While June marks an important recruiting period for the University of South Florida’s football program, it also marks a signficant time for Lee County football.
Since 2013, the Bulls have visited Southwest Florida with a satellite football camp.
The events, which are low cost options, are usually held in tandem with several football programs and are designed to showcase players in front of multiple recruiters.
USF’s first Lee County camp was held South Fort Myers High two years ago and then Estero High last year. On Thursday, the Bulls will head to North Fort Myers High for their third straight appearance in the region.
“His (USF head coach Willie Taggart) whole deal is to bring South Florida into the mix and bring our familiarity with everybody around this area,” said Bulls assistant head coach Raymond Woodie, who heads recruiting.
You can’t say the strategy hasn’t worked. The Bulls have signed seven Lee County players over the past two recruiting cycles, including a haul of five in 2014. This past signing period, North Fort Myers’ Marlon Gonzalez, a three-star recruit, and Immokalee’s Jaymon Thomas also signed with USF.
“The University of South Florida is the closest thing we have to a home school,” North Fort Myers head coach Earnest Graham said. “We have quite a few guys that have played at USF and they have a track record of taking guys from this area and making them into players.”
What’s more, though, is the idea of the camp itself. It’s an affordable option for families unable to pay larger fees to visit schools in or out of state. The satellite camp costs just $40 for campers entering grades nine through 12 and lasts just three hours.
On Thursday, the entire Bulls staff will be on hand, along with other schools like Bethune-Cookman, Jacksonville and Warner University. Last week the Bulls hosted a satellite camp with the University of Michigan in Tampa.
“To me, the cost is right and the exposure is right and it helps kids,” Fort Myers head coach Sam Sirianni said. “How can you not support it?”
The camps are designed to highlight player’s best attributes.
On Thursday, the Bulls will run campers through a variety of position drills, agility stations, 1-on-1s, cone drills and 7-on-7 games. Sirianni said coaches will test players in measureables like the 40-yard dash and vertical jump.
“During the spring, you go out and evaluate the kids,” Woodie said. “You do scrimmages and you get that last evaluation. Going to those areas that have good prospects, some you don’t see a whole lot of, and then you find them.”
While the camp is an opportunity to up your recruiting profile, Graham said another benefit is simply learning from staffs with years of football knowledge.
“It’s a chance to go out there and compete for guys who haven’t seen you before,” Graham said. “You have a chance to be coached by coaches who handle players at the next level. I think it’s a fantastic chance to earn yourself some looks.”
One of Graham’s own players, senior Mi’Cario Stanley, committed to the University of South Florida this past football season. That was a case of the Bulls getting in on the player early, he said.
“For them to get that early shows how they have a sense of urgency about kids in this area,” he said. “There have been many who have come and gone on to the next level after USF. And they played NFL football, so that’s huge.”
IF YOU GO
What: University of South Florida satellite football camp
Where: North Fort Myers High
When: June 11, 9 a.m.-12 p.m.
Teams on hand: USF, Bethune-Cookman, Jacksonville, Warner University
Cost: $40 on camp day, $30 pre-order online for players in Lee County
Information: Enrollees will also receive a USF football camp t-shirt. Camp is meant for boys entering grades 9-12 in the fall of 2015. Campers will participate in practice sessions, agility work, position drills and 7-on-7 games.
USF SATELLITE CAMP SCHEDULE
June 12: Miramar Regional Park, Miami, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., $40
June 18: Arnold High School, Panama City, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., $40
June 19: William F. Sheffield Regional Park, Jacksonville, 9 a.m.-12 p.m., $40