BUFORD – Everywhere around the field on Thursday morning, it seemed, it was a case of worlds colliding. Or at least Georgia football worlds, old and new.
The former offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, shaking hands and laughing with the current one, Jim Chaney. The former offensive line coach, Will Friend, standing and talking with the current one, Jim Chaney.
Then to top it all off in walked Hines Ward, the legendary former Georgia receiver, who had been invited to come to this satellite camp by Bobo, his friend and former teammate.
“I didn’t know anything about satellite camps,” Ward said. “But Bobo and I, we’ve always had a great relationship over the years.”
The only Georgia assistant coach not in attendance was James Coley, the receivers coach, who was headed for a European vacation. No matter, the few hundred campers had an able replacement in Ward, who took a hands-on approach in receiving drills.
This satellite camp, officially hosted by Georgia Southern in cooperation with Georgia and Colorado State, at first seemed an excuse for a get-together. The coaches at the three schools (GSU’s Tyson Summers, Georgia’s Kirby Smart and CSU’s Bobo) are all good friends, all members of Georgia’s staff a decade ago.
And indeed for the first hour on Thursday morning the coaches just milled about and caught up. Bobo, now Colorado State’s head coach, brought Friend, his offensive coordinator, leading to those surreal scenes. All that was missing was Mark Richt walking through the door.
But as the camp kicked into gear, everyone did seem to take it seriously. Summers acted as the organizer, while Georgia’s coaches took the lead in a number of drills. Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker was particularly vocal as he worked with the secondary, and during the 7-on-7 drills.
Ward was very active as well: When a young receiver whiffed on a catch, Ward sought him out and gave him some advice.
“I’m out here to work with these high school recruits, help them become better receivers with a little insight,” Ward had told the media earlier.
For Georgia, this camp was more about being seen. There were no high-profile 2017 recruits, but you never know, especially with the younger players.
This camp was a bit more of an opportunity for Colorado State and Georgia Southern, smaller programs that need to uncover talent – and in Bobo’s case, it was a unique chance, because of the geography.
“We can’t get this many players on campus, at our place,” Bobo said. “There’s a chance to go to different states and see prospects. We get a chance to hang out, talk ball, and see the high school coaches.”
Smart and other SEC coaches had lobbied against these camps. Bobo, for what it’s worth, said he would be against them too if he were in Smart’s position. But they’re legal right now, so the smaller and further-away schools will work to take advantage.
The camp drew a couple hundred players, who wore shirts emblazoned with “GATA” on them – the motto of both Georgia and Georgia Southern’s program, a reminder of the Erk Russell ties that bind both.
Summers, Bobo and Smart each gave a short speech to the players before drills began. When it came Smart’s turn, he brought up Russell Wilson, and then gave a rather tough love speech.
“I’m going to be honest with you: There’s going to be very few guys here who get the opportunity to go play yin the SEC, because it’s a 1 percent league. About one percent of the high school players in this area are going to get that opportunity,” Smart told the players. “So that’s not what it’s about for me today. It’s about me making you better, and making you better for your high school program.”