Recruiting takes up the bulk of the year for the Oregon State football team.
Even now when it seems like a down time for the program, coaches are busy evaluating prospective players and doing research on them.
They will take a brief break for spring practice from March 29-May 1, then it's back to recruiting so most of the scholarship offers are out by summer.
Coach Mike Riley enjoys all aspects that go into recruiting because he loves talking about his program, meeting parents, the players and putting the pieces together for future teams.
"It really is a fun thing," Riley said. "The interesting part is they overlap with many guys. The ending of one class is signing day, but we've already begun on next year's class."
The Beavers have an idea about the 2011 class because they asked about players to watch from contacts made recruiting the latest group.
Each year a long-term list is compiled and adjusted as time goes by. There might be a freshman on the list to watch as he develops.
That's the job of the area coach. Assistant coaches have specific areas of the country they are responsible for in recruiting.
For example, Jay Locey handles Oregon and Northern California; Mike Cavanaugh Arizona; Reggie Davis Southern California; and Danny Langsdorf Washington, Idaho and states away from the West Coast.
"Our goal now until we go out again in May is for each coach to get a top 30 in his area," Riley said. "We gather names from different sources - high school coaches or recruiting services that list prospects. We've invested in a recruiting service that includes video. We just want names to get started."
The hard part is the evaluation during the next three months. It starts with the area coach and is done by video and talking with high school coaches.
The area coach takes his findings for crosschecking to the position coach, then to the coordinator. Davis may find an offensive lineman in San Diego, then gets Cavanaugh's opinion.
If Cavanaugh likes him they go to Landsdorf. Once they approve the the prospect, they send the information to Riley, who makes the final call to offer a scholarship.
"With the experience of our staff, when I get a stamp of approval from the coordinator I trust our coaches," Riley said.
Coaches watch these players in the late spring when high schools do spring football. If the player runs track or plays baseball, the coaches watch his athletic ability and how he handles himself.
"We encourage a lot of guys we are interest in to come to one of our camps in June," Riley said. "We have three opportunities at their own expense. That gives us a first-hand look and confirms our evaluation. I'd say 50 percent of the guys we signed in our latest class went to one of our camps."
Letters are sent to players. Coaches can call them once during May so both sides gauge interest. Follow-up calls are done through the coaches, who then put the player on the phone.
Background checks are done on players by talking with teachers and counselors.
Once a scholarship is offered, a player can make a non-binding commitment to the Beavers. Both parties can change their mind.
The commitment isn't made until signing day in February, when the players sign a letter of intent. That locks them into the deal.
Many scholarships are accepted by the end of summer. Once Sept. 1 hits, the coaches can call the players more. This is where Riley starts building relationships with players who choose to commit, or are thinking about the Beavers.
"We talk to them, learn about their family, their life and interests," Riley said.
Coaches have an opportunity to watch them play games live during the fall, but can't talk to them in person. More meetings with coaches, teachers and counselors occur.
This is usually done during the bye week when coaches stop by games Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Players, committed or not, can take official visits where they spend 48 hours on campus with the team. They can do them in the fall or right after the season in January.
"That's where we try to educate them about Oregon State," Riley said. "It's a pretty good educational weekend for them. I want them to get a feel for the place and get to know their way around."
Many players like to see what it's like during game day, but Riley prefers they come after the season so he can spend more time with them.
Recruits come in Friday evening for a reception dinner to meet the staff and some players. Current players serve as their guides around campus, and Riley says they are his best recruiters.
"I tell them about how great a place it is," tight end Joe Halahuni said. "We have great coaches, a great community and a great place to go to school. We have a great program now. Coach Riley has done a good job."
There's an academic breakfast Saturday morning where faculty and administrators address the recruits and their families. Tours of campus and the facilities follow.
Meetings with the coaches happen in the afternoon. Recruits are taken to some event in the evening, typically a basketball game. This is to give them the feel of the college atmosphere.
Riley invites all the recruits to his home Sunday for breakfast, He usually has around 50 people on one of these weekends.
During the week in January, Riley spends nearly all his time visiting committed players and ones he's still after.
"Many times that's my first time meeting with the family if they weren't on the official visit," Riley said. "I try to make a connection that will last a lifetime. You just visit. They ask a lot of questions. Then some homes you are still recruiting them. You talk about the program and our place."
Here's an example of a week for Riley:
After saying goodbye to the recruits visiting campus Sunday, he headed to the airport to fly into Miami that night. He met with a recruit there Monday morning and returned to Los Angeles that night. Then he drove to Orange County on Tuesday for a visit.
Riley used a travel day to fly and drive to Eureka, Calif., on Wednesday. He visited a player Thursday and flew home Friday for the next batch of recruits coming in that night.
Then it's back on the road.
"That's the time we are gone the most, is after season," Riley said. "A lot of people have no idea what that's like at all. They think when the season is over, so what do we do? It's really the hardest time of the year. There's no rhythm or routine. It's just go, go, go. It's quite a month."
How the Beavers do is seen the first Wednesday in February when the letters of intent arrive by fax. By then Riley knows who is coming, and has a feel for their ability and personality.
Recruiting services judge what each team has done and fans wring their hands over the ones that got away.
Recruiting, and doing it well, keeps a program going at a steady pace. It has become the most popular topic among a team's followers, right behind the off-the-field mischief.
Five-star athletes never come OSU's way. Occasionally there's a four-star guy. Most of them are three-star players.
Riley doesn't care about rankings, just his evaluation. That's why he is surprised when OSU comes in ninth in the Pac-10 every year. He has become known as a recruiter who finds solid athletes who want to work to become good athletes.
"Hype is kind of exciting and becomes newsworthy," he said. "There seems to be more and more every year. I wish we had more opportunity to spend more time in the evaluation process instead of the recruiting process because it's fun."
Each Oregon State assistant coach has an area of the country they look for recruits.
Mark Banker: Hawaii, California (Central Coast, San Fernando Valley)
Mike Cavanaugh: Arizona
Reggie Davis: San Diego, Orange County
Keith Heyward: Portland, Los Angeles
Danny Langsdorf: Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oklahoma
Jay Locey: Oregon, California (Northern, Central Valley)
Greg Newhouse: Oregon, Nevada, California (San Joaquin Valley)
Bruce Read: Bay Area, Texas
Joe Seumalo: Utah, California (Inland Empire, High Desert)