Satellite camps, Harbaugh a big hit in Florida
TAMPA, Fla. – Before Tropical Storm Colin came through the central and northern parts of Florida, the state had spent previous two days experiencing Hurricane Harbaugh.
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh pulled off two camps Friday in Fort Lauderdale, doing one with coaches from Maryland and Pittsburgh at University School on the campus of Nova Southeastern and a second one at St. Thomas Aquinas High School with Syracuse, Stetson and others.
The khaki-pants regime then headed north to Tampa to do a satellite camp with USF on Saturday. The University School camp had 409 participants and 426 participants at the USF event. The numbers for the St. Thomas Aquinas camp were unknown, but the South Florida Sun-Sentinel said there were more than 200 campers, pushing the total to a 1,000 for two days.
— Gerry Hamilton (@HamiltonESPN) June 3, 2016
And Harbaugh wasn’t just lending his name to an event. At the USF camp in Tampa, he was a whirling dervish on the field. Jumping in lines at various stations and interjecting himself wherever and whenever he found necessary, which was quite often. The campers and fans seemed to love every minute of it.
Jim Harbaugh out here working hard in the Florida heat pic.twitter.com/WJYRRqB6S9
— Josh Newberg (@joshnewberg247) June 4, 2016
“He’s just wild,” said Willie Lane, a 2018 defensive line prospect and younger brother of former Florida running back Adam Lane. “He’s having a good time out there. You can sense his passion for the game.”
Lane, whose oldest brother D.C. Jefferson played at Rutgers several years ago, said he doesn’t worry about the distance from his home to Michigan.
“These days anyone can go anywhere and you have to find the best opportunity,” Lane said. “Whether that’s in the state of Florida or the southeast or in Michigan. They are a good program.”
Another satellite camp, another Harbaugh jersey…this time it's USF coach Willie Taggart while in Tampa. pic.twitter.com/MDhYEkVqPp
— Brandon Brown (@BSB_Wolverine) June 4, 2016
It was hard to look at these camps as recruiting tools. Granted there were some solid players in attendance at all three camps. Guys like Alabama linebacker commit VanDarius Cowan and 2018 athlete Amari Burney, one of the top wide receivers in the class. But the camps were as much about skill development as anything and Harbaugh confirmed as much with his comments to the media scrum at the University School event.
“I want them to learn 1, 2, 3, 4 things that can help them this summer or next season,” Harbaugh said. “And I want them to come away a more confident football player. These guys are in great physical condition. They have a great advantage with the sun and no one can question their conditioning out here.”
For all the criticism Harbaugh receives for his ridiculous satellite camp schedule that will see the Michigan brand in places like Australia and American Samoa, there is something to be said for drawing more than 1,000 prospects to work on their football skills and try to chase the opportunity that Lane spoke about.
And don’t get me wrong: There is a lot of truth to the words Alabama coach Nick Saban spoke about satellite camps during the SEC meetings. While I disagree that banning satellite camps is the right idea, I think some provisions will be put into place.
However, I can’t deny the wishes of more than 1,000 prospects at three camps. That’s a small sample size, but it’s a good idea of the attention a satellite camp can draw when bigger programs are involved. And satellite camp involvement is optional. Clemson is among many programs that aren’t doing them. Good for them, but other programs that want to do the extra work should be allowed to do so.
And what about the prospects? The players make this process work. Without the players, there’s nothing. Saban and Harbaugh have gotten very wealthy as coaches thanks to great players. Fans come to see the players. When Saban is at a booster club to speak, the people want to know about the players. College football is a player-run industry because without them you’ve got nothing.
For Harbaugh these trips are more about the brand than recruiting. He is trying to spread the work of Michigan everywhere. He’s not alone either, as Maryland coach D.J. Durkin and Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi were also working the camps and trying to find recruiting gems.
— Gerry Hamilton (@HamiltonESPN) June 3, 2016
“It’s good for Harbaugh to get out and coach in different states on different fields because he can see where Michigan’s large alumni bases are,” longtime Florida-based talent evaluator Larry Blustein said. “From a recruiting standpoint, I think the other schools with Michigan probably benefit more than Michigan. But Harbaugh wants to make Michigan a more visible brand nationwide and this is a good way to do it.”
Harbaugh will continue to travel and likely draw big crowds wherever he goes, and Saban will continue to do things his way.
Both ways seem to be working so far. The war of words between the two coaches will likely continue as well. But beyond the theatrics there are a lot of players who took the opportunity to work on their skills and be coached by legitimate college football coaches for a small fee of $50 or less.
They too have a voice and this weekend in Florida they spoke loud and clear.