LINCOLN — Attendees of this year’s Big Red Football Camps at Nebraska will find a new group of experts working with campers: Husker players.
“Our players are really excited to be able to work the camps,” said Jeff Jamrog, director of football operations.
A new youth camp — third-graders through eighth-graders — will take place July 18 to 20 and feature the most Husker players, although it is likely some Nebraska players will be at the June camps for high school-aged campers, as well. Class schedules and availability dictate, to some extent, who will be able to help.
Athletes in other sports have been able to work camps for years, but the NCAA started allowing football players to work them this year. Teams can’t advertise specific players — don’t expect to see any posters of current players promoting the camps or any names in this column — but they can get compensated for their time. At Nebraska and other schools, players generally will take the place of small college and high school coaches who had previously assisted.
“Players know the drills. They know the techniques. They do them every day,” Jamrog said. “So they can teach them.”
Husker coaches will work a youth camp June 6 to 8. High school sessions will run June 8 to 10 and June 11 to 13. Nebraska’s Quarterback Academy is June 9 to 11 and the Big Red Kicking Academy is June 13 to 14. Jamrog said he expects the same number of campers as in previous years.
I asked Jamrog if Nebraska coaches had explored the idea of remote-site camps where the staff work as “guest coaches.” Penn State and Georgia State are teaming up to run a camp in Atlanta; the Nittany Lions are as interested in Atlanta as Nebraska now is and will get to see many of the area’s best prospects working out on one day.
Jamrog said Nebraska’s brain trust discusses annually “what makes sense and what’s best for our program.”
According to the Idaho Statesman, Boise State coaches are working camps in Los
Angeles, Seattle, Houston and Salt Lake City. In Houston, Hardin-Simmons, a Division III school, is hosting the camp while Boise State coaches work it.
It’ll be worth watching in future years if the NCAA closes this loophole. I still contend that Big Ten programs should work together to create a league-wide camp hosted by some small school near Chicago.
Meanwhile, NU’s own camp draws some strong prospects — last year, 2014 recruits Tanner Farmer and Nick Gates paid their own way to Lincoln, which resulted in commitments. Yes, the Nebraska brand still has considerable pull throughout the Midwest.
Quarterback recruits finding homes
Nebraska’s quarterback commit for 2014, Kevin Dillman, may have to share his starting job at Denton (Texas) Guyer High School with a sophomore. A quarterback in Ohio with Husker ties, Joe Burrow, committed Tuesday to Ohio State.
Burrow is the son of Jimmy Burrow, a former Nebraska safety and graduate assistant, and the brother of Jamie Burrow, a former Husker linebacker. Joe Burrow plays in Athens, Ohio, where his father works as defensive coordinator for Frank Solich at Ohio University.
Joe Burrow never got a Husker offer. OSU, which had lost several recruiting battles for quarterbacks already this summer, offered the 6-foot-3, 190-pounder who had thrown for 6,971 yards and 94 touchdowns in the last two years. You’d better believe Burrow committed on the spot.
Among Husker fans who follow every twist and turn of recruiting, there is bound to be some angst here. If Burrow wasn’t a fit for Nebraska, how is he a fit for Ohio State, which has a senior quarterback (Braxton Miller) who’d seemingly fit the Huskers to a T? NU and OSU both recruited Zack Darlington last year, too.
My take: Nebraska has four scholarship quarterbacks, all of them sophomores or younger, and while A.J. Bush could move to a different position, he sure didn’t sound in an interview like he planned on it. When Miller leaves the Buckeyes, there will be a free-for-all for that job, and Burrow will have as good of a shot as any quarterback in Columbus.
Likewise, quarterback Alex Delton of Hays, Kan. — who never got an offer from NU and thus committed to Kansas State in the spring — will have a wide-open shot at replacing Jake Waters in 2015. I can’t see that being the case for either player in Lincoln.
Back to Dillman: His chances of winning the starting quarterback job in 2015 are even slimmer, but he’s a development project who could play several positions. He’s a long-term investment.
Signing dates could impact visits
With renewed talk about college football creating an early signing date, Big Ten schools should ask: What’s in it for us?
Not very much if summer official visits aren’t on the table, too.
