The camp, combine and 7-on-7 circuits that appear every summer are an opportunity for recruits to separate themselves from the masses and make a run at the Rivals 100, which many consider the most credible source for a year's top recruits.
Some recruits need to show the buzz around them is legit. Others must prove the doubters wrong. Both are under plenty of pressure, a different kind of pressure than what they'll be facing at the D-I level.
These 10 players emerged from the summer circuit enjoying a big leap in hype, which either resulted in a higher ranking or in interest from schools that might have seemed out of reach before.
Read on to see whom we all should have invested in a few months ago.
Gig Harbor, WA tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins did something I didn't think was possible with his recruitment.
After destroying the competition at a Nike camp in Eugene, ASJ named the Texas Longhorns as the ideal offense for his talents, piqued their interest, and is well on his way to receiving a Texas offer when he visits Austin this weekend.
Rarely does a recruit call on a school first...and it's particularly rare with Texas, a school notoriously frugal with its offers.
His stock was never low; he debuted at No. 11 on the Rivals 100 list. But the Longhorns, more than any other school, care more about your potential commitment to the program than to your ranking or offer sheet. They won't let a recruit commit unless he's certain he won't visit anywhere else. That he was able to solicit their trust from that long distance is a testament to his talents.
If John Brantley is college football's most high-profile unproven quarterback, his counterpart, Florida commit Jeff Driskel, was a similar commodity on the recruiting trail earlier this year.
If memory serves me, Driskel wasn't in Scout's early top 10 (or even top 15) in March, and wasn't a name I read floating around in the top QB conversation.
That all changed on April 19, when Driskel won MVP of the Gainesville Nike Camp, earned a Florida offer and committed on the spot.
You can imagine the subsequent hype. Who was this kid? Was he really the successor to John Brantley? Yet Driskel made short work of proving indeed why he's the future of the Florida offense. He followed up the Gainesville MVP by blowing up combines with his 4.5 speed and winning the Elite 11 against some stiff competition from the nation's best. That helped justify his premier as the No. 1 pro-style QB in Rivals' rankings, released in June.
Suffice to say, he's as proven as recruits can get before they hit the real gridiron. In his case, that may still be a while.
The who-dat story of the summer was Adam Pittser, a small-town QB from Richmond, Illinois who ran a Delaware Wing-T offense (they run a lot).
Pittser, a no-name recruit prior to the event, was a late addition to the Elite 11 camp at Aliso Viejo, CA. But after day one, he nearly grabbed top honors from Florida's Jeff Driskel after a string of strong-armed, accurate throws. I've watched the film, and have to agree he's legit.
Unfortunately, concerns with size (he's about 6'1") probably will keep him from too much success in the pros. But as for now, he's just fighting to grab a Wisconsin offer, one he will hopefully receive.
Seems like the perfect fit to hand the ball off 40 times a game, in my opinion.
The other big who-dat story of the year was Booker Wells, an unknown recruit who showed up to a Nike Camp in Eugene and took home MVP awards for his out of the blue performance.
Wells' back story made the award all the more poignant. His brother passed away his junior year, and injuries cut his season short. But a 10.8 in the 100-meter dash coupled with this performance put him on the map.
Wells now claims interest, but no offers, from Oregon, Oregon State, Wazzu and Washington. Here's hoping an unofficial changes all that.
Tampa, FL athlete James Wilder was another recruit whose reputation preceded him.
After cracking the Army All-Combine team and debuting as Scout's top outside linebacker in March, Wilder blew up a 7-on-7 event, won MVP of a Tuscaloosa Nike Camp, blew up another 7-on-7, and another...
...and then he announced that he wanted to play running back. You have to admire the bravery of a kid who decides to play a position he might not be as good at, but has more passion for.
At any rate, every top school's interest in Wilder never wavered, and he earned every bit of his five stars and his ranking as 2011's top athlete along the way.
When Wilder was unable to make it to a Gainesville Nike Camp in April, linebacker Tony Steward seized the opportunity and ended up winning linebacker MVP of the camp, the subject of an ESPN profile and the target of a wave of elite offers that put him squarely on the map.
The result: in June, Steward debuted as the top linebacker in the class and the number two prospect overall. He has Florida State and Clemson leading, with rumors of a lead for both schools popping up every other week.
Like Steward, Grant debuted in the top 10 of the Rivals' 100. But where did he come from?
The Hermitage, VA linebacker had generated a lot of buzz last year, but was victimized in one-on-one passing drills at a Top Gun camp and disappeared into a talented group.
He reemerged this summer at a Nike Camp in Blacksburg, winning linebacker MVP and showing off his physical superiority.
Recruitniks took the MVP as evidence that confidence wouldn't be an issue down the road, crowning Grant the top inside linebacker of the class in the Rivals 100.
Safety/outside linebacker Karlos Williams was another player who took some modest buzz from Scout and made it obsolete.
Williams won defensive MVP of the Gridiron Kings event, grabbing three picks and returning one 99 yards for a touchdown. Not an event that typically highlights defensive performers, Williams almost stole the show.
In so doing, he earned his spot as the top safety in the class, ahead of Alabama commit Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix and former Florida State commit Cortez Davis, now with Clemson.
Like Williams, O'Leary proved his worth at the Orlando Gridiron Kings event, winning offensive MVP for a dominant performance.
O'Leary caught everything thrown his way. I'm unclear on the exact stats but he nabbed at least a few touchdowns and caught a two-point conversion that sealed the deal for his southeast team.
Rather than settle for knocks against his blocking ability, O'Leary used his natural skills to show why the hybridized wide receiver/tight end is the wave of the future. His final five should be evidence of just how badly schools want to upgrade to hybrids.
Whether he was responding to criticisms about his size or just showing natural curiosity about the position, De'Anthony Thomas' switch from running back to cornerback this summer is paying off dividends.
Thomas is now generating buzz as the top cornerback in the class after winning defensive back MVP honors at an LA Nike camp.
He was already in the running for five stars as a running back, but the aforementioned knocks on his size would have handicapped his development and put a roof on his potential. At cornerback, he could shine, in college and beyond.