College football recruiting 101

College football recruiting 101
USC Coach Steve Sarkisian watches his players warm up before a game against Arizona State at the Coliseum on Oct. 4. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

 Football recruiting, like many sports and related activities, has a language all its own. So here's a primer for the uninitiated. Consider it a refresher course for recruiting mavens.

Scholarships available: With the end of the NCAA sanctions, USC will start each recruiting cycle with 25 available scholarships.

The amount of scholarships available on signing day depends on blue-shirt recruits from the previous season, players who have signed financial-aid agreements and midyear enrollees.

Official visit: An all-expenses paid trip by the school for the recruit to visit. These visits are not limited to campus, but must remain within 30 miles.


Unofficial visit: An on campus visit paid for by the recruit.

Letter of intent: A binding agreement between the university and student-athlete, which can be signed on the first Wednesday of February.

Financial-aid agreement: A scholarship agreement recruits can sign if they are on track to enroll midyear. It is binding for the university but nonbinding for the student athlete.

Verbal commitment: A recruit who has been offered a scholarship tells a coach he will attend the coach's school. It is nonbinding by the school and student-athlete.

Midyear enrollee: A recruit who graduates high school in December and enrolls at the university for the second semester or third quarter of the academic year.

Recruited athlete: A recruit who makes an official visit and hosts coaches for an in-home visit.

Nonrecruited athlete: A recruit who does not make an official visit, does not host coaches in-home and does not receive a written scholarship offer.

Redshirt: A player who does not play in a game, or suffers a season-ending injury early in the season, and is able to keep the year of eligibility. Players are allowed one redshirt season in a five-year cycle.

Blueshirt: A first-year nonrecruited player who is awarded a scholarship during training camp. The player counts toward the next recruiting class.

Greyshirt: A recruit who delays enrollment until there is an available scholarship.

Quiet period: Several times during the year when coaches and assistants cannot travel off campus to recruit and are limited to sending prospects mail or electronic messages. Recruits can visit campus during quiet periods.

Contact period: When a head coach and assistants can travel to see recruits. They can make in-home visits with high school seniors and can visit high schools to evaluate athletes in future recruiting classes, but are not permitted to make contact with those players.

Assistants can make in-home visits with recruits once a week, the head coach is limited to one in-home visit per period.

Evaluation period: Assistants can visit high schools to evaluate a recruit athletically and academically. They cannot interact with the recruit.

Dead period: Coaches and assistants cannot make any in-person contact with a recruit, even if the recruit visits campus. Recruits can still receive mail and electronic messages.

Questions about USC? Email me at or tweet @LindseyThiry and I will respond to select messages in a weekly USC Now mailbag.