Imagining a Satellite-Camp Frenzy in College Football

Ben AxelrodBig Ten Lead WriterMay 2, 2016

University of Michigan head football coach Jim Harbaugh watches batting practice before a baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and the Oakland Athletics, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The SEC didn't want it to come to this. Neither did the ACC.

But when the NCAA announced Thursday it had overturned its less than three-week-old ban of satellite camps, the conferences' hands were forced as they each lifted their own self-imposed ban on satellite camps.

Now consider the possibilities.

Picture a pre-planned Michigan satellite camp at Cedar Grove High School in Ellenwood, Georgia—which Jim Harbaugh fought tooth and nail to keep—returning to its regularly scheduled June 2 date. Now picture Georgia head coach Kirby Smartpreviously unable to host the same sort of clinic because Cedar Grove falls just outside of the SEC's now-outdated 50-mile limit of where its schools can host camps—opting to do the same, on the exact same day.

What might that look like?

Oh. That's actually happening.

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And at least for now, the possibilities appear limitless.

But as the planned Michigan-Georgia dual camp has already shown, you can expect the wilder side of college football to win out when it comes to lifting the satellite camp ban. With that in mind, let's examine some possible scenarios that could soon play out.

Scenario 1: The Mega-Camp

Remember the Michigan-Georgia camp we just talked about? Now multiply it by five. Or 10.

Imagine a camp where Harbaugh is coaching quarterbacks, Smart is in charge of the defensive backs, Nick Saban is serving as counselor for linebackers, Urban Meyer has the wide receivers, Les Miles is with the running backs and—well, you get the picture.

If a high school is willing to host both the Wolverines' and Bulldogs' staffs on the same weekend, why wouldn't it be willing to add even more big-name head coaches to a given dais? And in turn, if, say, Meyer or Saban sees Harbaugh and Smart have created the biggest recruiting event of the weekend, why wouldn't they get in on the fun?

Nick Saban (left) and Urban Meyer
Nick Saban (left) and Urban MeyerSean Gardner/Getty Images

The result could be satellite camps not specific to any one college team, but rather a buffet-like menu of the nation's top coaches serving as counselors at the same camps. No longer would the camp likely be exclusive to prospects in the Georgia region; players from all over the country would fly in for that sort of coaching.

Could it be just one mega-camp a year? Would each satellite camp eventually become the same: A tour of college football's top coaches hosting joint ventures on college football's most fertile recruiting ground?

Would each coach make sure no other coach comes into his backyard in order to host his own camp alone, like Smart appears set to do with Harbaugh? These are the details that still need to be ironed out.

But with no apparent limit to how many schools can attend the same camp, it's hard to imagine camps like the Michigan-Georgia situation will be the rarity.

It's likely just the start.

Scenario 2: The Super Tour

Picture a bus filled with college prospects touring through Florida, which possesses no shortage of potential satellite camp sites and blue-chip talent to fill each one.

Perhaps one day you're in Orlando, vying for the attention of the Michigan staff at UCF. The next day you could be in Tampa, fighting it out for a scholarship offer from the Southern Cal staff at USF. After that, you head south to Miami, where Texas has set up shop at FIU. From there, it's off to Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton, where Ohio State is hosting a camp.

Recruiting tour buses aren't anything new. Go to any program's camp across the country and you'll likely find kids from the same high school or region who traveled there together from a previous camp and are on their way to another camp after that.

Jim Harbaugh
Jim HarbaughChris O'Meara/Associated Press/Associated Press

Take for example the "Unsigned Preps Bus Tour" Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani documented last summer, which took 80 prospects to college camps across Florida and the Southeast. Among the camps visited were Clemson, North Carolina, North Carolina State and USF, which doubled as a satellite camp for Michigan in the Tampa area.

A strong circuit? No doubt.

But with satellite camps' rise in prominence, the potential of these routes just grew exponentially.

It's time to forget traditional bus routes, which might take a bus full of prospects from Penn State to Ohio State to Michigan in a given stretch. If variety is the spice of life, satellite camps could provide various tastes to recruits they otherwise wouldn't have been familiar with.

