No down time in football recruiting

College football recruiting used to be something that was seasonal. Starting in December, along with watching bowl games, football fans would tune in to see what elite prospects their schools would sign the first Wednesday in February.

Now, recruiting is 365 days a year. The year-round nature of it means that there is a lot to follow depending on where you are in the cycle. Here is a look at the recruiting calendar from national signing day to national signing day.


NCAA recruiting calendar
The first week of February through the day after national signing day is a dead period. During this period, coaches can't make in-person recruiting contacts on or off campus; they can't allow unofficial visits or hold official visits, conduct in-person evaluations or offer complimentary tickets to sporting events on campus. After that, coaches are limited to phone calls, which the NCAA limits to one per week. A prospect can call a coach an unlimited amount of times.

Big events in February

Signing Day
The first Wednesday in the month is the traditional national signing day for college football. It's the day when 98 percent of all college prospects sign binding National Letters of Intent with the programs of choice.

Junior Days
February also is a month in which many colleges hold "junior days" on campus. This is when many of the top underclassmen are invited in for an unofficial visit to learn about a specific program. Players and their families meet with coaches, tour campuses and facilities, talk to academic advisers and get a feel for the university and its football program. It's usually during basketball season, so some players get the chance to take in a college hoops game.

February also is the month that combines, like the Under Armour combines and the Nike combines, kick into full gear. During the weekend of Feb. 14-15 this year, four-star Alabama safety commit Jarrick Williams (Mobile, Ala. /Blount) attended the Mobile Nike combine while Under Armour All-American and five-star Florida safety commit Jonathan Dowling (Bradenton, Fla. /Southeast) and five-star cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Saint Thomas Aquinas) were among the slew of talented players at the Under Armour combine in Davie, Fla.

National Underclassmen combines
Combines aren't only for the rising seniors. Rising juniors, sophomores and freshmen start to get their names out there to college programs by competing in the National Underclassmen combines, which run from February through July.


NCAA recruiting calendar
The entire month of March is a quiet period, where in-person recruiting contacts are limited to unofficial visits to a campus.

Big events in March

Combines continue through March. The Nike football training camps, which feature more football-specific drills than the Nike combines, typically get started at the end of the month with an event at the University of Miami that annually features most of South Florida's top prospects.

Unofficial visits/junior days/spring practice
Schools often will have prospects on campus for unofficial visits during March. A program may have another junior day or its first junior day during this month. Also, spring practice typically gets started during March at the programs across the country and those typically are good times to have prospects in on unofficials.


NCAA recruiting calendar
The first two weeks of the month are a quiet period. Starting April 15, an authorized off-campus recruiter may use one evaluation to assess the prospective student-athlete's athletics ability and one evaluation to assess the prospective student-athlete's academic qualifications during this evaluation period. If an institution's coaching staff member conducts both an athletics and an academic evaluation of the prospect on the same day during this evaluation period, the institution shall be charged with the use of an academics evaluation only and shall be permitted to conduct a second athletics evaluation of the prospect on a separate day during this evaluation period. Those days in April not designated for evaluation shall be considered a quiet period. Head coaches are not allowed to conduct off-campus evaluations during this time. Coaches are allowed on the road for four weeks at the discretion of the institution. No coaches are on the road on Sundays.

Big events in April

Spring games
Spring games have turned into big recruiting weekends. Schools typically have multiple top targets on hand for unofficials, and at times, multiple verbal commitments can take place. Prospects get the chance to check out a simulated game experience at the schools.

Under Armour and Nike continue their combines and camps. The Los Angeles NFTC, held at Southern California most years, is an excellent showcase for top talent in the L.A. area, which is loaded most years. USC commit Anthony Brown first jumped on the recruiting radar at the L.A. NFTC this past year.

Evaluation period begins
Most schools have their coaches on the road by the end of April for the spring evaluation period. This is when assistant coaches can visit high schools twice, once to check on a prospect's academics and once to evaluate his athletic ability. Coaches are not allowed to talk to the prospects, but may offer a greeting thanks to the "bump rule," which allows a recruiter to speak and be cordial if he happens to run into a prospect at the school. Tons of scholarship offers are given out to prospects during this time as recruiters get to evaluate more closely.


NCAA recruiting calendar
The evaluation period continues during the entire month of May. Coaches are not on the road on Sundays or Memorial Day.

Big events in May

Evaluation Period
This is the month where the evaluation period starts to heat up. Coaches are on the road seeing as many prospects as they possibly can and recruiting boards start to fill up and be prioritized. There are prospects that get offers and prospects that coaches may want to get a look at during the summer in a camp session before offering. This period features a flurry of recruiting activity from the standpoint of prospects seeing their offer sheets expand.

The camp and combine circuit also continues during this period.

Sunshine State spring games
Florida is an outstanding place to check out high school football talent during the latter weeks of May. Florida high school football teams play a full-contact spring game (usually part of a jamboree) against another opponent, so it gives you a chance to see live football. College coaches flock to these events as well, as it gives them a glimpse of the players in a live-action situation.


NCAA recruiting calendar

The entire month is a quiet period

Big events in June

Program prospect camps
June is when the combines and camps like Under Armour and Nike start to pull back and the colleges start to have prospects on their campus for camps. Nearly every school in the country has some sort of camp during June. These camps are designed to coach everybody -- from the top-shelf prospect to the high school football player that simply wants to get better -- but it's common for a coaching staff to use a camp performance as a factor in a decision on a scholarship offer.

Rising Stars Camp
One of the on-campus camps that typically draws a lot of the top talent from California and around the country is the USC Rising Stars Camp. Held in Los Angeles, this annual event has featured a bevy of talented players during the years, from the No. 1 prospect in America in 2007, current Trojans starter Joe McKnight, to current LSU standout cornerback Patrick Peterson.


