Jimmy Lake refuses to speak in hypotheticals.
For example, the Washington Huskies’ first-year head coach acknowledges that the NCAA instituted a mandatory recruiting dead period — meaning that his staff cannot travel to communicate with or evaluate a prospect, or host recruits on campus visits — until April 15, to hopefully slow the spread of COVID-19. He knows that, had the coronavirus not effectively suspended all sports nationwide, that time would instead be classified as a “quiet period” — when coaches cannot travel for recruiting purposes, but are permitted to host prospective student-athletes on campus.
But beyond April 15, when it comes to the recruiting calendar, he doesn’t know much more.
“It’s (usually) a valuable time for the young men, the prospects, to come and look at the school and see which school fits them and meet the coaching staff and meet all the players,” Lake said of the mandatory dead period in a phone interview on Monday. “But I also think it’s not the end of the world. Those guys are going to have some other opportunities down the road to visit their schools.
“We’re so early on in the 2021 recruiting cycle. What I don’t want to do is speak in hypotheticals, but after April 15 as we keep moving on, I could really snowball this thing and then (recruiting) really would start to change if everything remains in a not-so-positive state.”
OK, so he won’t do it, but we will: Let’s snowball this thing. What would happen if the recruiting dead period is indefinitely extended?
First, a recruiting refresher: The spring evaluation period — when coaching staffs can “be involved in off-campus activities designed to assess the academic qualifications and playing ability of prospective student-athletes,” according to the NCAA — lasts from April 15 through the end of May. This is a critical period for both programs and under-recruited prospects who might require a spring showcase to earn scholarship offers.
And, more than likely, it’ll be altered — canceled or postponed — by coronavirus concerns.
“Right now, if you’re an under-the-radar guy who was really banking on the spring to be your coming-out party, there’s probably reason to be nervous about how things are going to go,” 247Sports national recruiting editor Brandon Huffman told The Times this week. “The spring evaluation period, for so many guys that are under the radar that coaches just want to see in person, is where they really start to see their recruitment take off.
“Now we don’t know when that’s going to happen. We don’t know if it’s going to happen at all.”
The good news, for the Huskies, is that they got a somewhat unintended head start. Because the transition from Chris Petersen to Lake happened so swiftly, and because UW signed the entirety of its 2020 class on the early signing day in December, the staff could use the NCAA’s contact period in January to evaluate and solidify relationships with 2021 recruits.
And, even in-state, that wasn’t the case for everybody else.
“For a school like Washington, they were able to get on the road in January and they could start looking ahead to 2021,” Huffman said. “They could go to all the schools that their 2021 targets were at and be seen. Whereas at Washington State, (new head coach Nick) Rolovich was just trying to put the final touches on that class and going out and doing in-homes with guys who were on the fence.
“Washington had an advantage, and it was a self-imposed advantage that they had, because they were able to sign their entire class (early). There are so many schools that, for whatever reason, spring was going to have to be their primary time to get out and see kids. Now they’ve (likely) lost that time.”
Though it shouldn’t be assumed that the spring evaluation period will be entirely eliminated. It will more likely bleed into the otherwise unoccupied summer months.
“There may not be a dead period in the summer now like there has been in July the last couple years,” Huffman said. “You may just see the evaluation period go straight from let’s say, realistically, late April or early May all the way through fall camp. Now, maybe they close it for a couple weeks in August and leave it open the whole month of July so that coaches aren’t having to do recruiting during fall practice. But I bet you’re going to see a lot more schools that had to give up when they wanted to have kids on campus in the spring now try to do some kind of recruiting event in August, if they have a fall scrimmage or anything else going on.
“So it’s really forcing schools to adjust their calendars, whether they were prepared for this or not.”
Washington athletics announced Thursday it will cancel its spring football practices, pro day and the spring game on April 25 — which Lake and the Huskies would have used as the centerpiece for a significant recruiting visit weekend. While no plans to replace the game have been made, Lake and Co. could potentially replace it with a separate recruiting event this summer.
This all comes, by the way, during an unprecedented recruiting cycle in the state of Washington, which touts three five-star prospects — Eastside Catholic defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau, Steilacoom wide receiver Emeka Egbuka and Kennedy Catholic quarterback and UW commit Sam Huard — as well as seven more four-star recruits, according to the 247Sports Composite.
Huffman said this week that the December early signing day will likely be unaffected by any recruiting calendar alterations. Coaches will still recruit, recruits will still sign and the cycle will continue unabated. It will just require a different path to arrive at the same place.
“Will players have the camps to get a chance to be seen by these coaches (in the spring evaluation period)? Are guys that wanted to make early decisions going to be able to make them now, without the ability to take official visits in the spring? It’s just such mayhem,” Huffman said.
“With no spring football, I think a lot of these coaches would love to be on the road right now. But they can’t even have kids on campus.”