Nebraska Football: Camp Matters

Big Red NetworkSenior Writer IJune 13, 2008

Nebraska’s summer football camps are in full swing. Summer camp sessions have always been an important aspect of the continual search for talent, and their importance has increased significantly in the last decade.

I’m pleased to see the continued emphasis on variety created by the previous regime, and I’m excited by the prospects of NU’s coaching staff getting the chance to host campers.

June is the height of the summer camp period and an important evaluation time for coaches. It’s important for them to see prospects in person.

Yes, there is an emphasis on teaching. But coaches also want to evaluate players, see how they take coaching, and make a good impression for the program.

This is a crucial time. The Huskers could use a shot of momentum to their early recruiting efforts by securing a commitment or two coming out of the camp season.

For players, it is all about variety. Many of the more highly regarded players visiting NU for camps are also camping at other major programs. It is a chance for them to compare programs firsthand.


Augmented Offerings Continue

Nebraska added significantly more variety to their camp offerings under the direction of Bill Callahan and Tim Cassidy, the former Assistant Athletic Director for Football, and I’m pleased to see this continue under Bo Pelini and Assistant AD Jeff Jamrog.

It is often far too easy to simply dismiss whatever the other guys were doing. Regardless of how things ended for Callahan, good ideas have merit of their own—and these newer camps are a good idea.

As always, the program hinges around two sessions for high school prospects. But adding camps for middle-school aged youth is great because you can never start those relationships too early.

The emphasis on the passing game with the quarterback academy and the 7-on-7 team camp continue to aid NU’s offensive evolution. We at BRN believe strongly in the “hidden third” of football, so we’re all for the kicking camp, too.


Major Impact for Recruiting

Camps are important to recruiting for a couple of reasons, both hinging on evaluation. For starters, it is a chance to invite highly regarded and rated players to see your program and build relationships.

More importantly, coaches want to see if prospects past the sniff test. Nothing matters to these coaches more than what they see with their own eyes. It matters even more than good film—and coaches love film.

Next, it provides a chance for prospects to emerge. Fans tend to become obsessed with the 250 or so players that the two major public recruiting services have highly rated at this point.

Those players are important, no doubt about it—but they are hardly the total universe of prospects. Players who are less highly regarded by those services or who have not merited the exposure to be rated start to emerge in camps.

Coaches see a wide receiver flash potential, or like a lineman’s wingspan and footwork, and suddenly they have a scholarship offer. Coaches love to lock up a player before everybody else knows what they missed.

But more often than not, that player’s scholarship offer is reported publicly. Opposing coaches hear this news. And when that kid shows up two weeks later at another school's camp, they also make an offer—partially on evaluation, and partially because somebody else wants him.

Before you know it, the kid has picked up three offers in a month. Suddenly, a kid who was off the public’s radar in May is a three-star prospect in July. It happens.


Pelini’s Personal Touch

Sorry to sound a bit cynical about recruiting and the politics of perception. It’s all part of finding and securing talent. But the most important part is interpersonal relationships—and those relationships are really fostered at camps. It’s better than text messaging and phone calls.

Players and coaches get to yell, hit, sweat, and high-five. This is where Husker fans hope Pelini and his high-energy coaching staff have a chance to shine.

I’ve heard some good reports of Pelini’s involvement and demeanor with the players so far. He appears to be a “players' coach” all the way.

One personal anecdote gives me the most hope. While traveling back from my vacation in Colorado, my family and I stopped for food. A middle school team who was returning back from the Husker youth camp was in the restaurant.

Naturally, I talked to a few of the kids, and spoke briefly with their coach. They all gave rave reviews. They liked the camp, the teaching and especially Pelini’s energy and attitude.

Now, I just hope he has the same effect on high school football stars.