Harlan on recruiting: Spring visits to benefit junior prospects

Friday, January 5, 2018 | 9:58 AM

The NCAA decision to let juniors take official visits seems like a “no-brainer,” Pine-Richland football coach Eric Kasperowicz said.

“I know when I did it, you felt so rushed,” said Kasperowicz, a Parade All-American as a North Hills senior in 1994. “There were five weekends in a row I was in Michigan, I was in Georgia, I was in North Carolina, I was in New York, I was at Pitt. Five weekends in a row I'm going to school, trying to be a student, while flying out Friday at 8 a.m. for these weekend trips. You're tired, but you wake up (Monday) and you've got to go to school.”

Before now, high school football recruits couldn't take expenses-paid college trips until their senior year, but the WPIAL's 2019 class can start scheduling them soon. Juniors may take official visits starting April 1.

“In the spring, I'm sure you can stretch them out a little bit more,” Kasperowicz said. “Everything is condensed (in your senior year): ‘OK, you just took your last visit. You have seven days to make a decision for the rest of your life.' This is more realistic.”

The NCAA changed the recruiting rules for juniors when it created the December early-signing period for seniors.

It arrives at a good time for Pine-Richland tackle Andrew Kristofic, Aliquippa cornerback MJ Devonshire, Norwin safety Jayvon Thift or any of the other WPIAL juniors who might take advantage of the extra time.

This year's juniors can take visits April 1-June 24. Recruits won't experience fall game days, but the junior period does overlap with spring practices.

The cutoff date each year will be “the Sunday prior to the last Wednesday in June.” Recruits may take five official visits in total throughout high school. The campus visits may not occur in conjunction with participation in a camp or clinic.

Many recruits nowadays are committing earlier than before, so it only makes sense to allow earlier official visits, Norwin coach Dave Brozeski said. His star junior has Pitt and West Virginia among his early offers.

“It seems like in the last several years, a lot of decisions are made going into the senior year,” Brozeski said.

If the new rules punish anyone, it's likely the college assistants who'll be busy all spring and into the summer.

“The life of an assistant coach in college football now, how could you do that? It's now 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year long,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said. “And everybody doesn't get paid like the head coach.”

The WPIAL has about a dozen juniors with D-I offers.

Devonshire (5-foot-11, 170 pounds), who lists Ohio State among his handful of early offers, might schedule trips this spring if his recruitment processes is narrowed before then.

“I definitely think it's a possibility,” said his father, Marlin Devonshire, an Aliquippa assistant coach. “It's a short window with spring ball ending and camps beginning, but he'll probably look to take one or two.”

Kristofic (6-6, 260) lists scholarships from Pitt, West Virginia, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Wisconsin and others.

“Kristofic is excited,” Kasperowicz said. “He's planning on taking four or five visits this spring and kind of get those out of the way. He'll maybe be able to make an early decision, as well.”

If so, he'll have his weekends free next fall.

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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