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Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Recruits' spring practice visits critical

By Chantel Jennings

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- From Feb. 8 through April 14, the NCAA imposes a quiet period in recruiting, which means the only in-person contact coaches can have with recruits is on campus.

It lines up well with most schools' spring practices, and because of that, coaches do their best to get prospects to their towns to see the campus, meet them, and take in a practice or two.

Offensive lineman Tommy Doles (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian), who has visited Ann Arbor several times, said his most recent visit -- for the first spring practice of the year -- was one of the most helpful in his recruitment.

“I think it’s important to see how the coaches run the practice and teach the players,” Doles said. “You get to know how things are run but also get a better idea of what to expect at the next level.”

Watch List offensive lineman Jamarco Jones (Chicago/De La Salle Institute) said he got a better idea of the next level when he watched Northwestern’s bowl practice last winter. He had seen the all-access TV specials, but had never seen college players go at it in practice live before.

Like Doles, he walked away knowing the importance of seeing how players relate with each other and their coaches in practice.

“Just to see how fired up the players get in practice and the energy that they practice with,” Jones said. “The emotions of it all really come out. And you just get to see all of that, the players’ chemistry and how they interact with each other.”

Jones will be visiting four schools this week, including Michigan. He’ll be able to take in Thursday’s practice with the Wolverines and is looking forward to seeing how hard Brady Hoke pushes his guys in practice.

Tight end Ian Bunting (Hinsdale, Ill./Hinsdale Central) had hoped to visit a Michigan practice this spring but had to push his visit back to after the spring game. Even so, he said he wants to attend spring practices at as many schools as possible to try and read coach-player relations at individual schools.

Since most of a player-coach’s relationship happens at practice, it’s more important to see what the relationship looks like there rather that what it looks like on Saturdays.

“It helps a lot when trying to find out what a team practices like and getting a feel for the coaches and their styles and the team chemistry,” Bunting said.

Watch List wide receiver Drake Harris (Grand Rapids, Mich./Grand Rapids Christian) is in the same boat.

He has visited Michigan several times, for basketball games and tours, but he has never seen a practice. Harris said that while he has some idea for how Hoke coaches based off his sideline demeanor on Saturdays, he can’t really tell because “you’re up in the stands and you can’t really see what’s going on down on the field during the game.”

Harris hopes to visit Ann Arbor in early April for a spring practice. Michigan hopes it leaves the same mark on him as it did on Doles.

“It was very intense, focused and organized,” Doles said of Michigan’s practice. “There was a lot of energy and good coaching. … I’m sure you will find that at most big-time colleges but Michigan was impressive and fun to watch.”