Not long ago, Arizona State was the frontrunner to land Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Thunderridge tackle Sam Jones. And, for the most part, that's still the case. Thing is, the Sun Devils now have company at the top of his list. Open and shut, this ordeal is not. Not anymore.
Upon returning from a weekend visit to the Upper Northwest to see the campuses of both Oregon and Oregon State, the three-star prospect's tune had significantly changed. It's not as though ASU has suddenly become an underdog. It's just that the struggle to land Jones' commitment is going to be a dogfight.
Things are so rarely easy on the recruiting trail. And getting a commitment from a player of Jones' caliber doesn't happen without some semblance of resistance.
"Oregon definitely exceeded expectations," Jones said on Sunday. "I don't know which one I like better right now between them and Arizona State."
Jones struggles to separate Arizona State and Oregon in any way. At this point, he's actually careful not to. He guards against making a statement based on a whim and is reserved when asked to compare the two programs. ASU may still ultimately win the fight, but it will have to knock out the Ducks to do so.
"Oregon is pretty fresh in my mind, so I just can't say that it's better because it's fresh in my mind," Jones said. "Every school that is fresh in my mind probably seems better. But I don't know right now. I need to sit down and make a pros-and-cons list."
As for the other schools still alive in his recruitment, there seem to be a pair of programs occupying the space just under the two frontrunners. So while it once looked as though Jones was teetering on the verge of ending his recruitment by choosing the Sun Devils, things are starting to get more interesting.
Suddenly, there are other trips to be taken and more evaluations to be made.
"Colorado State is still in the mix for staying close to home," Jones said. "And I got an offer from Kansas State right before the Oregon State junior day, and I haven't been out there yet. I don't know when I will get out to Kansas State, but I am definitely going to try to go out there."
K-State's pull with Jones is being aided by current Wildcat commit Dalton Risner, a friend and workout partner of Jones. His ties to Risner and, in turn, Manhattan, are the driving force behind his desire to give Bill Snyder's program a closer look.
"I'm pretty good buddies with Dalton," Jones said. "He's been recruiting me to Kansas State pretty hard. He was sending me pictures of their spring game this weekend and everything else. I think I'm going to go out there with Dalton this summer."
Jones, a three-star prospect, currently holds seven scholarship in total and would like to make a verbal commitment before the start of his senior season.