The sun rose yesterday and Michigan’s satellite camp came down to Georgia. Those who feel that concept is of the devil got a chance to make up their own mind about it.
Jim Harbaugh was in his khakis. Baseball home run legend and Atlanta icon Hank Aaron even spoke to the camp. That came at the request of camp director and Cedar Grove High School coach Jimmy Smith.
Harbaugh was actually wearing the Hall of Famer’s No. 44 jersey. But he didn’t swipe that like he hopes to pick the pockets of a few SEC teams for their backdoor recruits.
The Big Ten coach stole the show with a commanding presence. He’s a football coach who likes to coach. You can’t fake that for three hours under the blazing sun. Harbaugh was coaching those khakis off the entire time.
First-year UGA coach Kirby Smart was there, too. He arrived in a yellow helicopter to spend 107 minutes at the camp. It might not be Smart’s style to play to a crowd, but he wasn’t as animated as Harbaugh. UGA commit Netori Johnson was amazed.
“I like my future head coach now (Smart) but you can’t help but notice how Harbaugh comes to work,” he said. “That man comes out on the field and takes it over with some real force. You know who he is and where he is. I liked that about him.”
The Michigan man brought about 20 other Wolverine coaches with him and if one stood in the middle of the so-called circus there were at least 10 visible stations of campers working out.
Smith hopes that the concept of satellite camps survives NCAA review for future summers.
WHAT WE LEARNED: 10 things to know about Michigan’s satellite camp
- This was a Michigan camp. No doubt. There were 20-plus coaches from Ann Arbor in Atlanta on Thursday. UGA had six of its coaches or support personnel sprinkled in, but the on-field coaching was dominated by the maize and blue.
- The elite players were not there. The only major SEC prospects who took part in the camp were Johnson and fellow UGA commit Justin Shaffer and a few other highly-regarded teammates at Cedar Grove. Cedar Grove High School was another co-branded host of the camp. That resulted in a few other UGA commits and other major Metro Atlanta area prospects showing up to support them.
- The numbers tally stretched to about 275 campers. There were 42 college coaches on hand that worked the drills at the camp. There were another 18 college coaches who showed up to watch. The longest road trip came from an assistant from Oklahoma State.
- Don’t expect Michigan and UGA offers to come out of this camp, if any. The campers and players in attendance felt this was more of an initial “get noticed” camp which might lead to offers from lesser programs than a Georgia or a Michigan. There have already been a few offers from smaller schools that were extended at the camp. A few Cedar Grove players picked up offers out of Thursday’s camp.
- The media was thirsty for sound bites and any Harbaugh and Smart drama. If the nature of an event is to see great young football talent on display, this was not it. Media members dwarfed the number of future SEC talents working out.
- The coaches put the players through some work. The campers told DawgNation the actual drills and work they were asked to do was much tougher than a Rivals, a Nike Opening or another major camp. “We wanted this to be a true skills camp and not just an evaluation camp,” Smith said. “That was the focus all along. The boys were going to work.”
- Michigan planned to get those 20 coaches down to South Georgia for another camp less than four hours later. The AJC learned that Harbaugh had a jet at his disposal to accomplish that task.
- Harbaugh held an impromptu press briefing at the close of the camp and posed for pictures. That just doesn’t happen anywhere else
- Let’s keep these two points in the proper perspective: 1) The campers (even the UGA commits) got better as they were exposed to top-tier coaching. That’s the intent of any camp: 2) This was also a three-hour commercial in the heart of Atlanta for Michigan football.
- Johnson can really run at 338 pounds.
— Rusty Mansell (@Mansell247) June 2, 2016
WHAT THEY SAID
UGA commit Netori Johnson of Cedar Grove: “I would definitely do this if I wasn’t connected to Cedar Grove,” Cedar Grove senior offensive lineman Netori Johnson said. “I would. This camp was for real. They came at us with it today.”
“I think this helps a lot of kids that are not known to straight get out there,” Johnson said. “From (UGA offensive line) coach (Sam) Pittman alone I saw him spot a couple of kids alone and ask them their grades. He told them that he liked their punch (off the offensive line) and then I started paying attention to those players and they were looking pretty decent.”
Johnson said the other potential recruits he noticed weren’t the caliber of a 6-foot-4 and 310-pounder who could rip 4.8 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but he saw potential.
“They were smaller kids who could get into a decent school,” Johnson said. “It might not be Georgia or Michigan but it helps when the coaches at those schools see them and they can talk to their other coaching buddies at smaller schools and can make sure they get a look.”
UGA commit Justin Shaffer of Cedar Grove: “I would tell guys to come to a camp like this also,” he said. ““It gave a lot of kids the chance to get a lot of looks from different colleges.”
“The stuff we did today was way tougher than any other Rivals or “The Opening” camp we go to,” Shaffer said. “The work the coaches made us do was tougher, but the other guys at the camp weren’t as good. That wasn’t even close.”
UGA commit Jaden Hunter of Westlake: “I really just came to see my future teammates come out and ball. I think this camp was a workout to break people down and see how hard they would work the whole day. They made it hard.”
“This camp is good for Michigan. I don’t think they are real good yet with recruiting all the guys who are down South.”
“This camp is something for the guys who don’t get a lot of exposure to come to this thing and be great and get noticed. It isn’t a camp for the guys who already have the big offers.”
Cedar Grove head coach Jimmy Smith: “I wanted the guys who are under the radar a little bit to shine at this camp. The four and five-stars of the world Georgia already know about. But maybe the two and three stars are the ones that Michigan and a Pitt or a UMass do not really know about yet and might have an opportunity to get. This was to help those guys be seen by a staff that might not have gotten another chance to see them work.”
“I feel good about the camp and all the coaches. Coach (Jim) Harbaugh really did a great job. I really want to thank coach Harbaugh and his staff and coach Smart and his staff. My thing when we met was we really wanted the guys to get the work. I didn’t want all these players out here and we just watch them run around. I wanted this to be organized and we stuck to it. We had a schedule and we stuck to it. That’s what I wanted. It worked out well.”
“The jury is still out with the NCAA on these things but I would hope so. I like that we could have it and hope we can still have another one like it next year. This really can give kids the opportunity to open their mind and their eyes to an opportunity. Some kids think if they can’t get into Georgia they don’t realize they can go somewhere else. There are a lot of schools and a lot of opportunities to play football in college.”
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.