NCAA recruiting calendar

The entire month of July is a quiet period.

Big events in July

All-Poly Camp
The All-Poly Camp in Hawaii was held for the first time this past year and was a major success. The full-contact camp is just like the event in Salt Lake City.

Super 7
Steve Clarkson's Super 7 quarterback camp features seven of the nation's top quarterbacks as well as some of the top instructors (Joe Montana was on hand to coach the players this year). It is easily one of the best events of the summer.

Quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, defensive backs and linebackers square off in 7-on-7 tournaments (it's basically touch football). These take place all summer, but some of the most prominent ones take place during July.

The Texas state 7-on-7 championships, held annually in College Station, features 96 teams (it could be 128 next year) and some of the Lone Star State's top skill position talent.

The Nike 7on in Portland, Ore., is another event that features some of the top skill talent from across the country. There is a much smaller field, but it is high in quality.

ESPN's Gridiron Kings in Orlando, Fla., was held for the first time this past July and multiple elite prospects competed at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

Friday Night Lights
Florida holds its elite prospect camp, "Friday Night Lights." The annual event has taken on a life of its own and many of the country's top prospects compete at the event, which is held in The Swamp.

Elite 11
The EA Sports Elite 11, which takes the best 12 QBs who attended the Elite 11 camps and brings them in for one final event, is held in Southern California during the last week of the month.

Finals of National Underclassmen combines
The best players from those who have attended the National Underclassmen combines thoughout the year are selected to compete in the final camp.


NCAA recruiting calendar

The entire month of August is a quiet period

Big events in August

There typically is a flurry of announcements in the early days of August as prospects want to get decisions out of the way before practice begins for the coming season.

With colleges and high schools in preseason practice and the high school season in most states starting toward the end of the month, it's a quiet month for recruiting. At times, prospects will make weekend unofficial visits for scrimmages or practices at a nearby college if their high school team has the day off, but it's not a very exciting recruiting time at all after practices start.


NCAA recruiting calendar
The fall evaluation period begins Sept. 1. Not exceeding a period of 42 evaluation days (54 for U.S. service academies) during the months of September, October and November selected at the discretion of the institution and designated in writing in the office of the director of athletics; authorized off-campus recruiters shall not visit a prospective student-athlete's educational institution on more than one calendar day during this period. All other dates shall be considered a quiet period.

Big events in September

Junior offers
The NCAA also says that Sept. 1 is the first day institutions can send written scholarship offers to high school juniors. Prior to this date, football prospects can only receive written correspondence in the form of a camp brochure and/or a questionnaire.

Official visits
Sept. 1 also marks the date when seniors are allowed to start taking official visits to campuses.


NCAA recruiting calendar
The evaluation period continues, along with prospects being able to make official visits. Junior offers continue to go out.

Big events in October

Official and unofficial visits for games
Schools will often bring in a handful of official visitors and multiple unofficial visitors for home games. This gives prospects the chance to check out the home game atmosphere for a team they are considering. Though it's not a technique that is unique to Florida, coach Urban Meyer often uses a big home game atmosphere in The Swamp to his advantage. Percy Harvin's recruitment comes to mind. He made his official visit to Gainesville when the Gators played host to a nationally televised night game against Tennessee.


NCAA recruiting calendar
The evaluation period runs through the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend and then the contact period begins. During the contact period, schools are permitted six in-person off-campus contacts per prospective student-athlete during this time period with not more than one permitted in any one calendar week (Sunday through Saturday) or partial calendar week.

Big events in November

Visit weekends
Visit weekends continue, particularly to be end-of-season rivalry games. Often, if it's an in-state rivalry game, this gives a school the chance to not only have many of the state's top seniors, but also the top juniors in a specific state.

State playoffs
High school playoffs begin and it's a chance to see how the players respond to pressure as well as see them against top competition. Many times, some of the best teams won't be tested until the playoffs.


NCAA recruiting calendar
The contact period continues during the first 19 days of December, then there is a one-day quiet period followed by a dead period. The dead period in December is different because of midyear enrollees from high schools and junior college transfers that enroll midyear. Institutional staff members may have contact with a prospective student-athlete who has been admitted for midyear enrollment, provided the prospect has signed an NLI or other offer of admission and/or financial aid to attend the institution and is required to be on campus to attend institutional orientation sessions for all students. There are also three quiet period days and three dead period days in December for junior college prospects.

Big events in December

State championship weekends
It only makes sense that many of the best players play for the best teams and in multiple states; state championship weekends often feature many of the top recruits.

All-Star games
December is a huge month for high school all-star games, topped off by the start of practice for the Under Armour All-American Game the final week of the month. Early in the month, the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas and the Mississippi-Alabama all-star game are must sees. The Hawaii vs. Mainland game also is something that is gaining notoriety.

Official visits
Colleges often use the first two weekends in December to play host to official visitors. Many top junior college players make official visits on these weekends and if they are midyear transfers, make decisions shortly thereafter.


NCAA recruiting calendar
After a dead period on New Year's Day and a quiet period that weekend, there is a weeklong contact period. Following that week, there is a four-day dead period and the following Monday, a two-week contact period starts.

Big events in January

All-Star Games
National high school all-star games like the Under Armour All-American Game or Army All-American game feature the country's elite prospects. Several verbal commitments are made during the televised games, making the event a must-watch for college football recruiting fans.

Official visit weekends
January used to be absolutely the hottest month for recruiting and in many ways it still is. Official visits weekends often happen during the month and multiple major prospects are brought to campus during this time. This is the time of the year that keeps fans glued to their computer for the latest on their school's top targets.