This is the May evaluation period for high school football, the most important time of the year for college recruiting. In fact, even with the rise in early commitments and the saturation of the Internet and the proliferation of camps and combines, it is more important than ever.
This is the month that coaches are allowed to go on the road, to see prospects face-to-face, to size them up, to evaluate film, to talk to their high school coaches. They can't talk to them at school but they are allowed to place only one phone call to each recruit during the month. But so much other work can be done. For example, the time affords coaches an opportunity to see kids they haven't seen.
By now, some schools have offered as many as 200 scholarships even though when it comes down to the February signing date they can only sign 25. But they know if they haven't offered a player by May, they will lose him to another school.
New Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has stepped up his recruiting by landing commitments from two of the leading prospects in the nation, tight end Ben Koyack of Oil City, Pa., and 6-4, 260-pound offensive lineman Matt Hegarty of Aztec, New Mexico.
For the first time since I began evaluating Illinois high school players in the last 1970s, the top two players in the state are from outside the Chicago area.
They are 6-3, 230-pound running back/linebacker Rodney Coe of Edwardsville, who has been offered by Alabama among many others, and offensive lineman Ryan Klachko of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, who has committed to Nebraska.
Interestingly, Klachko was recruited by Shawn Watson, who is Nebraska's offensive coordinator. Watson was at Illinois under Mike White, at Colorado under Gary Barnett, at Nebraska under Bill Callahan and also served as head coach at Southern Illinois.
It comes down to coaching. Ken Leonard, the veteran coach at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, has developed many Division I prospects over the years.
At Glenbard West, Chad Hetlet is doing an outstanding job by developing linemen...Chris Watt, a red-shirt freshman who has earned a starting position at Notre Dame; Jordan Walsh, one of the state's top five prospects in the class of 2011 who has offers from USC, Arizona, Boston College and every Big 10 school except Penn State and Ohio State; and Tommy Schutt, one of the leading players in the class of 2012, a 6-3, 295-pound defensive end who already has been offered by Illinois.
It is rare for players to emerge as sleepers today. There are so many ways for college recruiters to discover talent. If you are good enough, if you have Division I potential, it is likely that the colleges will find you.
Take Mason Fuller, for example. He is a 6-3, 290-pound defensive tackle at Urban Prep in Chicago, a four-year-old school in Englewood. He is coached by Anthony Griffin, a graduate of St. Patrick and Northern Illinois.
Fuller already has an offer from Illinois and has attracted interest from Notre Dame, Nebraska, Iowa State, Kansas and Syracuse. More offers are on the way. Most of the country still isn't aware of him.
"When I came in, I encouraged my kids to go to camps and combines," Griffin said. "Mason went to the Illinois camp at Lane Tech in the summer of 2009. He impressed (former Illinois assistant) Reggie Mitchell. Then he went to an underclass combine and impressed everybody. Illinois offered after last season."
Fuller is a late bloomer. He only began to play football as a eighth grader. But he is big, fast, strong, aggressive and has 4.9 speed. He can only get better with experience.