"What exactly is the Spring Evaluation Period?"
Every year around this time, that seems to be a question that is frequently asked by those that actively follow college football recruiting.
In a nutshell, Clemson recruiting coordinator/linebackers coach David Blackwell says the Spring Evaluation Period, or May Evaluation Period as it's commonly called, is a four-week time span that allows college coaches to evaluate recruits in person.
Coaches have the ability to set their four weeks on the road anytime between mid-April and May. For the Clemson coaching staff, those four weeks begin Monday.
"Really, we use it as a time to confirm what we already know on a lot of kids," Blackwell said. "And also to uncover some new ones. You already have a pretty good idea at this point because you've been on these kids so long already.
"But you always get to go a little more in-depth on these guys and check transcripts and grades."
Seven assistant coaches from Clemson's staff can be on the road during the next four weeks, with three remaining in the office. Each coach is responsible for recruiting/scouting different parts of the country, and each coach also has the ability to set his own schedule as to when he needs to be at a particular city or school.
And not surprisingly, during the next four weeks the emphasis once again will be in the state of South Carolina.
"In-state, we are trying to get to every school and speak with each coach personally," he said of the next four weeks. "We will visit every high school in the state and our goal is to sit down and meet with each head coach of each school, if possible."
Of course, it's also important to remember the Tigers have enjoyed tremendous success recruiting in recent years outside of the Palmetto state. In the past two years, Clemson signed running back James Davis out of Georgia in 2005, not to mention one of the top prospects in the country earlier this year in 5-star running back C.J. Spiller, among others.
Helping matters in both of those states is the fact that recently Clemson has a road win over nationally ranked Miami, two wins over Florida State, a win over Texas A&M and a Peach Bowl win over Tennessee. Those games, combined with facility upgrades with the WestZone Project have allowed the Tigers to make great strides recruiting out of state, even all the way down in the talent-rich Dade and Broward counties in south Florida.
"There has always been a tremendous reception for us from Orlando going north because of our track record in that area going way back," Blackwell said. "But below Orlando we just didn't have a name down there.
"That is until we beat Miami down there two years ago. That puts you right on the map with the high school coaches and the players in that area. They recogonize what you've done."
One issue complicating matters during the upcoming four weeks is the fact that coaches are not allowed to talk to prospects they visit in person. They can evaluate these kids in-person, and they can even offer scholarships through their high school coaches, but that's about it.
"We are not allowed to talk to the kids, but we can talk to everybody else," Blackwell said. "So that's what we try to do. We can talk to principals, teachers, guidance counselors. Obviously character is very important to us at Clemson and coach Bowden."
One aspect of the Spring Evaluation Period that typically excites fans is when a new scholarship offer is extended by the staff. Often, prospects that are flying under the radar are finally revealed as coaches get the opportunity to scout these players in person.
Blackwell says that based on what the staff sees during this evaluation, and also what they discover by talking with the people closest to these prospects, a new offer can be extended almost on the spot.
"Having been in that situation a good bit, you tell their coach, 'hey we are going to offer this guy,'" said Blackwell. "Then I take that back with film and get it approved. So you tell them to 'just hang with us and just give us time' before it becomes official. But yeah, that happens a good bit (offering on the spot)."
Blackwell also says that while the the 2007 class at Clemson may not be as big as some of the classes of the past few years, the staff is still looking to fill a number of key positions.
"We graduate only 18 seniors this year. People don't realize this but we're still a young football team. Honestly, we will play a lot of young players this year.
"But the biggest needs are going to be at the defensive front- defensive end and defensive tackle. The secondary is not a huge area of need, neither is wide receiver, but we still have numbers to recruit at those positions. Also tight end and the offensive line."
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