Wes Jurden knows the number of sacks or interceptions he records this season will be overshadowed by 5-foot-11 and 200 pounds in the eyes of college coaches.
That is why Jurden, a senior linebacker at Newark Catholic, worked throughout the summer with Clint Cox, of Total Athletic Development, in addition to his four days each week at NC to find whatever extra edge he could.
“With Clint, I mostly just trained for getting my combine times better,” Jurden said. “You have to open their eyes first for them to take a look at you. For me specifically, I don’t have the 6-foot-2 normal build, so I have to shine through on the field and the actual drills themselves.”
Jurden spent his weekends this summer barnstorming, so to speak. Jurden attended four college camps around Ohio with hopes of drawing the eye of his next coach.
Summer combines and camps will not springboard every player to a college career. What they also can do, however, is foster competition and provide motivation for the upcoming season.
“It is a nice measuring stick for them, so that’s another reason why we encourage them,” Newark coach Mike Kopachy said. “You might beat somebody out at our practice, but let’s see what you can do against the best of the best.”
Cox held combines for athletes of all ages at a variety of county schools this summer. For high school kids, it was a chance to gauge their progress. For middle school kids, it was an opportunity to receive a taste of what’s ahead.
Cox admits he does an amount of “teaching to the test,” but it gets results.
“It’s almost unfortunate that those numbers often pop out more than game film,” he said. “It’s the reality of the situation.”
Part of NC’s summer program had specific days dedicated to combines, which frequently include a 40-yard dash, shuttle run, vertical and broad jumps and medicine ball throws. Other days, NC worked on fine-tuning the technique needed every time the ball is snapped.
“Some days we trained for the (combines) specifically, but most of the days at school we trained for more position-specific drills like footwork, shuffles, backpedals and coming downhill,” Jurden said.
Kopachy said Ohio State’s camp is a favorite of his because of the number of coaches attending from NCAA Divisions II and III and NAIA schools. Wildcats also went to Bowling Green’s satellite camp at Gahanna and to Ohio Dominican earlier this summer.
“It’s definitely a sign of the times. It is definitely a big recruiting thing for them,” Kopachy said. “Usually, their policy is if they can’t get a kid on campus, they won’t recruit them. Now, they will see a kid that might be at a high school off their campus, and they will get a better feel for that kid.”
Heath junior quarterback Aaron Latiolais did not attend any camps this summer as his preference is to play basketball at the next level, but the Bulldogs were doing many of the same drills on a daily basis.
Teams must either keep up or get left behind.
“We know that we lost a lot of seniors, and everybody has to be ready to play,” Latiolais said. “We are pretty short on numbers this year, so we can’t have a weak link. Everybody has just been getting after it because we have to have that chip on our shoulder this year.”
Many of the college camps offer a mix of instruction and competition, and duplicating that formula in high school teams’ off-season programs appears to be beneficial.
That extra tenth of a second in the 40-yard dash or extra inch in the broad jump could drive a player to do that final repetition in the weight room or sprint on the track.
“That’s building throughout our team right now — that competitive edge,” Jurden said. “That is what our coaches always try to instill in us. There is always room for improvement no matter how good you are because you are never going to be at your best. We are always working as a team and an individual to get better.”