After writing upwards of 100 articles on recruiting for B/R, it's funny now to be posting something on Recruiting 101. "Now that we've finished chapter ten, allow me to introduce myself..."
But I also learned a few things from this primer on the terms, chronologies and events in a recruit's life leading up the signing of a letter of intent.
Starting at the very basics, what would you need to know to become a true recruitnik? Click through and find out. There will be a quiz on this later.
Starting at the very basics, you have the recruit, a high schooler seeking to play football collegiately in exchange for a scholarship.
Before we get into the specifics of recruiting, let's look at the schedule a college recruiter is supposed to adhere to.
Recruits are "evaluated" as juniors from mid-April (officially April 15th per the NCAA calendar) until the beginning of June. This is the time when coaches make visits to schools and are allowed direct contact with a recruit. They can a) evaluate a recruit's ability and b) request his academic profile at this time. This is the period when the majority of offers that your favorite school makes go out.
Prior to this time, no recruit is allowed direct contact with a coach on school property, so this is a very important stage. The evaluation of academics is also crucial, for reasons we'll discuss later.
Scout, Rivals, MaxPreps, ESPN, B/R...who to trust in the recruiting world?
Generally, there is some agreement among the recruitniks on who the blue-chip players are. Camp-tested, offer-strewn players with natural physical abilities from talent-rich areas who play against good competition top the lists year after year.
Occasionally, evaluators throw a raw player high on their list based on upside, or stress the technical feats of a player with a low ceiling, but that is the exception to the rule.
Also every year, some writer attempts to discredit the notion that five-stars are more successful than three-star players. And every year, the idea issummarily refuted by stat-minded college football writers.
The jist of the argument: being a five-star player increases your odds of becoming an All-American because there are so few five-star players, while the vast number of three-star players skews the odds drastically against your favor.
In any case, rankings are released, reevaluated and refuted about as often as the players themselves. Rivals, generally, is the Coke to Scout's Pepsi, while Maxpreps is Dr. Pepper, ESPN is coffee and we at the Bleacher Report are Faygo, the preferred drink of juggalos everywhere.
When a recruit is "offered," it means he's been given the chance to attend a school on an athletic scholarship.
Some offers come verbally. A coach tells a player in person or over the phone that an offer has been extended to them. These offers can come at any time, and a recruit can commit to this type of offer, as in the case of David Sills, a 13-year-old QB who committed to USC.
Written offers are formal offers of grant-in-aid for a recruit, and are naturally considered more official. (Here's a neat list of written offers posted by my man Tate Forcier). The first written offers can only go out after Sept. 1st of a recruit's junior year. That is also when a school can start sending a recruit mail about the university.
Though offers currently can be made at any time, a new rule may forbid verbal offers from occurring before a player's senior year. It's designed to give families and players a better opportunity to understand a school's academics. It'll make recruiting less interesting to follow, but I'm for it if it helps the players.
Camps take place in the summertime (this is peak camp season, or just was).
Camps held through sponsors can increase a recruit's profile, while camps held through a school are targeted more towards landing an offer from that school. That said, schools can offer recruits they see at a sponsored camp, and good performances at a school's camp can also help raise a recruit's profile. Recent Michigan recruit Jake Fisher went from relative unknown to four-star tackle after a few solid showings at camps on Michigan and Michigan State's campus.
On an unofficial visit, NCAA rules mandate that no part of a recruit's visit be subsidized by the university. Plane tickets, gas fare, etc., are all the responsibility of the recruit.
However, a recruit can receive three tickets maximum to a sporting event held through the school and within 30 miles of the school's campus. This is why you sometimes see football recruits at a basketball game in the wintertime.
Unofficial visits range from dropping in on the campus and checking out the facilities to spending three days on campus. The number of unofficials a recruit can take to one school, or to as many schools as he likes, is unlimited.
Official visits, on the other hand, can be subsidized. Airfare, gas and even food and lodging can be billed to the school.
These can occur only during the football season, and a recruit is allowed to take five maximum per year.
The rule on officials only occurring during the season is being contested by coaches who believe a recruit should be allowed to spend his official visit in the summer, specifically June. This would allow the school to bring a recruit on campus without worrying about competing with other schools on a given weekend during the season, with the tradeoff being that not much is going on in June, naturally.
There are a few weeks where a school's ability to contact a recruit is inhibited. This hits it peak during the end of the season, typically December, and is known as the "dead period" when a recruit can only be contacted once per week by his recruiter.
If not properly handled, a recruit may misconstrue this time period as one when a school is losing interest.
A verbal commitment is a nonbinding oral contract between the recruit and the school. It can occur at any point in the process, from as young as 13 up until the day before Signing Day.
Verbal commitments can take two forms: soft and solid (note what else in nature comes in these forms, and you have some idea of what verbal commitments are sometimes worth).
The definition of a solid verbal is self-evident. A player is firmly committed to a school and not interested in hearing from other schools.
The definition of a soft verbal depends on the recruit and/or school, but in general it denotes that the recruit is committed but still looking around. A player can designate himself a soft verbal, or it can be designated by we, the Recruitniks.
A player may begin as a soft verbal and solidify his commitment, or begin as a solid commitment and soften as his interest in other schools grows.
A verbal is generally considered to hold the place in a recruiting class for a recruit, which is what makes soft verbals such a difficult and potentially volatile business. When Tennessee safety recruit Pat Martin said that the Vols were his wife and the other schools his girlfriends, you probably can get what kind of emotions are at stake there.
Recruits sign a Letter of Intent to make their commitment to a school into a binding contract. The first day they may do this is National Signing Day, the first Wednesday in February if I'm not mistaken.
(Recruits can also sign these early if they intend to enroll for the winter semester after graduating a semester early.)
Once the Letter of Intent is signed, a player is not allowed to contact other schools. To attend a different university, he will have to either transfer and sit out a year, or drop out.
However, as this offseason has shown, the Letter of Intent is revocable by the university. Michigan's admissions department denied safety recruit Demar Dorsey a scholarship because of his grades, while Seantrel Henderson stonewalled USC to the point that they were forced to release him from his Letter of Intent.
These players are able to enroll elsewhere in the fall. Louisville picked up Dorsey, while Seantrel...well, if you know the answer to that one, let me know.
Apply now for entry into Recruiting 102: Electric Boogaloo, scheduled to meet sometime in the next few weeks!