College football has become a year round sport and the locomotive that steers the train is recruiting. Before the day a coaching staff signs its current class they are already focused on next seasons, and no other event gives a staff the opportunity to see hand chosen recruits on their own campus than the Junior Day. The weekend event gives coaches the opportunity to show off their facilities, personalities, game tape, strategies and much more. What once was started as summer camp has evolved into a showcase event for coaches to fill out rosters with key recruiting targets.
In the last few years no program has seized the opportunity better than the University of Texas. The Longhorns typically walk away from the weekend with several non-binding verbal commitments from the top in state athletes, getting 17 in 2011. The state of Texas, along with Florida and California, produce an astonishing number of highly ranked recruits. Weather and the ability to play year-round are attributed as the key factors. However, given the increased focus on weight training and film time coupled with individual workouts, athletes from all corners of the country are ready to play right away. States like Georgia, Ohio, Illinios, and North and South Carolina also produce top talent just in fewer numbers.
Some programs now have multiple junior days to better evaluate and gauge interest from recruits. This weekend Notre Dame will host its first of two junior days except this one will be a little different. Notre Dame has invited only a few hand selected elite recruits from regional states and as far away as North Carolina. The highlight player being Jaylon Smith, a 6'3" 200 pound outside linebacker from down the road in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Smith's older brother plays for Ohio State, which is also recruiting Jaylon, but the younger Smith has stated he's interested in blazing his own trail. This could be the number one recruit on the board for the Irish as they envision him as a replacement to Manti Te'o, the all everything emotional leader of the Irish defense who turned down potential first round NFL money to return to Notre Dame.
While Notre Dame recruits both regionally and nationally, their momentum has been slowed by a decommit on signing day and a couple of new coaches in their recruiting map.
Brady Hoke has seen a great push in recruiting at Michigan, having received 13 verbal commits, 10 of which are ranked as four star according to Rivals.com. The former San Diego State head coach came in and led the Wolverines to the Sugar Bowl title, and has been riding the wave since. Hoke has instilled a new aggressive attitude in Ann Arbor and has extended to recruiting where many thought he might struggle given his small school head coaching background. However, as a former Michigan assistant, Hoke has tapped into his contacts both regionally and nationally and generated great recruiting momentum while capitalizing on his early on-field success.
Ohio State made news when they fired coach Jim Tressel but made even greater new by naming Urban Meyer head coach. The former University of Florida coach came with all the accolades big time schools desire now-a-days. Meyer won two national championships on the field and couple more in the recruiting arena. Often times criticized for his ability to get players to "flip" to his school after being committed to a different school, Meyer is without a doubt one of the top three recruiters in the country. Upon his arrival at Ohio State he immediately went to work on the recruiting trail and finished with the fourth ranked class according to Rivals.com. Meyer managed to get Taylor Decker to flip from Notre Dame sending a message to Irish head coach Brian Kelly that he means business.
In the never ending world of college football recruiting, what's another weekend seeing prospects? Not much, when you consider that the train is soon to leave the station and embark on another season.