NCAA recuiting dead period ending: 'All gas and no brakes'

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May 29—The longest recruiting dead period in NCAA history has reached the finish line.

After nearly 15 months of no face-to-face contact between college coaches and prospects, such encounters can begin Tuesday, and plenty of release-the-hounds moments are expected.

"It's going to be all gas and no brakes," University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Rusty Wright said. "You've got all these camps going on, and it's going to be the same way for the kids. They're ready to go and see places."

The NCAA abruptly implemented a dead period on March 13, 2020, which was one day after the governing body canceled its men's and women's basketball tournaments due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The dead period has been extended eight times since, most recently in February.

Four new Southeastern Conference football coaches — Auburn's Bryan Harsin, South Carolina's Shane Beamer, Tennessee's Josh Heupel and Vanderbilt's Clark Lea — have yet to be able to visit with recruits.

"June is going to be a crazy month," Harsin told reporters last week. "Our staff has done a lot of planning and had a lot of conversations about the blueprint, but you just know it's not going to go like that. There will be a lot of times when it's smooth, but then there will be things that happen — a guy doesn't show up.

"It's not so much having contingency plans as it is just having a formula to communicate when things happen."

Heupel is eager to get into the action as well, having already conducted a "Tennessee Takeover" earlier this month in which he and his 10 new Volunteers assistants reached out to every school in the state.

College coaches are transitioning from a dead period to a quiet period, where they can have face-to-face meetings with prospective athletes and their parents on their respective college campuses. There are three scheduled prospect camps at UTC this summer — two in June and one in July.

Wright also will start welcoming back returning players Tuesday, as will fifth-year Mocs men's basketball coach Lamont Paris, who doesn't expect to be overly affected by the dead period coming to a close.

"For me, it won't be crazy," Paris said. "People have gotten used to recruiting and doing things a certain way, so we'll ease into it with some of these events that we'll be able to go to. We're pretty much set for our team for next year, so we won't be trying to bring guys in. We've been able to find some good players without going out or having them come to campus.

"We're pretty much good to go for next year, so I will be focused more on that aspect. We'll have plenty of time to recruit."

In-home visits won't be allowed until Sept. 1 at the earliest, said Wright, who believes the pandemic will have a lasting effect on how coaches pursue prospects.

"Come this time next year, I think we will have done more Zoom calls ahead of time to get to meet some kids and get a gist of how they are as people before we ever start recruiting them," Wright said. "I think it will change how we streamline our time a little bit, and I think it will narrow our focus. Instead of sending mail to 1,000 kids, it's only going to be 500 to start with, and then we'll pare it down from there.

"You're going to see coaches use Zoom and FaceTime to get to know them and see if you like them enough."

Wright is just two seasons into a tenure with the Mocs that has yielded a 9-8 record, but he's happy to have at least some roots planted given the pandemic landscape. Coaches such as Harsin and Heupel can talk about promises and expectations with recruits, but those prospects can look elsewhere and see results.

Auburn and Tennessee both have the annual challenge of facing Alabama and Georgia, with Nick Saban's Crimson Tide having landed the nation's No. 1 signing class eight of the past 10 years. The only exceptions were when Kirby Smart's Bulldogs compiled the top hauls in 2018 and 2020.

So not only will Tuesday represent the start of a crazy time for programs having to play catch-up but a very important time as well.

"At the end of the day, we get one shot to make a first impression," Harsin said. "When we get six or seven days into it, the coaches are going to be tired and may feel overwhelmed, but that visit with that family and that player is going to be the most important thing we have, because it's face to face, and it's right here on our campus.

"The virtual visits are cool, but there is nothing like being here on campus."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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