One thing that schools are doing now are summer recruiting "events."
Case in point: Last weekend Nebraska held what it called "Big Red Weekend." The Huskers coaching staff holds a camp for elite athletes, a sort of wrap-up to the camp season. This is the second year Bo Pelini and staff have called it "Big Red Weekend." It's a pitch. Athletes camp under the guidance of Nebraska coaches. They then visit the campus and have a chance to get a feel and have academic questions answered. (One TE prospect said the highlight for him was being able to meet with a physics professor.)
This being Big Ten land, the Big Red Weekend stands out, but you see more and more of these. Camps that fold into recruiting events that eventually yield a commitment.
The Huskers hauled in six last weekend, including Florida QB Zack Darlington, who picked Nebraska with an offer on the table from Ohio State. The Huskers sat at two commitments before BRW and now have nine and are on their way to a top 25 (or thereabouts) class (Rivals.com currently has Nebraska at No. 33).
Iowa is in this business, too.
This weekend is it. There's no nickname, that I know of. When Nebraska coaches pulled down a commitment last weekend, they told the world (remember, coaches can't comment on commits) with #BOOM on their Twitter accounts. A lot of the Iowa coaches are on Twitter, but that doesn't seem likely, not really the style of the head coach.
HawkeyeReport.com's Tom Kakert and Blair Sanderson are working on a list of visitors. An early look shows DL Dewayne Hendrix, ATH Raymond Wingo, OL Keegan Render, RB Treyvon Hughes, DB Craig James, DL Jemal Averette and TE Ryan Izzo. Of Iowa's six commits, OL Ross Pierschbacher, QB Jay Scheel, OL Lucas LeGrand, and ATH Omar Truitt are scheduled to attend.
Recruiting has sped up. On June 24 last year, Iowa had 15 commitments. Three of those didn't end up at Iowa, but the point is things are faster now. For the first time, Iowa put together a board for high school sophomores last winter (Iowa has 17 offers out to prospects who'll be juniors this fall). You've read and perhaps have felt some outrage over USC's eighth grade commit or Kentucky's offer to a seventh grader.
If Iowa recruiting follows a similar pattern from 2012, there will be a final push for commits from now until the end of July. Then, when the season starts, it's all about the season. Which is OK, because Kirk Ferentz has said Iowa definitely wants to keep the door open for seniors prospects who cash in with great seasons (video that wows and moves coaches to offer, think Ricky Stanzi).
Again, Iowa has 15 seniors, but it had 16 last season and signed 20. Twenty is always a solid number with Iowa recruiting.
Let's get to know a few of the vistors:
ATH Raymond Wingo
City/school: St. Louis, Mo. (St. Louis University High School)
Rating: Three star (Rivals)
Size/stats: 6-0, 165.
Offers: Arkansas, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, Tulsa
Keeps his head up and his feet moving, especially through contact. That buys him a lot of extra yards. Excellent field vision and has patience to let the blocking develop. More highlights on offense than defense, but he backpedaled well and keep his hips square. I think he ends up a corner, but so much of his video is him doing great things with the ball that I wouldn't dismiss WR. Definitely list as an ATH for now. Offers from everywhere, but Iowa assistant Eric Johnson has a proven track record in St. Louis.
DB Craig James
City/school: Edwardsville, Ill. (Edwardsville High School)
Rating: Three star (Rivals)
Size/stats: 5-10, 170.
Offers: Indiana, Iowa State, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri
First highlight is a kick return for a TD, so there's your special teams value. At 1:01, there's a shot of James delivering a crunch on kick coverage and then recovering a pooch kick that was a pseudo onside. 1:16, there's James lining up on the end and blocking a FG or PAT. 1:22 shows a play with him at corner. Tracks the ball extremely well. His hips don't get tested, but he shows excellent body control highpointing the ball for a pick. He plays off the receiver, but no one can run by him in this league. Very confident with the football. James is probably a recruit who'll get a ton more attention when/if he commits.
OL Keegan Render
City/school: Indianola (Indianola High School)
Rating: Three star (Rivals)
Size/stats: 6-3, 310.
Offers: Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Illinois, Illinois State
Excellent hands. Wins the race to get his hands on the defender most of the time. That's high-level lineman thinking. Good first step for a big OL. Also, he seemed to be very conscious of his pad level and keep his back flat out of that first step. He's getting great coaching and he's taking it to heart. The CIML butts heads with the MVC and (sometimes) the MAC for best prep leagues in Iowa. Given this slice of film, Render doesn't have an equal on this level. We don't know how much he's shopping himself, ie camp schedule. As of now, it sounds like an in-state battle between Iowa and ISU. Render has said he's not in a huge hurry to make a decision.
