Mid-March, what a great time of year. The NCAA tournament has kicked off, the weather is getting warmer and Spring Break is here or right around the corner. All you need to focus on is school, your spring sport or training to get better for next season. Life is good. That is unless you are a junior dreaming of playing college football. If that is the case then this time of year is one of the most important and exciting times of the recruiting process. College football programs are in the midst of holding their Junior Day events and the Spring Evaluation Period is less than a month away.
The Spring Evaluation Period starts April 15, 2016 and runs through May 31, 2016.
Why is this stage of the recruiting process so important? First, it is the first time coaches from Division I schools can call the class of 2017 prospects they are recruiting. Second, the assistant coaching staff for each program has 168 evaluation opportunities or days over the six week period to spend on the road evaluating prospects at their high schools.
THE FIRST RECRUITING PHONE CALL
During this period of recruiting, Division I coaches can make one phone call to the prospects they are recruiting. Each coaching staff will approach this call differently. Some will want to try to be the first to call a recruit hoping that it will show that the recruit is a priority to them. Others will want to wait until later in the period because they want to have the chance to make the last and hopefully the freshest impression on you.
In either case, you can bet the coaches will have a strategy to how they approach these calls. They don’t just grab a list and start dialing the phone. Prior to the evaluation period the coaches will discuss which recruits they are going to call and when they are going to call them.
In the end, the importance of this first call has diminished over the last few years because of social media and the greater focus on unofficial visits and junior days. Receiving a call can indicate that you are a priority, but if you already have strong communication channels with a coach you may not receive a call at all. So do not get all wrapped up in whether you received or did not receive a call from a D-I coach during this stage of the process.
SCHOOL EVALUATIONS AND VISITS
As we mentioned above, starting on April 15th Division I assistant football coaches have 168 evaluation days over the six week window to hit the road and visit high schools for the express purpose of evaluating prospects. Every day an assistant is out recruiting counts as one opportunity. Meaning every assistant cannot be out on the road for the entire period. No more than two assistants can visit a school at the same time and Head Coaches are not allowed to be on the road recruiting during the spring evaluation period.
These visits serve two purposes. The first is to develop or strengthen relationships with high school coaches. The second and most important is to evaluate individual players athletically and academically. College coaches are allowed two evaluations per athlete during this period. They can use one visit for an athletic evaluation and one visit for an academic evaluation. If a coach conducts both an athletic and academic evaluation during one visit, the coach is granted one more athletic evaluation.
A typical evaluation visit might include talking to the coaching staff, watching game film, talking to teachers and staff, pulling transcripts to check on grades (particularly forcore course eligibility), and “bumping” into the prospect. The coaches are not allowed to have face-to-face contact with a prospect. However, the NCAA has an exception in place known as the “bump” rule. This rule acknowledges that it is inevitable that college coaches may run into a prospective recruit while visiting their school and it would be nearly impossible avoid such incidents. In such a case the coach is allowed to have a short exchange with the student, but is not supposed to have an extended conversation. High school coaches and college coaches can be very creative in creating opportunities for the prospective student athlete to “bump” into a coach. The athletic evaluation may also include watching spring workouts or practices to assess prospective student athletes and it is not uncommon for the prospect’s high school coach to put together an impromptu workout with the prospect and other teammates in order to showcase player skills.
EVALUATIONS ARE NOT JUST FOR JUNIORS
The Spring Evaluation Period can also be important for sophomores and even freshman. Coaches are always evaluating future prospects and while they may be visiting a school for a particular junior prospect, they are most certainly adding prospective sophomores and freshman to their watch list based on what they see on film and your high school coach recommendations. It is not unusual for these underclassman to start receiving general program mail, questionnaires or in some cases even scholarship offers after college coaches have visited the school during this period.
WHAT IT ALL MEANS
If you receive a school visit or if you are fortunate enough to receive a call from a college coach there are a few things you can do to make sure you make a positive impression. First, be sure to stay focused on the conversation. Second, always look the coach in the eye if you meet him at school. Third, send the coach a follow up email, with links to your profile and video, thanking him for the visit or the phone call.
Remember that college recruiting is a long journey and all hope is not lost if you do not receive a school visit or phone call. It may just mean that in order to achieve your dream of playing at the next level that you need to be more proactive with your recruiting plan or that you need to broaden you recruiting efforts to more schools and more levels. Up to fifty percent of high school players do not receive their first scholarship offer until after their senior season is complete, so stay positive and keep pushing to achieve your goal.
Do you have any further tips or advice on what prospective student athletes should know about the Spring Evaluation Period? We would love to hear about them in our comments section. For more information on the college football recruiting calendar check out this NCAA page. And as always, if you found this article helpful and think it is worthy of a share, please click on the Facebook or Twitter icons below.