There will be no time for chit-chat, Steven Leisz says.
Satellite camps are busy and bustling — especially the camp his Houston-area high school will host June 14. Coaches from LSU, McNeese State, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech are scheduled to attend Houston Episcopal’s camp that morning.
Leisz, Episcopal’s longtime football coach, created a name for his camp: “Louisiana invades Houston,” he said with a laugh.
Leisz and other Houston-based high school coaches will lead 300 or so prep prospects through drills for the better part of two hours. That’s after they measure them, acquiring their official height, weight, their vertical leap and so on.
Then drills begin. There are one-on-one clashes between defensive and offensive linemen and passing battles among receivers and defensive backs. Running backs will race through dummy-lined gauntlets and shuffle through cones. Quarterbacks will toss passes through small nets, and linebackers will flash their lateral speed.
Meanwhile, college coaches watch it all. They evaluate and critique, scribbling into notebooks — the same as an NFL scout would at the Senior Bowl or pro coaches do at the NFL combine.
And what happens when the camp ends at 11 a.m.? LSU coaches, as well as those from other colleges, pile into vehicles for the 45-minute drive across the city of Houston to North Shore High.
That’s where a second camp begins that afternoon, with about 300 more kids, dozens of high school coaches and some of the top talent in the land.
Welcome to the world of satellite camps.
No, no. There’s no time for chit-chat, breakfast or lunch with Les Miles.
“They come in and they leave,” Leisz said. “They’re in and out.”
From Michigan to Florida, from Maryland to New York, from Texas to Georgia, Southeastern Conference teams are spreading across the nation to partake in an old practice from which they were previously banned — hosting and/or attending satellite camps.
For years, the SEC had a policy restricting coaches from working camps outside of a 50-mile radius of their schools. That policy expired Sunday, opening the floodgates for SEC staffs to travel to these quasi recruiting-camps — something other conference coaches have done for years.
And no, we’re not just talking about Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh.
“It’s funny to me about how everybody is up in arms about satellite camps,” UL-Lafayette coach said Mark Hudspeth said. “We’ve been doing that for three or four years now.”
Penn State coach James Franklin made the first splash a couple years ago, irking SEC coaches when he held satellite camps — legal for years under NCAA rules — in Georgia. Harbaugh made a bigger splash last year when he hosted a whopping 11 satellite camps in seven states, including a handful in the SEC’s footprint.
“Jim,” Hudspeth said in a message to the Michigan coach, “you’re late to the party.”
For the past three years, Hudspeth and his staff have camped twice in Mississippi (at Ocean Springs High and at Mississippi College near Jackson). They’ve had camps in Georgia, too, and around the Louisiana.
This is nothing new for them. Here’s what’s new: camping alongside the state’s SEC powerhouse.
UL-Lafayette will have its own camps in the Shreveport and New Orleans areas, Hudspeth said, but the Cajuns will also attend LSU’s camp in Bossier City and New Orleans. They’ll travel to Houston for the camp at Episcopal, too.
“It’ll be a win-win,” Hudspeth said.
‘It’s a recruiting tool’
Todd Peterman, the football coach at DeSoto High, is expecting so many prospects for the June 13 camp involving LSU and Texas-San Antonio that he may have to turn away participants.
“We might have to cap it,” he said.
DeSoto High is 20 miles south of Dallas, a metro area of 7 million that churns out major college players with the best of them. DeSoto has been home to past camps for Rice, Texas State and Houston and will now open its doors to Texas-San Antonio. New UTSA head coach and former LSU assistant Frank Wilson will hold a camp there, with LSU coaches as “guests.”
The NCAA rules on satellite camps are tricky, and each satellite camp is run in a different fashion. NCAA bylaws permit teams to hold camps during two periods of 15 consecutive days in June or July.
Schools are allowed to host and run their own satellite camps in their own state. That’s what LSU is doing in Bossier City (June 2) and New Orleans (June 4). LSU coaches will run the camp, instruct prospects, lead them through drills and so on, just as they would at any of the yearly summer camps on campus.
Schools must partner with others to attend camps outside their state. LSU is partnering with Episcopal High for that camp in Houston and UTSA for the camp at DeSoto High.
LSU coaches won’t necessarily work those camps, though they could. They’ll watch and evaluate.
In essence, they’ll be recruiting.
“It’s quickly evolved into this: It’s a recruiting tool, not an evaluation tool,” said Baton Simmons, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports. “Satellite camps originally were evaluation tools for coaches to get into regions where they don’t typically have much of a presence and see guys they wouldn’t normally see. There’s still that aspect, but a satellite camp is an opportunity to get your entire staff in front of specific prospects and spend the day with them. That’s how it’s evolved very quickly.”
Marvin Wilson is one of LSU’s top targets for the 2017 recruiting class. He’s a 6-foot-4, 340-pounder whom 247Sports rated the No. 1 defensive tackle in the nation for 2017.
He attends Episcopal, where LSU coaches will spend a half-day June 14.
“That’s probably more than a coincidence,” said Mike Scarborough, publisher and recruiting analyst for Rivals’ TigerBait.com.
LSU isn’t the only school using this loophole.
“Tennessee is holding an offensive and defensive line camp in Jackson, Tennessee, where the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country goes to school,” Simmons said. “It’s basically just an opportunity for Tennessee coaches to get to the school of one of the top prospects and spend the day with him. It’s an official visit away from home.”
