Once upon a time, games and film were the only way to evaluate prospects. Thanks to Hudl and other media outlets, coaches can evaluate prospects from their computers. With Hudl, 247sports, Rivals, and sites like Lettermen’s Row and The Clemson Insider, recruiting is a 24/7 news cycle. Gone are the days where you have to go to scan the Lemming Report to find the hottest recruits. Also, college football camps have become a huge platform for prospective recruits.
Due to Covid-19, this is one aspect of recruiting that will hinder many recruits that are on the cusp of obtaining scholarship offers. Not only does this affect the student-athlete, but it also affects the football program. While it’s great to meet recruits through Facetime, nothing compares to face-to-face interaction.
Invite-only camps at schools such as Ohio State, USC, Tennessee, and Alabama are where the cream of the crop shows up and coaches get a real feel on if the recruit can play.
For high school football players, this is their version of AAU Basketball. On the EYBL AAU hoops circuit, it’s nothing to see Coach K, Jay Wright, and Roy Williams on the sidelines scoping out talent. While the football camps don’t have that same luxury, the camp season gives them a similar platform.
On Episode #48 of Menace 2 Sports own Zach Smith talked about former OSU Buckeye Terry McLaurin’s camp experience and how valuable it was for his development as a player and how the coaches were able to see that he was a grinder.
I decided to give a sneak peek on how a day at camp goes for prospective college recruits at larger universities. Some universities make the camp a full-day experience and On-campus visits are essentially the most important visits because you get to interact with the coaches face-to-face instead of through the telephone.
Here is behind the scene look at how an invite-only camp goes.
A lot of the initial contact is done via Twitter. Oftentimes it begins with the area recruiter giving the recruit a follow or someone in the recruiting department.
The prospective recruit will receive a direct message of a flyer about the camp.
The day goes something like this.
(Inserts fictional football player, and it’s not Spencer James from the show All-American)
A three-star wide receiver named Sean Tate will be visiting Tennessee for the first time. Tate hails from Frankfort, Kentucky and he is a Junior-to-be at Western Hills High School. Tate is an up-and-coming prospect and is next in line to follow Nebraska’s Wandale Robinson as the next big Power 5 recruit from his high school.
Tate has garnered offers from Cincinnati, Ohio, Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Kentucky, Louisville, and Iowa State. Tate is gaining steam after tearing it up on the spring camp circuit at the Nike Opening, Rivals Adidas Camp, and the Under Armour showcase. After receiving an offer from fellow SEC foe Kentucky, the Volunteers want to see him camp under the lights at Neyland Stadium.
With Tate being a sophomore, he normally cannot chat with coaches via social media, but since the visit is within 24 hours, they can exchange direct messages. That will all change come Sept 1, when he is officially a junior, but everyone must follow the rules. Tate is pumped, he has been direct messaging the Director of Player of Personnel all day and he is looking forward to making the three-hour trek from Frankfort to Knoxville.
Tate receives his itinerary and he begins to prepare for one of the biggest days of his life. Tate knows if he gets the Tennessee offer, it could be a life-changing event for him. Every aspect of this visit will be critiqued, so Tate must be nearly perfect on his big day— even off the field.
It is super early, can you guess who’s asleep in the backseat, because they played Fortnite all night?
It is always best to arrive early, so Tate arrives at 8:30 am. Tate and his parents left their home at 5:00 am, so they arrived with ample time to spare. During that time, they quizzed him on facts about the football program, university, position coach, and head coach. It was also expressed that it’s important to speak up, use a firm handshake, and look into everyone’s eyes when you talk to them. Lastly, his parents told him to turn off the damn phone or put it on silent.
Facility Tour: 9:30 am
Tate is wide-eyed and thinking that he hit the jackpot. He sees awards in the trophy case and the student assistant coach that works in recruiting shows him a shrine with Jamal Lewis, Carl Pickens, Peerless Price, and Peyton Manning. After that, he goes to the locker room, weight room, and equipment room.