ACC Commissioner John Swofford announced at his league’s meetings that coaches in his now-vast conference support an Aug. 1 early signing date, or right before preseason practice. Some SEC coaches prefer an early December signing period. At the SEC’s spring meetings Tuesday, Florida coach Will Muschamp said Northern school coaches “don’t want anybody visiting in January, because it’s freezing cold, and they tell them it’s warm all year long.”
That was probably a jab at Urban Meyer, the former Florida coach and current Ohio State coach who said this in March to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “I’ve been in the heat in the South in August, September and October. Meanwhile, it’s gorgeous up here in Ohio.”
But Muschamp’s comment also represents, to some extent, a battle plan for some Southern schools.
Southern schools use horror stories about Midwestern weather to jar Southern players into staying in the South. (Remember when Auburn used “icy roads” to help lure Orlando-area wideout Dominic Walker away from Nebraska during the 2013 recruiting cycle?) Northern schools, in turn, need to show kids from the South that the weather isn’t nearly as bad as it’s been advertised, especially during the season. (Fact: The second-worst weather game of Nebraska’s 2013 season was the Gator Bowl.) Summer official visits help make that happen. And any Aug. 1 signing date would almost certainly come with summer official visits.
That is, of course, presuming the Big Ten — the anchor league for Northern schools — fights for it. Boss Jim Delany is focused on separating the Big Ten from the non-Power 5 leagues that often serve as schedule fodder, but the Big Ten was never in particular football competition with those programs anyway. Basketball? Yes. Football? No. There, the competition remains the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and ACC. The Big Ten isn’t going to beat those schools with cost-of-attendance stipends and TV contracts.
NU at top of Stringfellow’s list
With 2014 wide receiver pledge Monte Harrison remaining a first-round pick in Baseball America’s most recent mock draft, the Huskers clearly must reckon with the possibility that Harrison will never play football at Nebraska. If he doesn’t, Nebraska has one true big-bodied receiver in the program — 2014 signee Jariah Tolbert. Wide receivers coach Rich Fisher likes Tolbert a lot, but Tolbert probably needs to put on weight and develop.
Which brings Washington transfer Demore’ea Stringfellow into view. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder remains in school at UW until mid-June, but he’ll likely pick a school before then. Nebraska’s at the top of his list. Whether Stringfellow would be able to play in 2014 — his former high school coach in Moreno Valley, Calif., Pete Duffy, said he wasn’t sure if Stringfellow would apply for immediate eligibility — he essentially replaces what Harrison would bring. Speed, leaping ability and, most important, size.
Stringfellow’s off-the-field record is of reasonable concern. He pleaded guilty to two counts of misdemeanor assaultfor his role in two fights with Seahawks fans after the Feb. 2 Super Bowl. In a statement, he admitted to grabbing a woman taking pictures at a mattress bonfire “in a harmful manner” and destroying her camera’s lens.
He made that admission just two weeks after he was charged; the case was not tied up in the courts for 18 months with a series of motions and delays, as cases involving gifted, high-profile people sometimes can be. At Stringfellow’s court appearance, a local minister — Gregory Alex, executive director of the Matt Talbot New Hope Recovery Center and a former Washington player — stood as a character reference.
“He took responsibility for his actions, knowing that the plea could cost him his career at Washington,” Alex told The World-Herald. “But that doesn’t define who he is. That’s my knowledge of him. And he’s learned a difficult lesson — not to be repeated knowing the consequences.
“I’m challenging him to work even that much harder to prove he’s not that person and he can contribute in every circumstance he’s in. I’ve seen him in all kinds of circumstances, and, consistently, the same kind, caring, introspective, sensitive person is there. That (fight) was a surprise to everyone, no one more than himself.”
This column doesn’t advertise itself as a moral code. Grabbing a woman, destroying something in her hands — there’s no defense for it. And Stringfellow, in pleading guilty, didn’t try to defend it. So what Nebraska has to gauge, in terms of off-the-field concerns, is a player who admitted he committed a crime, got punished for it and desires a second chance elsewhere.
Has Nebraska benefited from offering players second chances? Have those players rewarded Nebraska with their behavior? Those are two key questions to which I think fans generally have the same answer, regardless of how they feel about Bo Pelini’s coaching tenure. Yes.