Florida Atlantic coach Charlie Partridge and his staff face many difficulties recruiting prospective players like many other college football programs in the country.
Along with competing against six other Football Bowl Subdivision schools for players in the state, FAU is even more at a disadvantage when schools from the Big Ten or any other conference in the country — with the exception of the ACC and SEC — hold a satellite camp in its backyard.
On Friday, Partridge and his staff were the headliners at a camp at Chiles High, where Garrett Jahn is heading into his second year as the Timberwolves’ head coach. Jahn was a member of FAU’s first-ever signing class and took the Owls’ first snaps at quarterback.
“With us only being a 14-year program, it’s marketing,” said Partridge, whose entering his second season as FAU coach after stops as at Arkansas, Wisconsin, Pittsburgh and Iowa State as an assistant.
“We need to continue to brand our program. We got another 200 kids up here in the Tallahassee area now that will wear our colors. So it’s great from a lot of different angles.”
Thanks to new Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh this offseason and Penn State coach James Franklin in 2014, satellite camps have been college football’s latest phenomenon.
And coaches in the ACC and SEC have been crying foul every chance they get.
Coaches in the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and lower levels can set up shop as a guest coach during a satellite camp outside of a 50-mile radius of their home campuses to evaluate and create relationships with prospective players.
While coaches in the ACC and SEC don’t have that luxury, the majority of them have their locations in the South as an advantage. However, the satellite camps intrude on the fertile territories schools such as Florida State, Alabama and Florida have coveted for years.
Jahn is still close with FAU running backs coach and director of recruiting Jared Allen from their playing days together in Boca Raton, where the FAU staff welcomed Ohio State coach Urban Meyer and his staff for an on-campus camp Thursday.
“I’ve known a lot of those guys on that staff,” Partridge said, “and Ohio State has been around for 100 million years running a football program, and we’ve been for 14 (years). So to join them and get the national publicity and the opportunity to have 600 kids on our campus, there’s no question that we won with that partnership so I’m glad we did it.
“There may be a handful of kids that said, ‘I’m going to go check it out’ that might not have before, and we get a chance to brag about what we’re doing.”
While visiting a school is helpful to a player and his family in making a decision, many don’t have the resources to pay for transportation, food and lodging required for unofficial visits.
Players also have to wait until their senior seasons to take officials visits when the costs are covered. So players and families have to pick and choose which camp or combine to attend that could be most beneficial for them.
“When I was growing up, there was none of this so it wasn’t a factor,” Jahn said. “But now (camps are) becoming more and more popular, and it’s pretty much forcing the parents’ hands to send their kids. So what I tell my kids is go to the combines where you realistically have a good opportunity to play at.”
Over the years, Lincoln High coach Yusuf Shakir said he’s taken his players to schools like Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Georgia, UCF and USF, but he’s had to reach out to others to contribute towards the costs.
Shakir, with the help of his assistant coaches, plans on taking 25 players in five vans on a four-hour drive to Auburn for a camp on Saturday. In all, Shakir said the cost of the one-day trip is upwards of $1,000, which he raises with help from donations of school supporters and alumni.
“Sometimes you got to pull some teeth to get it going,” Shakir said, “but the kids appreciate it.”
Lincoln hosted a satellite camp of its own on June 8 with coaches from Valdosta State and Appalachian State in attendance.
Florida A&M coach Alex Wood has worked camps in Orlando, Tampa, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami in the last week alone while Florida State hosted players on campus for Jimbo Fisher’s football camps.https://twitter.com/CoachDJ_WRA/status/609504227573006336
FSU’s three-day camp, which will also have another session July 15-17, cost day campers $265 and overnight campers $345 — with reduced costs at a group rate.
The Chiles camp cost players $29, and just $20 for groups of 10 to participate in front of FAU and two coaches from Mercer University — less than three hours from Tallahassee in Macon, Ga.
“The financial commitment for (satellite camps) is much less,” Patridge said. “It’s really not a money maker for us. It’s about relationships, recruiting and marketing.”
After the camp, FAU gave a scholarship offers to Chiles rising senior receiver/safety John Mitchell (6-3, 195 lbs.) and rising sophomore linebacker/receiver Amari Gainer (6-3, 190 lbs).
FAU landed Lincoln offensive tackle Tarrick Thomas in its 2015 signing class in February. He’s one of four players from Tallahassee on the Owls’ roster while FAMU has at least 15 players from South Florida on its roster.
Sure, the schools are in competition with each other, but that’s the name of the game.
“I think right now I think everyone should do whatever they can that fits inside the rules and philosophy,” Partridge said. “If we gain a kid from this area because we did this, then great for us. I think you have to take advantage of the rules — especially when it’s a priority recruiting area for you, and Tallahassee is for us.”
But in the end, it’s all about the players.
“Today is Friday. Some parents are working, they can’t get off,” Shakir said. “It just helps us help the parents because every parent wants their kid to have every opportunity to be successful.
“And I just love it for the kids from Tallahassee. The kids get to meet and talk to the coaches, and that’s just another thing that’s invaluable because face-to-face relationships build quality relationships.”