And while many high school coaches were in favor of satellite camps due to the opportunities provided for their players, not even they could have imagined what might be available to them in the near future.

Scenario 3: Unwelcome Visitors

While Georgia has already announced its intentions to play along, it's unclear how the SEC will put its new allowance of satellite camps to use.

But as one of the low men on the conference's totem poll—and with an aggressive head coach like Mark Stoops—it's a safe bet Kentucky will be hitting the road at some point this summer to take advantage of new league rules.

The same, however, can't be said for Saban and Alabama, which has managed to recruit just fine without the use of off-campus camps. Even if the entire country is now allowed to do them, it's hard to imagine a program that's inked the nation's past six top-ranked classes suddenly becoming irrelevant in the recruiting world.

That could lead to a scenario where a team like the Wildcats heads to talent-rich Alabama for a camp, while the Crimson Tide remain indifferent to the satellite camp practice. Perhaps Lane Kiffin would be forced to take a break from playing with bitmojis to let his boss know of UK's plans.

Lane Kiffin (left) and Nick Saban
Lane Kiffin (left) and Nick SabanLM Otero/Associated Press/Associated Press

"Coach, Lane is here to see you," Saban's secretary says.

*Saban pushes the button on his desk that opens the door to his office—a button that actually exists, according to Joey Bosa.*

"Coach, Kentucky's here. Well, they're not here—they're in Prattville for a satellite camp," a panicked Kiffin says.

"And?" Saban asks, more interested in his oatmeal cream pie.

"Should we send someone over? I mean, this is our backyard."

Saban interrupts.

"Lane, do you think you win five national championships, fill up NFL rosters and manage to get linked to every major head coaching vacancy each and every offseason by worrying about what Kentucky's doing?" Saban asks, confused at why his time's being wasted.

"I guess not. I thought..."

"You thought wrong," Saban says, reaching for his button as Kiffin disappears behind the Batcave-like sliding door. "You thought wrong."

Fast-forward four months later and Alabama finds itself in a closer-than-expected contest with the Wildcats as an unknown freshman defensive end continuously terrorizes the Crimson Tide backfield.

"Who is this kid?" Saban screams at the terrified offensive coordinator standing next to him.

"He's from Prattville," Kiffin responds, sheepishly. "They found him at a satellite."

Scenario 4: Untraditional Pipelines

Imagine a USC pipeline of prospects from Ohio or a direct line from the Northeast to Oregon. Clemson could soon pluck prospects from California, while Michigan State pries from Texas.

Pipelines in college football are nothing new. Michigan has historically recruited well in California, while Penn State has often dominated the Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia region. Oklahoma does well in Texas, and the Buckeyes have plucked plenty of players from South Florida.

But with more satellite camps in existence, several new and unconventional pipelines could soon come to fruition.

Urban Meyer
Urban MeyerJay LaPrete/Associated Press/Associated Press

Consider three years ago, when Saban set his sights on a trio of highly touted prospects from Glenville High School in Cleveland, Ohio. Despite being able to lure Marshon Lattimore, Erick Smith and Marcelys Jones to Tuscaloosa while Alabama was college football's defending national champion, it wasn't enough to lure the three players away from the Buckeye State.

You see, Glenville is an Ohio State pipeline—a school that has given the Buckeyes Troy Smith, Ted Ginn Jr., Donte Whitner and Cardale Jones, among others. And as tempting as Saban's interest might have been, the 2014 Glenville trio's recruitment might as well have been predetermined.

But if Saban were recruiting Lattimore, Smith and Jones this upcoming summer, he could just set up shop at a camp near Cleveland, dancing around the traditional number of campus and in-house visits put in place. At the very least, it could weaken Ohio State's hold on its traditional pipeline, setting the stage for the Crimson Tide to one day forge its own recruiting footprint in Buckeye territory.

Of course, there's already a counter for teams trying their best to protect their own backyard. Just look at what Georgia did by adding itself to the Michigan camp—a practice that could be commonplace in college football this summer.

After a year's worth of reviewing, ruling and overriding, the fun's just about to get started.

Welcome to college football's Wild Wild West.

The possibilities appear endless.

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Big Ten lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. Recruit rankings and info courtesy of 247Sports.