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Spring eval period primer

Spring is a critical period for coaches and prospects alike

Updated: April 15, 2014, 11:55 AM ET
By Jeremy Crabtree | ESPN.com

Surely Willie Nelson wasn't talking about college football recruiting in his legendary song "On the Road Again," but the lyrics certainly could apply to assistants hitting the trail during the spring evaluation period.

Starting Tuesday and continuing through May 31, assistant coaches fan out all over the country to make two in-person evaluations of prospects they're interested in. You'll see them in high school coaches' offices watching film, and you'll see them at spring football practices, track meets and baseball games of top prospects. They're there to assess the prospect's athletics ability, which counts as one evaluation.

You'll see them in the counselor's office too, where they're assessing the prospect's academic qualifications and using their second permitted evaluation. But they're also there to be seen.

"When I was coaching, the number one question I would get in the spring would be 'Can we bump into the recruit?' " said Joe Hornback, author of "The Next Level: A Prep's Guide to College Recruiting". "We would walk through our school of around 1,500 students and somehow make sure we bumped into the one kid they were looking for. They can't do more than say 'Hello,' but it's all about the coaches trying to make a good impression on the prospect. They want the player to know they're there to see them."

Coaches are also allowed to make one phone call to prospects during this period. Yes, recruiting has sped up dramatically and recruits in most cases have been communicating with coaches for months, but a lot of prospects plan to use the call as an opportunity to get important questions answered that can't be done with 140 characters.

"I've heard some other recruits say the phone calls in the spring don't matter anymore, but I know to most guys it does," highly recruited cornerback P.J. Mbanasor said. "You find out who genuinely wants you. You can use that opportunity to ask them all the questions you don't normally get to ask them. I have a list of things I want to talk to the coaches about. For me, the next few weeks are going to be very critical in my recruitment."

It's a critical time for coaches as well. With that in mind, here are some of the top storylines that will shape recruiting for the next seven weeks:

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