The Top Camps Where College Football Recruits Get Noticed
For players and coaches alike, college football recruiting is an enormous challenge.
Prospects want to get noticed. But in today's technologically savvy world, many thousands of players have highlight films and recruiting profiles. How can they separate themselves?
Coaches want to find the best talent possible, but they need to parse through those thousands of options. Where, and how, do they prioritize their limited time to evaluate players?
There is no perfect formula or answer. Still, a group of regional camps and combines have emerged as the most popular ways to get noticed. Even if a head coach isn't on-site, a nationwide network of contacts can be the link for a prospect and a college.
The Opening Regional Camps
Previously sponsored by Nike, The Opening is now labeled the Dick's Sporting Goods Combine tour. Student Sports organizes the prominent regional camps and finals.
At the regional events, prospects can go through testing in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, vertical jump and kneeling power ball toss. On-field work features position-specific and one-on-one drills, as well as competitions for each position.
The series culminates in The Opening Finals, a four-day event that gathers top performers from several competitions. One of the most notable, which we'll cover shortly, is the Elite 11. This showcase will now be called the Dick's Sporting Goods Finals.
Elite 11 Regional Camps
Every team needs a quarterback. Elite 11 tries to identify the best.
Although each regional is an invite-only event, prospects can submit their information for consideration. The initial 2020 schedule had stops planned from Atlanta to Indianapolis to Los Angeles.
Top performers advance to the Elite 11 Finals, and that group competes in a three-day camp with a prestigious reward. Evaluators pick the 11 best quarterbacks to participate at The Opening Finals.
Under Armour Regional Camps
Thousands of high school football players work for an invitation to the well-known Under Armour All-America Game. The journey to Orlando may start at a regional camp.
Beyond official measurements, testing includes the 40-yard dash, vertical jump and pro agility. Players then compete in one-on-one situations and other on-field drills, and top-performing underclassmen are invited to the Future 50 camp.
In recent years, then-future NFL draft picks Ed Oliver, Rashan Gary and Dexter Lawrence all earned Future 50 invitations.
Rivals Camp Series
Along with ESPN and 247Sports, Rivals has established itself as a leading brand in the recruiting world. The company also conducts a group of scouting events to assist with evaluations.
First up is the Combine Series, which involves the 40-yard dash, shuttle run, three-cone drill, vertical jump and broad jump. Top performers continue to the Camp Series, and that group is narrowed to 100 players for the invite-only Five-Star Challenge.
In 2019, Rivals held the Five-Star Challenge at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, home of the NFL's Atlanta Falcons.
VTO Sports Camps
While it's not as familiar a name, VTO Sports holds regional camps that culminate in an exclusive event.
The camps feature a variety of workouts, including the 40-yard dash, bench press and agility drills. Along the way, top performers may be selected for the Elite 100 Showcase camps and progress to the invitation-only All-American Challenge.
Consistent top performances can propel a relatively unknown prospect to a valuable place on the local radar.
All-American Bowl National Combine
Formerly known as the U.S. Army Combine, the National Combine happens annually in conjunction with the popular All-American Bowl.
More than 600 underclassmen will gather in San Antonio for the event. The schedule includes a 40-yard dash, short shuttle, vertical jump and one-on-one competition, and top performers will be closely monitored as potential invites to a future All-American Bowl.
Notable alumni of the combine include Clemson star Trevor Lawrence, Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, longtime NFL receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and former Texas star Colt McCoy.
Throughout the spring and summer, the 7-on-7 circuit provides a competitive environment that attracts plenty of top prospects.
Pylon is a recognizable brand that has a national championship held in Las Vegas annually. Prior to the showcase, there are regional events all over the country. Pylon says more than 3,200 Division I athletes have participated in the championship series.
Although NCAA rules prohibit college coaches from scouting at these events, recruiting connections are still made.
While a coaching staff has a network of talent-discovery tools, the program itself can conduct its own camps for evaluation purposes.
These may be single- or multi-day events on campus. And in many cases, top performers will be invited back to junior days—an unofficial visit that is regularly an invite-only camp.
Although it's never been easier to scout players nationwide, coaches still appreciate when talent flocks to them. Local camps may provide the break an underrated, quality prospect needs.