For some, camps spark recruiting interest

ZACHARY, La. -- It wasn't like folks in the recruiting world had no idea who Joshua Johnson, a class of 2014 quarterback from New Orleans Warren Easton, was when he walked into the NUC Five Star Challenge at Zachary High in the Baton Rouge suburbs last weekend.

After all, the Five Star was invitation-only. He had done well enough with his performance and in previous camps to get invited down. Heading into last Sunday, it was the only invitation he had received that mattered.

"Nobody's calling yet," he said when asked if he's getting recruiting interest. "But on my NSCA (a recruiting service) page, I've had two colleges look at my profile so far. I've emailed a ton of coaches, but so far, I haven't heard back."

For players such as Johnson, the camp circuit is essential. Players who might be hard to evaluate from film alone can use camps to get the edge they need. Johnson's Warren Easton teammate, 2015 linebacker Arthur McGinnis, has had exactly that experience.

After injuries derailed his sophomore season, giving college scouts little game action to draw upon, a now-healthy McGinnis became a recruiting factor after an all-combine performance at the New Orleans Nike SPARQ camp. He followed that with continuous solid performances, winning linebacker MVP at both the NUC Baton Rouge combine and 5-star challenge, and making the all-combine team at the Nike Camp in Houston.

"These camps, they've helped me a lot," said McGinnis, who lists Alabama and LSU among his suitors. "It's been going great."

Sometimes on-field performance alone isn't enough and camps are needed to perhaps verify what coaches think they see on film.

Take wide receiver Gabe Fuselier, a 2014 wide receiver from New Iberia (La.) Catholic.

A 1,000-yard receiver as a junior, the 5-foot-10 Fuselier nevertheless entered the spring with no offers. Then he went to the Houston Nike camp and turned in the fastest 40-yard dash (4.45) and the fastest shuttle run (4.03) out of 1,401 campers.

"Schools really like the speed I have," Fuselier said at the NUC camp. "They tell me to keep getting faster and the offers will come."

He didn't have an offer when he arrived in Zachary on Sunday. Then he proceeded to spend the better part of the next few hours leaving defensive backs in the dust, some juked to ground by Fuselier's sharp routes, as he got open and caught everything thrown to him en route to being named the camp's co-wide receiver MVP.

Asked about who was recruiting him, Fuselier said Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana Tech were the schools that have talked to him the most while he has built a social media rapport with coaches at Houston. He said he is hoping to get an offer from ULL soon.

But after backing up a 59-catch, 1,054-yard junior season by finishing third out of 1,400 athletes at the Houston Nike combine, then getting wide receiver MVP at the NUC Five Star in Baton Rouge, one might expect interest from a lot of other schools to ramp up.

While Fuselier was excelling, he also brought a friend with him. Bryson Bourque (New Iberia/New Iberia HS), from the same town (but not school) as Fuselier, also excelled at the NUC Five Star. Often lined up in a tandem with Fuselier in 2-on-2 drills, Bourque ran crisp routes, got open and made several tough catches to share MVP honors at the position with Fuselier.

Bourque came to Zachary a complete unknown and left with folks keeping an eye on his progress.

As for Johnson, Sunday wasn't his day.

Asked how he did at the end, he shook his head to the negative. A month prior, playing on the same field with his Warren Easton teammates, he looked great during NUC's 7-on-7 tournament. This time, with a gusting north wind and unfamiliar receivers, he admitted he didn't have his best day.

If Johnson has a breakthrough in his recruiting process, it won't be from the 5-star camp. But, he said he'll keep plugging away, and, like McGinnis and Fuselier, keep looking for camps where he might have that breakthrough moment for scouts.

"Just have to keep working at it," he said.