room and the weight room. I love the city and I'm just more excited now to get out there now that I visited."
The versatility of the Rocklin (Calif.) Sierra College athlete was naturally very appealing to the ASU staff, even though it hasn't been absolutely determined yet which side of the ball Aiyuk will line up at. Then again, Arizona State's head coach was sending some thick hints on this topic during Aiyuk's visit.
"I was watching the wide receivers," Aiyuk described, "and coach Herm was joking around telling me 'don't get too comfortable over there with the receivers' because he wants me to play defensive back. I'm not sure where I'm going to play and I talked to a lot of people on the visit. I think when I get there I'll play both positions and they'll see how I respond.
"I think I'm a receiver, but we'll see what happens." In 2017 Aiyuk posted 60 receptions that resulted in 960 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 38.0 yards on 11 kickoff returns.
In our previous interviews with ASU coaches on both sides of the ball, there was more than enough praise to go around regarding Aiyuk's skill set.
"He's an athlete," said ASU cornerbacks coach Tony White. "We are going to figure out after spring ball how that goes depending on depth and all that stuff. Again, first thing you do when you watch the film, he is the best athlete on the field. You put him at slot receiver and he's taking hitch screens and he's making dudes miss and he's exploding by them and then you watch him on his return game and he is a guy who catches the ball and he diagnoses the field well and makes quick decisions. Those are all traits of a good defensive back/good slot. So, we are going to wait and see and let the guys play it out and go through spring ball and find out where he is going to help the team the most."
"He's dynamic with the ball in his hand," said offensive coordinator Rob Likens. "That's the No. 1 thing with that kid. Whether he plays defensive back or safety or whatever if he ends up playing on offense, I know this: he is going to help us as a returner. That kid just needs to ball in his hands. We'll see. That's something Herm (Edwards) will have to answer about where the guy ends up. But he definitely needs the ball in his hands to impact the game."
The junior college transfer said that he spent most of his time on the visit talking to wide receivers coach Charlie Fisher and special team coach Shawn Slocum.
"Coach Fisher is a really good coach and I could be the way he was talking to his players during practice," Aiyuk described. "He's a smart coach and he knows what he's talking about. On my visit, we talked more about life and stuff outside of football. Eating dinner with him we got to talk about a lot of different things. I talked to coach Likens about where I would play (as a wide receiver and he said that he wanted me to move around, but I think I'm a natural outside receiver.
"Coach Slocum told me that when I get here (in the summer) to make sure I get with my punter a lot and catch a lot of punts and fight for that punt returner spot. He wants that position to e more effective because last year they only had two punts returns that were ten yards or longer. We mostly talked about punt return but I can kick return as well."
ASU had to beat the likes of Alabama when recruiting Aiyuk, as the Crimson Tide made a late push in the recruiting process all the way until and including signing day. Even though the last contact he had with that school was after he sent in his letter of intent to the Sun Devils, he has no regrets over his decision. Kansas, Tennessee and Colorado State received official visits from the Sierra athlete earlier in the process.
Aiyuk stated that ASU did show interest in November but following the coaching change in Tempe, his recruitment with the team stalled. When it picked up in January Aiyuk already committed to visiting the aforementioned schools, but his ultimate pledge was to Arizona State and came the night prior to signing day.
"I'm just excited to get back into a uniform and play football," Aiyuk commented. "I don't have to worry anymore about which school I'm going to play for. That is what excited me the most.
"I was yards short of a 1,000 (receiving) yards in junior college, so if I play receiver I want to get a 1,000 yards. I also want to break the (ASU season) 14-touchdown record."
Aiyuk is scheduled to graduate in May and plans to arrive at ASU later that month.