MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Saturday and Sunday are two of the most important days of the year for West Virginia's football recruiting efforts.
A week from Sunday, too. And then again on July 27.
Those aren't random dates. They are the days WVU hosts its four one-day football camps.
And they are really the only days that West Virginia's coaches have an opportunity to see what a kid can do.
It's the same all across the country, of course, whether it's Alabama or Azusa Pacific, Michigan State or Montclair State, West Virginia or West Chester.
Sure, there's tons of information out there. Some of it is even fairly reliable. Game tapes don't lie, even if high school coaches sometimes do. College coaches can go watch kids play, they can talk to them, text them, send them love letters, whatever.
And that's not even to mention scouting services and websites. Really now, if the Internet wasn't invented specifically for wannabe football recruiting geniuses, well, it's done a pretty good job of providing them with a forum. With a click of a button you can discover almost any potential college player's height, weight, 40-yard-dash time and who seems interested in his services.
What more could a college coach want?
Well, how about hands-on experience with the kid, even if it's just for a few hours?
"There's no substitute for that,'' said Ryan Dorchester, charged with serving as WVU's recruiting coordinator, in part, and sifting through the volumes of information available. "The camps are big for everyone.''
Once upon a time, football camps were just a summer diversion for both coaches and players. Players might hone a few skills and coaches made a little extra money. Both are still true, but almost as an afterthought.
Somewhere along the line some smart coach realized the potential that had always been there but was no doubt being underutilized. Players saw the same thing. It was the perfect opportunity to see (for coaches) and be seen (for players).
So now, prospects will devote an entire summer almost to touring camps, and coaches make sure the prospects they'd like to see know exactly when they can be seen. For example, if a player in whom WVU is interested doesn't know exactly when the school's camps are scheduled, well, someone has fallen asleep at the switch.
Getting a prospect to visit one of your camps is as important as getting one of his five official visits, sometimes more so. Once there, coaches can put him through drills designed to answer their questions about him.