DE Dewayne Hendrix
City/school: O'Fallon, Ill. (O'Fallon High School)
Rating: Four star (Rivals)
Size/stats: 6-4, 264.
Offers: California, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Michigan State, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, Northern Illinois, Ohio State, South Florida, Syracuse, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Video (from 247 Sports):
This is your classic strongside DE. Gets upfield fast, dips shoulder and wins the edge to the QB. Hands and feet work together really well. He delivers a punch and keeps his feet moving. The punch gives OL something to think about and his feet blow him past the OL while he's trying to reset. On most plays here, he drew the tackle and was chipped by backs, TEs and WRs. He didn't hit the ground. When he did tie up, he didn't quit on the play. Hendrix took off and tracked down RBs. Many of these highlights were passing plays, but on the few running plays, Hendrix had his head up and tracked the ball well. He didn't just uncoil into automatic sack mode, ie block himself out of a play. Huge get for whatever school lands him.
RB Treyvon Hughes
City/school: Lewisville, Texas (Hebron High School)
Rating: Two star (Rivals)
Size/stats: 6-0, 208.
Offers: Iowa, Nevada, Northern Colorado
Hughes runs like an Iowa running back. He makes one cut, he runs downhill and he runs behind his pads. He might lack lateral quickness, but he's not interested in east-west. Lines up a lot right on top of the line of scrimmage. That shows he has enough acceleration, but also shows that he wants to be physical. He doesn't blink in traffic. Wants to deliver the blow. When he makes his cut and gets square, Hughes is a tough load. Hebron runs a lot of I formation and quick hitters. That's not exactly the same as a zone, but it's not far off. There were a few shotgun, one-back formations. Hughes took what was there. As a junior, Hughes finished with 205 carries for 1,461 yards and 16 touchdowns at Waxahachie High School. He told HawkeyeReport.com that he's not in a hurry and would like to put up some good senior video at Hebron. Iowa has a running back commit in C.J. Hilliard, but seems to be hunting one more. This might end up being who takes the offer first.
DT Jemal Averette
City/school: Olney, Md. (Our Lady of Good Counsel High School)
Rating: Two star (Rivals)
Size/stats: 6-2, 285.
Offers: Charlotte, Iowa, Toledo
Rises up and loses the flat back, but Averette has tremendous feet and punch. You have to love his tackling. He's a wrapper. That's what you want, especially when you're 6-2, 285. He played on the outside and was conscious of keeping his inside arm free if runners tried to dip inside. During this highlight video, he does occasionally let an OL get his hands on him, but Averette often pushed through with a strong first step and excellent power and balance. Took blocks, but got off of them. Averette's recruitment feels as though it's in the early stages. He has told Rivals he likes Maryland, but that might've been before Iowa offered, which happened relatively recently.
TE Ryan Izzo
City/school: Sparta, NJ. (Pope John XXIII High School)
Rating: Three star (Rivals)
Size/stats: 6-5, 215.
Offers: Boston College, Florida State, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, UMass, Minnesota, Michigan State, Missouri, Northern Illinois, Pitt, Rutgers, South Florida, Syracuse, Temple, Tulane, USC, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin
Video (from 247 Sports):
First highlight is split out. Izzo shows great awareness of body position. The defender is faster, but Izzo walled him off and made himself open. That's excellent football IQ. Long strides, but seems fast. Looks comfortable in-line. Does not back down from blocking. I'm not sure what he's coached to do, but Izzo shows excellent field awareness here. He sees coverage dropping and he turns and starts looking for the ball. Izzo has told Rivals he's close to making a counted. He tweeted Wednesday that he's visiting IC this weekend.
(Here's a story I wrote in 2000 from Iowa's summer camp. It might give you a feel for the mood and what coaches and prospects think.)
IOWA CITY - Summer football camp is all about checking out the competition.
The coaches check out the players. The players check out everything - the coaches, the campus, the facilities, the food. And, truth be
told, the players check out the players.
This leads to a few awkward exchanges.
Monday at the University of Iowa's football camp, the best prep running back in the state turned and smiled at the other best prep running back in the state, who already engaged in a down-time joke with the other other best prep running back in the state.
