The second half of April and all of May mean a lot of miles on cars driven by South Carolina’s football coaches.
They can go to high schoolsto observe, but through the oddities of the sport’s six-week spring evaluation period, they can’t actually speak to the players. There’s value in showing a face and a logo, and Will Muschamp’s staff focuses on one factor in particular.
“It’s a huge part of the evaluation period, No. 1 from the academic standpoint of guys finishing their junior years,” Muschamp said. “We’ve accelerated the calendar from an official visit standpoint, and you’ve got some guys that are coming to campus still working through their junior year of high school. So there’s a lot of projecting going on academically.”
The NCAA moved up much of the calendar because of the December signing period. That means official visits in spring and often earlier commitments.
Although coaches can’t talk to players, they’ll talk to folks around a player. That might be a coach, it also might be a principal, a teacher or a guidance counselor. Gamecocks defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson said, “I want to talk to the janitor.”
Muschamp can’t go out on the road, but his assistants cross the region and country to check in with talent, all the while sending reports back to the head coach and Matt Lindsay, the program's director of player personnel.
This part of the process lays some groundwork for the summer, when schools host camps and get the chance to work hands-on with players. A lot of offers will be extended (and likely accepted) during that process; and in the spring, there’s a level of groundwork laid for that, starting with one key attribute.
“How a guy practices,” Muschamp said. “In most states we’re recruiting, they have some form of spring practice. To be able to evaluate how a young man practices, does he have the skill set you’re looking for? Sometimes the tape can lie to you. So to be able to watch him practice, how he approaches practice.
“You’ve got to enjoy that part of it.”