Academic Meeting: 10:00am
This is usually when the parents/mentors stand out. Tate is not thinking too much about the school aspect until he hears that he can graduate in 3 years. He does go on to say that he wants to study Communication so that he can be a sports analyst. During that time, the family is also enlightened about an internship program that helps with the transition from athletics to the working world.
Meet with Area Recruiter: 10:45 am
The excitement is still there, and Tate sits down with former Vols great Jay Graham, who happens to be the running back coach. Graham recruits the Kentucky area and he loves Tate’s game film from the season. Graham is excited to see Tate at camp against some of the top players in the nation.
Strength and Conditioning Presentation: 11:15 am
Tate and his family are in love with the program and now, it is time to see the strength and conditioning program presentation. The strength and conditioning coach show off player transformations and tells Tate and his family that these are the results that happen if the kids put the work in.
Photo Shoot: 11:45 am
Tate has been waiting for this moment. He cannot wait to post pictures on Twitter and Instagram with the #GBO hashtag. Tate throws on the No.1 and his swag is on a trillion. Lights, Camera, and Action. End scene.
Meet with Position Coach: 12:00pm
Uh oh, it is getting real. Tate and his family are sitting with Tee Martin. THE Tee Martin. Martin is happy that Tate could make the trip and he thanks his family for making the trip. Martin immediately gushes over Tate’s sturdy 6’2 frame. Martin sits down with the family to talk about the history of the program. They also go over Tate’s film to discuss things he does well and things that he can improve on. The meeting goes well, and Martin is excited how Tate will perform under the lights at camp later in the day.
Meet with Head Coach: 12:30 pm
Jeremy Pruitt looks a lot cooler in person. Coach Pruitt is showing his lighter side. He’s joking with the family, but he is selling the hell out of his program. Pruitt also thanked the family for bringing Tate and he expressed that he thinks that Tate can play at Tennessee. He also explains that he is excited to see him at camp tonight. Pruitt is short and sweet with his message. He did not spend a lot of time with the Tate family, but it was more than enough to feel wanted.
Food is $12 per person, and it is well worth it. Shout out to Dead End BBQ.
Brand Presentation: 1:45pm
With the new NCAA rules in play, Tate and his family learn about the importance of branding. The family is more enamored even more about the program.
Campus & Stadium Tour: 2:15pm
As the family is on the golf cart with one of the student assistants they can see how big Neyland Stadium is. The stadium’s capacity is nearly 105,000 and it looks massive in person. The Tate family pulls out their phones and takes hundreds of pictures. The campus and stadium tour were a success. Sean and his Father love the football stadium, and Mom is in love with the Library and the Student Union hall where there are plenty of food options for the students on campus.
Off-Campus Housing Tour: 3:15 pm
After completing the campus tour, the Tate family gets to see how the student-athletes live. Tate is excited about the thought of living alone, playing Fortnite, and doing who knows what, while Mom is praying for her sanity thinking about her son living away from home.
Return to the Football Facility: 4:15 pm
The gang returns to the facility, and it has been a long day. The football camp is under the lights at 8:00 pm, so the Tate family has a few hours to take in the experience. The parents are a bit uneasy since their son has not been offered a scholarship yet, but they are blown away by the experience.
Time to Ball: 8:00 pm
This is the moment that everyone has been waiting for. Sean leaves his parents to get in line for camp. Peyton Manning popped in to say hello to the coaching staff. Yes, that Peyton Manning.
Sean receives an armband and he is placed with the “dudes.” While with the better group of players, Sean runs the 40-yard dash well and he catches every pass thrown his way. In sum, he had his best camp showing, and before leaving he met with the position coach and Head Coach. Coach Martin and Coach Pruitt thanked the family for coming and they saw enough in person to offer Tate a scholarship.
The Tate family is excited. Mom is in tears and Dad hugs his son, but he tells him this is only the beginning.
Tate is beaming with excitement, and he wastes no time and posts it to his Twitter page.
” I am blessed to receive an offer from the University of Tennessee #GBO”.
The Tate family is ecstatic, and they are on the road again word to Willie Nelson after coming to Knoxville to achieve the goal in receiving a scholarship offer.