May evaluation period underway

SPRING BALL MAY be in the books, but now Cougar recruiting efforts shift into overdrive. The May evaluation period is something of a misnomer, in that it lasts six weeks and begins midway through April. But it's a key time in the recruiting year, as Washington State and other schools are allowed four weeks out of the six, excluding Memorial Day and Sundays, to evaluate prep football prospects.

This is the time Washington State will begin to mine for the kinds of information that will help determine if and/or when the Cougars offer a prospect.

Some prospects will climb higher on WSU's board following an impressive workout during a high school's spring session. Some will turn heads for the first time. Still others will earn invitations to attend the Cougars' summer camp, held June 25-28.

THE MAY EVALUATION PERIOD is when Washington State begins in earnest the process of locating the future; the next great Cougar left tackle, like a Bobby Byrd. It's when they begin to build the relationship with the next great WSU receiver, like a Jason Hill or Michael Bumpus. But although the period begins today, the Cougs will not hit the road immediately.

Coach Bill Doba will wait until next week to send seven coaches, the most allowed by the NCAA at any one time, out on the recruiting trail.

It's a safe bet new recruiting coordinator Greg Peterson and the Cougar coaches will spend a good portion of this week planning, organizing and laying out the plan of attack for the next six weeks -- right down to the final detail.

SCHOOLS ARE ALLOWED one evaluation during this time to assess athletic ability, and one evaluation to assess the prospect's academic qualifications.

Additionally, schools are allowed to place one call to a prospect after May 1. The importance of that lone phone call has somewhat lessened in recent years with the advent of the mobile phone -- schools can, without restriction, text message and ask a prospect to instead give them a call. And if you're not utilizing the text messaging tool, you're not keeping up with the Joneses.

This is also an important time to build and strengthen relationships with the recruits and their prep coaches. The Northwest and California will always be the lifeblood of the WSU recruiting effort but in recent years, the Cougar coaching staff has rolled out a substantial recruiting effort in states like Texas and Colorado.

With Peterson at K-State the past dozen years, and given the strong relationships he's developed in states like Colorado and Texas, the May period allows the Cougs their first 2006 opportunity to make inroads -- in person -- beyond the West Coast.

And just as vital as the physical observation of a recruit, the recruiting year's first evaluation period affords schools that initial opportunity to check on the prospect's academic status, and to get more detailed information. Sure, schools can inquire of prep coaches about a prospect's character and work ethic during a phone call but there's also something to be said for sitting down and having a face-to-face.

A SCHOOL LIKE Laguna Creek High in Elk Grove, Calif., is an example of the type of school WSU coaches will visit during the period.

Laguna Creek placed two prospects at Pac-10 colleges last Signing Day. This year, there are at least four D-IA prospects in the fold, some of whom the Cougs saw last year when they were juniors-to-be -- LB Bryson Littlejohn (6-1, 210, 4.5), RB Bryan Hilliard (6-0, 195, 4.7), OL David Navarez (6-2, 275, 5.2) and WR L.T. Leshanor Thomas (6-3, 185, 4.6).

The quartet has drawn interest from throughout the Pac-10 and beyond according to assistant coach Ryan Gomes.

"Colleges are really starting to draw an interest in these gentlemen," Gomes says.

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