Signing day just blew past us it seems, spring games and practices are being scheduled, we're waiting on the release of our respective team's schedules and as it stands right now those things are all somewhat "back burner" issues for your favorite college football team. 2012 is important and while the players are getting it with mat drills and weights the coaches main point of focus is elsewhere.
2013 is where the mind is for the guys in the upstairs offices. Identifying targets, streamlining their big boards and figuring out what players they want to be pressing for the 2013 cycle. This all truly gets jumped started with the Junior Day affairs that we're hearing about around the country.
I got a chance to talk with Brandon Cavanaugh at Husker Locker as we did a little Recruiting 101, I highly recommend a listen as we hit all of the nuts and bolts of the process in this first part.
The "Junior Day" has become a big deal around the college football nation as the events become increasingly publicized, they shift in their strategy and coaches attempt to hone the day to their team's individual approach to attacking recruiting. Just a few years ago we saw Mack Brown and Texas grab 13 kids in February for the upcoming 2011 cycle. That is no longer the case as the Longhorns have altered there strategy, electing to offer few athletes, slow play their way into the summer in order to keep their options open and get further into the evaluation process.
Other schools are opting out of the "get a bunch of guys on campus and grab a gang of commitments" business as well. North Carolina elected to host two junior days; a special invitation only day during the UNC-Duke game for high priority kids which yielded two commits and a more traditional junior day to establish relationships with the state's prospects as a whole.
These days have swelled in their importance in recent years as the football recruiting calendar continues to accelerate despite the contracted nature of football recruiting in comparison to other sports.
Junior Days are important in the process. They're the first time we see the true stratification of high school athletes on a coaching staff's recruiting board. Players they deem worthy of an offer after their junior season get those offers on and around the Junior Day. Players they have targeted get the invitation to visit the Junior Day. Players that they want to investigate further get the invite as well.
The end result if a group of players making the drive up to campus on a Saturday or Sunday to get exposed to the wonderful world of college football through that program's eyes. Purdue has been kind enough, or hungry for takers enough, to put their official Junior Day schedule online for the world to see.
That's a Junior Day in a nutshell folks, but they are so much more. For starters most teams like to get their Junior Days in with a basketball game. It gives the prospective student athletes a true "unofficial visit" type feel to their trip to campus. The players can not only take in the campus tour, the facilities tour, converse with coaches and whatnot but they can also witness the school's athletic atmosphere through some great seats at a basketball game.
Getting into the day itself there is a lot of mystery to them for the average fan who does not have access to them and what they hold. As the days goes with the meet and greets, the propaganda, the tours and the discussion of the program mission there are also things working behind the scenes. Specific players are whisked away to private meetings with their recruiting coach and the head coach. Offers are discussed, committing is discussed, where the team stands with a player is examined and what a team needs from a prospective student athlete is outlined.
In the main forum of the Junior Day teams are bombarding kids with their message and detailing what the program is searching for from their recruits. Highlight videos, explosive rhetoric and true excitement is the name of the game. That is supplemented with talk about grades, compliance, how the process works and what players can do to make the next steps go according to plan.
Perhaps one of the biggest portions of Junior Day that often goes unnoticed is the day as the initial push for summer camp participation. Football is not basketball, soccer or baseball. These kids, even if they have started from day one in high school and have been injury-free, have between 30 and 50 games on their tape. That's not a lot for evaluation purposes when you get into quality of opponents being played, a growing boy's evolution from a position standpoint and the style of football being played.
That is why the summer camps are so critical. These coaches need to see these kids up close and Junior Day is the start of putting the "come to my camp" bee in their bonnet. One day, rising seniors only, camps are huge. We'll get into them more over the summer as we follow the process through, but for now the one day camp is the best up close look for the coaches to see the athletes they like competing against other athletes they like.
For the 2013 cycle we're going to hit on all of the key points as they happen and that all starts with the Junior Days that we're seeing pop now all over the country. Trust your coaches as they run through their evals and work to expose these kids to all of the good within their respective programs.
And, yeah, leave the kids alone.