It was no coincidence that Cedar Falls running back Terrance Freeney and Davenport North running back Marques Simmons stood
together in line all day, running through tires and around orange traffic pylons Monday on the practice fields behind the UI football
"We're real good friends," Simmons said. "You'd think that we would be rivals, but we're friends. It's actually nice to go through all this with somebody else."
IOWA CITY HIGH running back Hakim Hill watched from the sidelines. He would join the next day. He greeted Freeney and Simmons as the two picked up their Hawkeye football camp T-shirts and sports bottles.
"You want to know what the other guy can do," Freeney said. "You want to know who's fast, who's strong, who can move. You want to know where you stand."
The Iowa coaching staff will have a sharper read on who actually is the state's best prep running back. Iowa has the benefit of assessing
first-hand their footwork, speed, running instincts, leadership and willingness to be coached.
A day at camp, a live look, gives Iowa this. Others recruiting the three can only watch videotape and extrapolate.
"Our camp is truly a football camp," Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. "It's not just evaluation and a meat market. We get a look at the kids and get an idea for what they can do, but that's not what our camp is about. We get a chance to teach and work with kids. The kids get a look at what college coaches demand. And hopefully, they learn something they can use on the field."
The second Kirk Ferentz camp, which ran five days this week, included about 300 players. Many of the highly regarded prospects
in the state's class of 2000 stopped in for at least a day.
The Hawkeyes get other perks along with the $260 from participants. Along with teaching - which is done by assistant coaches as Ferentz roams in and out of drills - they get to time players in sprints and agility drills, measure vertical jumps and test weight-lifting
Most top recruits spend just a day at camp. It's enough to confirm interest on both sides, and it's not enough to run out of a scholarship.
"If you succeed at camp, it's great for you," said Ames lineman Ben Cronin, who earned the Iowa staff's attention at last year's camp. "But if you don't, you can disappear."
Southeast Polk quarterback Kyle Orton earned a scholarship to Purdue after an impressive showing at a Nike camp in Champaign,
Ill. The invitation-only Nike camps comprise training and football-specific drills, emphasizing athletes' speed, agility and quickness.
It is a high-pressure, scouting smorgasbord.
"They are more like combines," said Hill, who attended but didn't participate at the Champaign Nike camp. "You have to put up or shut up. You have to perform. If you don't perform it could hurt you. That's why a lot of guys stay away from those camps.
"A lot of people say it's nice to be invited, but you really don't want to go."
In comparison, college camps are more user-friendly.
"Coaches say the best thing to do is to come to camp so they can see your work ethic, not time you in the 40," Cronin said.
"They want to see what you've got in your gas tank."
To comply with NCAA rules, schools can't overdo a camp brochure, specifically conduct tryouts with campers, overemphasize
physical testing or allow a coach to spend too much one-on-one time with a recruit, especially if it is to sell him on the school.
Those restrictions still leave a considerable gray area.
"We don't want kids to think it's a tryout camp, because it's not," Ferentz said. "You have more than just seniors looking for college scholarships. You want to give the younger kids something worthwhile so they'll want to come back."
Anthony Dean, a former Iowa wide receiver, is the director of UI sports camps from football to tennis to wrestling. He is a busy man
this time of year.
"I basically have no life," said Dean, a '94 Iowa grad. "There's food, lodging, medical forms, endless van rides around the campus, flight arrangements.
"This year we have a camper from Japan coming in for the wrestling camp. Every year, we have kids come from a handful of
Sports camps were next to non-existent when Dean came to Iowa in 1991. Now they're big business. Many high schools now have minicamps, which also cost money, Dean said. With college camps, Nike camps and high school camps - not to mention assorted specialty camps - there's competition for the camp dollar.
"If you have a kid in football, basketball, baseball," Dean said, "a parent could go broke."
City High offensive lineman Eric Smith is a huge prospect at 6-8, 280 pounds. But he isn't going to break his family's checkbook to step through tires in Tennessee.
"Coaches can get the same thing from my tapes," he said. "And this time of year I'm not even close to peak condition. By fall, I'll be there."
South Tama tight end Ben Gates was going to take a basketball trip to Ireland this summer. Instead, that money is sending him to camps at Kansas State, Iowa, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska and Stanford.
"The money was already saved, so my parents didn't mind," Gates said. "You have to look at it as an investment. I'd trade $300 for a full-ride scholarship any day."