Social media has been abuzz over the last week after it was reported that Mique Juarez, one of the top high school football prospects in the country and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be taking an official visit to BYU this weekend as he continues to decide which school he’ll sign a National Letter of Intent with on Feb. 3.
But what’s so significant about Juarez merely making a stop in Provo? Here are answers to some of the key questions surrounding the Californian’s visit.
Who is Mique Juarez?
Michael “Mique” Juarez is a 6-foot-2, 235-pound linebacker out of North High School in Torrance, California. He is considered one of the Top 10 prospects in the entire country by two respected recruiting services, Scout and Rivals.
Juarez is also a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, making the link between him and the Cougars a natural one.
What is the significance of him taking an official visit to BYU this weekend?
Juarez has long been able to be picky about which school he’ll attend, and for all intents and purposes, BYU hasn’t up to this point been a place he’s outwardly heavily considered. He committed to USC in January of 2015, though he was widely known to be considering other options.
In a bit of an irony, Juarez decommitted from his pledge to the Trojans last month after head coach and former Cougar quarterback Steve Sarkisian was fired. Juarez then whittled his choices down to UCLA and Ole Miss.
It was unknown that Juarez would be considering BYU at all at this point until Adam Gorney of Rivals tweeted that the linebacker will be visiting Provo this weekend. Since that news broke, national champion Alabama has been putting major pressure on Juarez. He visited Tuscaloosa last weekend, and then head coach Nick Saban flew out to California on Monday for an in-home visit.
In other words, some of the nation’s most elite programs are in hot pursuit of Juarez, yet he’ll spend the final weekend before National Signing Day in Provo.
Where will Juarez be during his visit?
Visits give prospects a chance to explore the campus they’re staying at, as well as the surrounding area. Although ultra specific details of visits aren’t advertised, there are a few things we do know about what Juarez will see and experience during his weekend in Provo.
Most often, visits begin Friday, and prospects go back home on Sunday. Juarez will be paired with a “host,” a current player on the Cougar roster who will show him around throughout the weekend. Multiple prospects this year have told the Deseret News that they were unaware who their host would be before they arrived on campus.
BYU typically takes players snowmobiling during the day on Saturday, and that evening, it’s expected that they’ll attend the Cougars’ men’s basketball game against Pepperdine at the Marriott Center. With a bevy of high-profile recruits beside Juarez expected to be visiting this weekend, it’s likely no accident that new head coach Kalani Sitake is reportedly going to address the crowd at halftime.
Perhaps most importantly for the Cougars’ longshot chances of landing Juarez, he’ll be able to get a good feel for the atmosphere of the LDS Church-owned university during the weekend.
Frankly, BYU can’t compete with Alabama, UCLA and Ole Miss when it comes to the football program. Additionally, as good of a reputation as Sitake has for being a strong recruiter, it’s likely that not even his skills would be persuasive enough. But the faith-based factors would seem to lean in the Cougars’ favor.
Juarez’s mother Nathasha has certainly been an outspoken advocate of her son attending BYU because of the LDS Church’s influence there. In truth, it’s likely that it’s at her urging that Juarez is even giving Provo a look.
Although Juarez signing with the Cougars next week would be an incredible shock, it’s the faith factor more than any other that would likely sway him.
When will Juarez decide where he’ll attend school?
Juarez will likely return to his home in California on Sunday night. He has indicated that he’ll wait until National Signing Day on Wednesday to announce his decision. Between Sunday and Wednesday, expect that he’ll be in rather constant contact with coaches from the schools he’s considering.
This will likely be an indicator of where he stands with BYU. If he entertains them in conversation next week, that could be an indicator that the official visit went well and he’s giving the Cougars a closer look than expected.
Why is Juarez visiting? Why would it be significant if he signed with BYU?
As previously discussed, chances are fair that Juarez will be checking out Provo just to appease his family, as there has been no indication that any members of the BYU coaching staff have visited with him at his school or in his home.
In terms of how significant it would be if Juarez were to sign with the Cougars, there are a few factors to consider. First is the on-field talent he would bring to the team. Secondly, it would show that he feels the new coaching staff is taking things in a desirable direction. Thirdly, it would more than validate Sitake and his staff as recruiters to be reckoned with. Fourth, having Juarez on the team would certainly cause other top prospects to think about attending BYU when they otherwise might not.
How likely is it that Juarez does in fact sign with BYU?
In the end, chances are high that Juarez’s visit will be nothing more than a courtesy, a nod to his roots, so to speak. He has the opportunity to be a part of any football program in the country he wants, and it’s not as though the Cougars have long been heavy on his mind.
Ryan McDonald is a sports reporter at DeseretNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryanwmcdonald.