It’s springtime, a very active period for college football recruiting. Last Friday, April 15, kicked off what is known as the spring evaluation period. It runs through the end of May.
If you’re a college recruiting coordinator it means narrowing down a couple of thousand prospective recruits to a couple of hundred.
How do you do that? By paying a visit to every school in your primary recruiting turf and talking to coaches, by watching a ton of high school spring practices and games and by calling every prospect (one time each) to show some love. After that one call, coaches can’t make phone contact again until Sept. 1.
If you’re Southern Cal coach Lane Kiffin, it means staying up until 3 a.m. to make east coast wake-up calls to elite rising junior prospects.
If you’re Florida coach Will Muschamp, it means continuing the work of building relationships with players, coaches and parents.
The Class of 2012 offers Muschamp a balanced playing field and what is mostly a clean slate, as only a handful of these prospects received offers before he arrived. And while it can give a school an advantage to be among the first major programs to offer, it’s still all about the relationships.
A good example is Dante Fowler, a 6-foot-3, 232-pound defensive end from St. Petersburg, Fla., Lakewood High who is one of the nation’s best.
“Florida was my top team and then coach (Dan) McCarney left and then coach (Urban) Meyer left, and I didn’t know who was going to be the coach,” he recalled. “So I didn’t even want to waste my time. You know what? I’ll just commit to Florida State. Florida State has everything that I want anyway, and I feel comfortable with the coaches.”
Fowler committed to FSU in early December, the day before Meyer resigned for good. Now he’s recruiting for the Seminoles. He has, however, left open a tiny crack in the door for Florida fans to cling to.
“Let’s say this, if I wasn’t still committed to Florida State, the Gators would be in my top three,” he said. “I’m solid, I’m just saying if that ever did happen Florida will be in there. I’m solid on Florida State, though, just know that.”
Fowler was in Tallahassee on Sunday for the Nike Football Training Camp. He was in town for FSU’s spring game the day before and said he felt very much at home on those fields.
“I was here yesterday for the spring game,” he said. “It was the best college experience so far. It was real fun. It made me feel real good about my decision. Today made me feel like I was practicing in Florida State equipment, so I had to tear it up.”
That he did.
Fowler was named the camp’s defensive line MVP after wreaking havoc in one-on-one drills against some of the state’s top offensive linemen. He showed off a tremendous first step and some devastating spin moves.
Fowler displayed the kind of rare skill and athleticism that earns major Division-I offers for high school sophomores. The kind that leave college coaches salivating. No doubt Muschamp is among them.
“Actually he came to my school and we talked,” Fowler said. “I like him. That’s why I said if anything did spice up a little bit Florida would be in there.”
Fowler insists his commitment to FSU is solid but adds that he will take official visits to other schools.