Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck spoke for many coaches nationwide last December when he noted he still hadn’t shaken the hands of about half the prospects who were about to sign with his program.

Those days finally are coming to an end.

The NCAA has lifted the recruiting dead period that has been in place since March 13, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The NCAA returned to its usual recruiting calendar Tuesday, allowing prospects to meet coaches in person and coaches to conduct live evaluations of recruits.

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That means programs across the country are going to make up for lost time.

“It’s going to be crazy,” South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said.

The change is a relief for high school football players such as Max Reese, a wide receiver from Fenwick High School in the Chicago suburbs. Reese has offers from Bowling Green and Northern Illinois, and he has visited both Mid-American Conference schools. But he couldn’t meet the coaching staff at either program during his visits because of pandemic-imposed restrictions.

Ohio State assistant athletic director for player personnel Mark Pantoni uses a different analogy as he discussed how tough it has been for prospects to evaluate schools based on virtual campus tours.

“It’s cool when you see the commercial of the nice flashy car, but you don’t really know until you test drive it how cool it really is,” Pantoni said. “That’s what we’re about to do. These kids are about to test-drive the car finally after seeing the commercial for so many months.”

College staff have been gearing up for this moment.

At Ohio State, director of campus recruiting Erin Dunston said the Buckeyes have 51 official visits scheduled for June. Pantoni said Ohio State’s yearly total of official visits normally is in the “high 40s to low 50s.”

“So this is pretty extraordinary, but not unexpected either,” Pantoni said.

AP College Football Writer Eric Olson and AP Sports Writers Pete Iacobelli and Mitch Stacy contributed to this report.

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