Eli Sanders has learned to deal with the unusual circumstances like a lot of people during this pandemic. For the Arizona senior running back, that includes his recruiting process.
The Chandler (AZ) High standout felt comfortable enough with Boise State that he verbally committed to the school on Aug. 1 despite never visiting campus. That didn't stop other programs from pursuing him, especially when he raised his stock with a strong season this fall.
Iowa State extended to him an opportunity on Oct. 8, San Diego State did so on Nov. 22 and Iowa came forward on Tuesday. He's decided to consider those schools while remaining verbally pledged to the Broncos. He has yet to see any of the campuses in person because of the dead period brought on by COVID-19 restrictions.
"It's really difficult because you can't go on visits," Sanders told HN. "You try to do everything you can virtually. You take virtual tours, you FaceTime a lot and you just try to learn as much as you can."
He began getting to know Hawkeye running back coach Derrick Foster about a month ago.
"We're still trying to grow that bond and get to know each other more. But he's a great guy, a great coach, a great mentor," Sanders said.
Foster sees the runner fitting well into his room.
"He says I'm a very versatile guy, catching the ball of of the backfield, being a three-down back," Sanders said.
He's still learning about Iowa as a school and a program. He likes what he's found out so far.
"Iowa is a great program. They play in a great conference. It's a great place to be," Sanders said.
With the commitment to Boise State, he showed that playing in the cold is not a concern. He said he's fine with going farther from home if it's the best place for him.
"I'm just looking for that family fit and a place I can see myself living for the next four or five years," he said.
The school's size or conference affiliation also won't be the determining factor in his ultimate choice.
"I'm going to make the decision off of what really feels like home, where I see myself playing early at and what they bring to the table," Sanders said.
He hasn't settled on a major yet.
"Academics are a big part of the decision. I haven't decided what I want to study, but I know that talk with my parents is coming soon," he said.
Sanders and Chandler are in the playoffs chasing a state championship. That's where his attention is focused.
With the early signing period running from Dec. 16-18, that might be too soon for him to make his decision. While he can't take normal visits to the schools he's considering, he and his parents plan on traveling to the towns to get a feel for the communities and campuses.
"I'll probably make my decision in February. If I can make it to all of the schools before Dec. 16, I'll make it early, but if I can't, I'll wait until February," he said.
Rivals ranks Sanders (6-0, 190) as a three-star prospect and the No. 32 running back nationally in the '21 Class. 247Sports also sees him as a three-star and rates him as the No. 34 Athlete in the cycle.
In Chandler's 8-0 start this season, Sanders has rushed for 1,039 yards (7.6 YPC) and 17 touchdowns. He's also caught 12 passes for 137 yards and a score.
Here's a look at Sanders' junior season highlights: