BOSSIER CITY — A casino worker raising four children, Shawnita Ruffins needed time to save up for her son’s trip to Baton Rouge.
After all, the registration fee for LSU’s on-campus, four-day high school camp was $425.
“I was fortunate enough to get down there, but it was by the grace of God,” said Tre White, Ruffins’ son and the Tigers’ current starting cornerback. “My mom had to scrape up money.”
More than five years later on a rainy Thursday afternoon, Ruffins and her son watched more than 400 high school players participate in LSU’s first ever satellite camp at First Baptist’s Freedom Fields in Bossier City. The three, spanking new artificial turf football fields sit along Texas Street, a 10 minute drive across the river from White’s home, much closer — and cheaper — than Baton Rouge.
The registration cost: $20.
“This is real good,” Ruffins said. “When I first saw it posted, I thought to myself, ‘That’s really good. That’s going to be a really good thing for the Shreveport-Bossier area.’
These kids look up to the home college, look up to LSU.”
The Tigers came to them, traveling more than 50 staff members — in two buses and an 18-wheeler packed with equipment — to this Northwest Louisiana city for a groundbreaking event, of sorts.
The Southeastern Conference lifted a policy last week that restricted coaches from working camps outside of a 50-mile radius of their campuses, opening the floodgates for SEC staffs to travel to these quasi recruiting-camps — something other conference coaches have done for years.
The first of LSU’s six scheduled satellite camps unfolded over four hours and included about 500 participants, coach Les Miles said.
“We enjoyed it and it was the first one,” Miles said, “the first satellite camp in LSU history.”
It is believed to be one of the first satellite camps conducted by an SEC team in that team’s home state, kick starting a busy summer for league coaching staffs. All 14 SEC teams are either hosting or attending satellite camps this summer, and some – like LSU – are involved in at least a half-dozen camps. Missouri is attending as many as 12, and Florida coaches will be at least eight.
LSU will host a camp in Metairie on Saturday at the Saints practice facility, and at least one LSU assistant will attend a camp Friday at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College in Perkinston, Mississippi, Miles confirmed Thursday. LSU coaches will attend a camp hosted by Texas-San Antonio on June 13 in Dallas before tripping to Houston for a pair of camps the next day.
Miles revealed Thursday that at least one LSU staff member could attend a camp in Florida. He did not reveal specifics.
Satellite camps have college football abuzz with controversy this spring, spearheaded by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. He plans to host 30 camps in more than 10 states.
So what happens at these things? On Thursday, LSU’s nine member coaching staff teamed with coaches from eight in-state colleges and high schools to lead players through drills for about three hours.
Most of the participants were unheralded prospects. In fact, just two of them – Parkway receiver Terrace Marshall and Ferriday offensive tackle Dare Rosenthal – hold scholarship offers from LSU. Both are 2018 graduates heading into their junior seasons.
The rest of the campers are not likely to find their way onto LSU’s team, but could fit at places like Nicholls State, Grambling, Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe – all of which had coaches in attendance Thursday.
“I think certain guys are going to be LSU style of guys,” Miles said. “Other guys are going to fall comfortably to very deserving and quality institutions in the state.”
Parents and media members were not allowed into the camp, forced to watch drills from behind black gates encircling the three fields. LSU compliance director Matt Jakoubek, one of two compliance staffers at the camp, cited an NCAA rule for keeping reporters out of the camp.
Bo Bahnsen, LSU’s senior associate athletic director for compliance, did not respond to an email for comment. An NCAA official could not confirm such a rule.
Campers, meanwhile, worked out in front of coaches and current LSU football players. On hand to help run the camp were receiver D.J. Chark, quarterback Brandon Harris, linebacker Devin White and White – the last three from the Shreveport-Bossier area.
“Coming to Bossier City where I’m from and where I’ve spent a lot of time, and it’s a good opportunity for my college coaches to see other people,” Harris said. “It’s a unique experience.”
“I think it’s great for the area,” said LSU tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, who helped organize the camp and recruits north Louisiana for the Tigers. “For all of these kids in this area, they don’t always have a chance to go down to Baton Rouge or Lafayette or Southeastern. It’s great for the kids to showcase their skills and have coaches look at them. I hope we can do it again next year.”
Marshall, one of the two campers who holds an LSU offer, lives three minutes from the site of the camp, he said. He’ll still attend LSU’s on-campus camp later this summer, but this is a nice bonus.
He even met with Miles on Thursday in an RV parked outside of the turf fields.
“It was pretty cool,” said Marshall, the fifth-ranked receiver in the 2018 class. “I’m not used to them coming down here. It was a really good experience. I went inside the trailer and talked to (Coach Miles) for a little bit. He was telling me it’s open for me to commit. He told me to just keep working hard and getting better.”
Meanwhile, White and his mother looked on.
“When I was coming up, we didn’t have these,” White said. “I had to travel all of the way to Baton Rouge just to be seen, just to be noticed.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.