Is Illinois moving closer to spring football?

High school football in Illinois may be inching closer to historic change.

College football coaches for decades have used the spring months to visit high schools and evaluate recruits. It’s no different this year as area players go through mini combines in an effort to prove their ability to compete at the next level.

Most college attention is given to the top players, which means not all high schools have the same number of college coaches coming through. But when they do show up, high school coaches often slip extra players into the workouts to draw attention to as many athletes as possible.

Now, however, the landscape is shifting. High school coaches in Illinois are getting more organized and more creative about getting their kids exposure.

The shift makes me wonder if we’re moving toward an allowance of spring football practices, something deemed off limits by the IHSA.

More than ever this spring, high school football coaches are banding together to create exposure camps of different shapes and sizes. It’s become one-stop shopping in an effort to make the evaluation process easier for the college coaches coming through town.

  St. Francis football players wait for instructions during a college showcase last week at Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn. Brian Hill/

The logistical feat sends a message that high school coaches are eager to get after it in the spring. While organized spring football is not allowed by the IHSA, officials said they do allow exposure camps as long as no high school coaches provide instruction.

Even that level of allowance, though, feels like a bridge toward full-blown spring football. Among the states that allow spring practices are Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and more than a dozen others.

The number grows every year.

So far, there hasn’t been much traction for spring football in Illinois. But based on the level of activity the last few weeks, that attitude might be changing.

Downers Grove North recently hosted five local high school teams for an exposure camp. The DuKane Conference schools each had an exposure camp on the same day, staggering the times so college coaches could drive from one site to the next.

On May 1, Glenbard South and Naperville North hosted events with six high schools each. One camp went from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. while the other picked up from 10 a.m. to noon.

  Football players work through drills during a college showcase last week at Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn. Brian Hill/

Before we get too jazzed about the potential for spring football, through, keep in mind these are basic camps. No pads are involved and no coaching, so no real football is happening. It’s more like the NFL combine measuring speed, strength and agility.

Still, it’s a bold move that possibly signals a future step. Right now we’re much closer to spring football than we are to the days when high school coaches just unlocked the weight room and let players work out when they felt like it.

Organized workouts (as much as the IHSA allows, anyway) are now commonplace.

And if coaches are willing to put in that kind of work in April and May to host a half dozen other teams and invite colleges, I’m guessing they’d be pumped for additional opportunities to increase the college exposure while getting ready for the fall season.

How long until they ask the IHSA to jump on the national bandwagon and permit football practices in the spring?

  Glenbard South football coach Ryan Crissey looks on as players warm up during a college showcase last week in Glen Ellyn. Brian Hill/
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