By Brandon Huffman for Inside the Red Raiders
After going into effect back in March of 2020 due to the nationwide shutdown, the NCAA’s temporary recruiting dead period lifts June 1.
That opens the floodgates for college coaches to host and interact face-to-face with prospective student-athletes from the class of 2022 and 2023 and even 2024 for the first time in almost 15 months.
While many schools have been rushing to get top targets on campus for both unofficial and official visits, camps have become just as important this summer with many staffs wanting to size up and work out recruits that they have never had a chance to evaluate in-person before.
There are storylines galore — the returns of camps on campus, ‘mega camps’ at other NCAA member schools, unofficial visitors to campus, official visits, workouts on campus and even what the No. 1 player in the country for 2021 will do.
On the eve of June 1, we’re providing a rundown of what’s actually changing with the dead period lifting and explaining any recruiting terms and events after so much time without them.
OFFICIAL VISITS ARE BACK
For the first time since January of 2020, official visits return to college campuses. Visitors went in to town on Jan. 31 and left the morning of Feb. 2 in advance of National Signing Day. Six weeks later, the pandemic hit and all spring official visits were canceled. Now schools are champing at the bit to host official visitors from the class of 2022. While the class of 2021 didn’t get to take any official visits (more on that in a bit), the 2022 class was spared.
For the record, an official visit means the college was able to finance the trip. Recruits (and their families) can take five total, only once per school.
UNOFFICIAL VISITS ARE, TOO
Before the pandemic was a thing, the recruiting calendar had already been tweaked when the NCAA introduced a February 2020 dead period, barring visits of any kind.
Save for a two-week window in early March, it’s been 16 months since extended unofficials and Junior Days were really happening. Now, let’s be honest, there have been a number of schools that have had players on campus, whether it was for games in the fall, drive- or walk-thru tours, open spring practices, yada yada — recruits weren’t completely away from college campuses, though they were limited in what they could do or see. No meetings with coaches, no guided tours of campus or facilities by support staff, no trying on jerseys, no photo shoots. Just an unguided tour of campus. Per NCAA rules, no contact could be made between a recruit and a staffer once a recruit was on campus.
That’s gone. Class of 2022 prospects and, more importantly, 2023s and 2024s, can get on campus and be seen by college coaches. There’s no cap on unofficial visits; they just can’t be financed by the school.
FINALLY, ON-CAMPUS CAMPS!
Colleges will welcome camps back to their own campuses this summer. Most will be in June but there will be a handful who will do them in July during the one week of the quiet period that month (July 24-July 31). Coaches have been counting down the days to get recruits in front of them. Losing the spring evaluation period last spring and then the summer camp circuit, only to see the spring evaluation period of 2021 also wiped out has schools essentially evaluating and recruiting blindly, relying on data, word of mouth and film without the opportunity to see the large majority of prospects with their own eyes. Now, the return of camps, mostly one-day camps, mostly specialized (linemen, quarterback, skill positions, specialists), will give them the chance to see prospects work out in front of them.
HOW MEGA CAMPS WORK
Almost as important as the camps on campuses are the return of ‘mega camps’ at NCAA member schools during the month of June. SMU will host one in Dallas with over 65 schools in attendances. Sacramento State hosts the largest one in the West, with 30-plus schools. Mercer and LaGrange will host double-digit schools; so, too, will UNLV and FIU. What are we talking about here? Remember when satellite camps were all the rage a few years ago? While those brought an inordinate amount of attention to recruits, the NCAA restricted their locations (no more at parks or high schools or junior colleges), requiring them to be held on the campuses of NCAA programs. Many smaller schools, specifically FCS, D-II and D-III programs, host large mega-camps where local and non-local Power 5 and Group of 5 programs can come to evaluate and scout. The draw of the bigger schools appeals to recruits — the reality is most of those recruits are probably more FCS, D-II and D-III level players, so those schools are more than willing to welcome them to campus.
INDIVIDUAL WORKOUTS ON CAMPUS
This is a new addition. Instead of only holding camps on campuses, there is another new twist to the spring that has coaches excited: the introduction of individual workouts.
There is, however, a catch. A few of them, in fact. The workout cannot be done during an official visit, so you can’t have a visitor on his official spend some time working out. It can only be done on an unofficial visit. The time of the workout cannot exceed an hour. It has to be done by one of the 10 assistant coaches on the staff (no analysts, quality control coaches or recruiting assistants). No pads or any protective equipment are permitted and there is a limit to the amount of equipment that can be used (i.e., cones are good, shields are bad). Prospects can do drill work and combine-type work and staffs will be able to film. It is also only limited to prospects in the class of 2022, JUCO prospects and players in the NCAA transfer portal.
Even though there’s lots of red tape involved with the individual workouts, they should be valuable as coaches play catch-up in their evaluations.