NORMAN —Brian Darby is a good example why satellite camps matter to colleges.
Not long after Oklahoma’s camp took place at Houston Baptist University earlier this week, the Sooners extended an offer and had a commitment from the three-star 2020 athlete.
Official visits, spring games and the hoopla of signing day are major college football recruiting events. But the evaluation process this time of year matters, too.
Satellite camps — which were briefly banned by the NCAA in 2016 — and those hosted by university coaches on their home campuses both have a place.
OU coach Lincoln Riley and his staff held the second of two elite high school camps in Norman on Saturday. Satellite camps bring coaches to players at less cost, but Riley says attendance at his camps has risen.
“If you look at our history, every year that we’ve been here we’ve had guys come out of that camp that maybe we were on the fence with or we were trying to decide to offer and they come here and you get a chance to work with them, spend time with them,” Riley said. “And we end up taking guys out of this camp every year that, if not for this camp, we probably would not have taken.”
Cost, travel and time commitment threaten to hinder turnout. But benefits for players can outweigh some negatives, especially for athletes serious about playing in college. Riley’s best advice to parents about the recruiting process is to receive authentic notice, first of all.
“You have to. And that’s what these are about,” he said, highlighting the individualized instruction and development aspects his camps offer.
Ultimately, the evaluation and relationship building that camps offer create mutual benefits for schools and prospects.
Saturday, Riley spent time working with OU 2021 quarterback offer Brock Vandagriff, a highly sought after recruit from Bogart, Georgia. Not far away was Sooner quarterback Jalen Hurts.
That’s where Riley beleives larger “megacamps” fall short.
“[Here] you’re developing a relationship with specific coaches, you’re getting coaches by those guys, you’re getting a feel for what it’s going to be like,” Riley said.
The exposure to coaches is well regarded among players, enough so that more than two dozen football players from European are making the rounds at camps hosted by Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame and more, the Associated Press reported.
Riley said took a broad look and evaluated his entire camp setup this year to ensure people’s money was well spent. He wound up hosting seven camps, some for kids as young as third through sixth grade.
Exposure for younger players matter too, with the propensity to build long-lasting relationships with coaches, which can pay off during their high school years.
Camps have evolved through the years and could change in the future.
“There’s been talk of kind of grouping these things together and have NCAA sponsored camps,” Riley said. “Don’t know exactly what the right answer is but they’re certainly different than they used to be, no doubt about it, especially for the juniors and seniors specifically.”