Half of Michigan’s 30-plus satellite camps this year are hosted by schools where a prospect of high priority attends, Simmons said.
Florida will host a camp at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville on June 8. It just so happens to be home to five-star cornerbacks Shaun Wade and Tyreke Johnson. Missouri will host a camp at Kansas City’s Park Hill High School on June 7. That’s where four-star 2017 defensive end Chester Graves attends school.
Hudspeth is quick to note that NCAA rules prohibit coaches from speaking with campers specifically about recruiting during camps they attend outside their state borders. But everything else is up for discussion — all day long.
“The satellite camps, we can’t really have recruiting conversations,” Hudspeth said. “On our campus and (at camps) in the state, we can (have recruiting conversations).”
There are other rules, too. For instance, campers must complete the registration before coaches can speak to them.
These rules aren’t hard and fast.
“Once a kid is registered, you can have unlimited contact during that day,” Simmons said. “Penn State had to report minor violations for talking to a kid in the registration line one year.”
When Miles called Hudspeth to invite him to LSU’s satellite camps, the conversation turned to Tulane.
The Green Wave will host Texas A&M and Houston coaches on its campus for two camps (June 17 and July 23), and the teams will participate in camps in Shreveport and in Monroe on June 15.
This did not go over well with Miles, who has not-so-subtly criticized Tulane for partnering with out-of-state squads. Hudspeth agrees, and he shared his feelings with Miles during that conversation.
“I told him, I’m in 100 percent agreement with him,” Hudspeth said. “We’ve got too many great programs in this state. You’ve got plenty of opportunities for these kids in this state. I’m not for inviting in these teams from all across the country to cherry-pick the top players.”
Texas A&M isn’t the only school that has partnered with a school in Louisiana. Hudspeth expects Colorado, Minnesota, Memphis, Arizona and Colorado State to be partners in Louisiana-based satellite camps.
UL-Lafayette is approached “every year” to host an out-of-state team, the coach said.
“I am not for that,” he said.
It’s happening throughout the Southeast, though.
Thirteen of 14 SEC teams will attend at least one satellite camp outside of their state. The schedules vary from team to team. For example, Florida will attend camps in six states, while Georgia will go out of state for just one camp.
LSU is expected to attend three out-of-state camps — the two in Houston, one in Dallas and a popular one in Perkinston, Mississippi, the home of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. MGCCC, the current home of former LSU defensive tackle Travonte Valentine, is holding a camp that will include coaches from Missouri, Ole Miss, Auburn and a slew of other non-SEC teams.
Schools can split up their staffs, dividing assistants so they’ll have a presence at simultaneous camps. For instance, MGCCC’s camp is June 8, the same date on which the Rebels are set to attend a camp in Atlanta. Auburn, meanwhile, is scheduled for the MGCCC camp on the same day that AU coaches are expected for a camp at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
The Mercer camp is one of several in which coaches of multiple SEC teams will attend. Auburn, Florida, Georgia and South Carolina are set to partake in that one. Mercer is one of at least eight colleges hosting camps and inviting out-of-state SEC teams. The list includes Florida Atlantic, Samford, TCU, Georgia State, West Georgia, Wayne State and Wagner University.
None of these camps compares to the breadth of what Mary Hardin-Baylor is putting on in Belton, Texas. It’s called a “mega-camp” — a three-day, five-stop camp on June 2-4. Ole Miss and Missouri are two of more than a dozen teams involved in this bonanza.
“Some of these mega-clinics in Texas … there are three a day the entire month of June,” Hudspeth said. “Some people don’t go by the spirit of the rules. They’ll have one coach at 10 camps for 10 straight days.”
Hudspeth proposes that the NCAA or conferences limit the number of out-of-state satellite camps to three per summer. For UL-Lafayette, that would be OK. Hudspeth recruits in one of the nation’s most talent-rich states.
For schools like Missouri, that wouldn’t be OK. Counting that five-stop Texas tour, Missouri will attend at least 12 satellite camps this year, most in the SEC.
“Some states that don’t have many (recruits) are going to vote for (unlimited) satellite camps,” Hudspeth said. “Us in Texas, Louisiana, we don’t want to have satellite camps.”
Satellite camps benefit the smaller programs more than major conference teams, recruiting experts say. The LSUs, Alabamas and Floridas of the world have already targeted the four- and-five star talent they routinely sign.
Many of those kids attend on-campus camps. Their skills are well-known already.
It’s the two- and-three star prospects that mid-major teams stumble upon at satellite camps that might make or break their class.
“There aren’t going to be many guys they find at these camps that they didn’t know about before, like UTSA or ULL would,” said Shea Dixon, recruiting reporter for Geaux247, the 247Sports affiliate covering LSU. “The biggest thing for LSU is exposure. It gives them a presence in these kids’ backyards.”
Steve Leisz is excited about having LSU in his backyard. Episcopal is a small school, just 170 students. The largest class size is 17, he said, and the average is 11.
Most, if not all, of the Episcopal football team will attend — just like players did last year when the school hosted a camp for Baylor.
Todd Peterman expects many of his DeSoto players to participate, as well. The relationship between DeSoto and LSU is a busy one. The Tigers have signed at least three players from the school over the past five years, including offensive lineman Evan Washington, receiver Dee Anderson and defensive back Jalen Mills. Edward Ingram, a rising senior on DeSoto’s offensive line, is committed to the Tigers, too.
No, that’s not a coincidence.
“LSU,” Peterman said, “has had a pretty good relationship with DeSoto.”