From June 5-15, Georgia will host a kicking camp, eight varsity day camp sessions, three youth camp sessions, three 7-on-7 tournaments with 50 high school teams with 20 players on each team, including an OL/DL camp that coincides with the 7-on-7, and for the first time, an overnight camp. In the middle of that is last Saturday’s Mark Richt Camp which brought in over 300 prospective student athletes, the largest group in the camp’s history. Add that up, and you have a lot of football players to get on campus.
Here’s where Daryl Jones, UGA’s director of on campus recruiting, comes in. His job is to make sure the prospects and coaches are where they are supposed to be, and the event runs smoothly. But Jones’ efforts start long before the first player steps foot on campus.
“A camp like this does not start with the camp, it starts with the preparation of the camp,” Jones said. “My department generates material that advocates for our camps. Then during the course of 168 [spring evaluation days], our staff is all over the place at different parts of the country, continuously pushing to get kids on campus during the course of the summer.”
This registration push is the key to getting the talent in Athens in June and July, and it is no easy task.
“We sent out close to 2,500 email communications about the variety of camps that we have,” Jones said. “That is on top of the amount of emails we send out to every high school coach in the state of Georgia about our 7-on-7 camp and then we sent out 7-on-7 information to all of the coaches of guys we have extended offers or guys close to offers so we can get good evaluations. It all starts on the front end driving registration by creating mail outs and camp brochures.”
From April 15 to May 31, assistant coaches are on the road for the spring evaluation period, all the while trying to persuade prospects to get to Athens.
“What a lot of folks don’t realize is the amount of effort, really personal time, effort that goes into Facebooking, tweeting, and talking to high school coaches,” Jones said. “Guys are traveling all over the state, on the phone, talking to coaches, answering the emails, Facebook messages and Twitter requests about the camp they are legally allowed to respond to. It is all generated through the position coaches and there is so much effort put into it -- it would be hard to describe unless you actually have lived in the world of it.”
This year Georgia's staff had prospects from California calling at 1 a.m. ET to inquire about the possibility of attending the camps. Thei diligence likely paid off as 2015 quarterbacks Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) and Kyle Kearns (Pleasanton, Calif./Foothill) to campus for this weekend’s overnight camp.
The Bulldogs’ director of football operations, Brad Hutcherson, works side by side with Jones and UGA’s compliance department in constructing the camps while avoiding any possible recruiting violations.
But they are not alone.
“We utilize every staff member we can muster, plus volunteers and we would not be able to pull it off without the assistance of the high school coaches who come and help us for very minimal compensation under the NCAA allowances,” Jones said. “I promise you they put in way more effort than we are allowed to pay them for.”
When the camps begin, the football staff will spend time the night before the 7-on-7 events to discuss each team involved. They evaluate each school and the prospects involved.
After the 7-on-7 camp ends each day, the coaches go from evaluating the talent on the field, to scrambling to do individual drill work with 20-25 varsity day campers, and there was also little down time for the football staff in between sessions on Saturday during the Mark Richt Camp.
“We flew upstairs and organized our thoughts on what we had just seen and what actions needed to be taken going forward,” Jones said. “Then we go back down and begin the second session.”
After this weekend’s overnight camp, Georgia will hold one more camp, Dawg Night on July 12. Between now and then, the staff won’t be resting on their laurels.
“We will have constant recruiting, constant Facebook, constant Twitter and Coach Richt will be calling high school coaches to encourage their players to come to us,” Jones said. “It really is a group effort of the high school coaches supporting us, us communicating with the high school coaches and players within compliance. Then once they get on campus, it is my job to make sure we are organized in our camp settings.”