PARAMUS, N.J. — Asked the same question a number of ways, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh was showing a little frustration at the Next Level Football Camp at Paramus Catholic High School.
“Everyone is just out here coaching,” Harbaugh said. “You’re evaluating what improvements they make. You’re telling them what to do, how to do it, what they did right and did wrong. That’s just coaching and teaching.
“Everybody keeps saying the obvious thing, that this is all about recruiting. I disagree. I’ve disagreed with that premise since it’s inception. If it really helped recruiting that much, then people would have been doing this. We are doing this because we really enjoy it. You can believe it or not, I don’t care.”
Harbaugh added that Michigan already knows the 200-250 players that it’s recruiting and could recruit them from Ann Arbor rather than a 30-stop camp tour over thousands of miles.
Harbaugh’s statement is contrasted by many at the the satellite camp, which included coaches from 45 colleges and the Baltimore Ravens and 640 high school players. According to many of the coaches there, the point was to coach, evaluate talent and be seen, and for the players and their parents, they were there to learn and to get noticed.
“Our biggest thing is evaluations,” said Syracuse head football coach Dino Babers, who said he brought his entire coaching staff to the camp. “You get to see these kids play football and move in space. I think that’s big.”
Maryland also had a big presence at the camp, said Terrapins defensive coordinator Andy Buh.
“We have seven or eight coaches out here,” Buh said. “The biggest thing with this amount of numbers (of campers) is there’s a bunch of college coaches giving back, that’s No. 1. No. 2, it gives us an idea of what kind of talent is up here in northeast New Jersey. We feel like this is an extension of our back yard.”
In 2008, the NCAA changed the rules for the spring evaluation period in April and May to forbid head coaches from going on the road to see recruits. That makes the month of June that much more important to see players and be seen by them, said Villanova assistant head coach Mark Ferrante, who will take over as the school’s head coach following next season, when longtime coach Andy Talley retires.
“June has become a huge, huge, evaluation-slash-camp month,” Ferrante said. “We could go to something like this every day, that’s how many of them are. New Jersey is a big state for us. Starting with John Robertson, from Paramus, our last four quarterbacks in a row that we have signed on scholarship have all been from North Jersey.”
Before the camp began, an anonymous group claiming to represent Rutgers fans claimed responsibility for leaving magnetic R’s with a teddy bear and a letter for Harbaugh on the field at Paramus. The letter, signed by “The Order of Bulls Blood” told Harbaugh to “go home” and “You are stealing our sons and daughters. A speech is one thing, Football is another.” In a post on Twitter, Harbaugh decried the secret society’s actions.
Brian Niland, the vice president of operations and safety at Paramus Catholic, said the security at the camp was nothing unusual and that much more would be used for Harbaugh’s commencement address to the Paramus Catholic graduates Thursday at the Prudential Center in Newark.
Michigan has eight players from New Jersey on its spring football roster and that doesn’t include the Wolverines’ most prominent 2016 signee, American Family Insurance ALL-USA Defensive Player of the Year Rashan Gary, a Paramus Catholic defensive lineman, who stopped by Wednesday’s camp. Harbaugh’s “invasion” of New Jersey is controversial to some.
Rutgers head coach Chris Ash invited Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and other coaches to his own satellite camp in Madison, 30 miles, away and pulled in roughly 1,000 campers.
“There has been push back from people,” Harbaugh said. “I’m all for it (the other camp),” he said. “It’s all what’s best for the youngsters. The more opportunity for them, the better. It’s really not competition at all. As coaches, there’s no competing going on. It’s just coaching.”
While Michigan’s camp at Paramus was announced first, Ash insisted the Rutgers camp with Ohio State and Temple being scheduled for the same day was not about competition. “People can say what they want,” he said.
“It’s not about us and Paramus,” Ash told N.J.com. “It’s not about us and Michigan. It’s about trying to brand ourselves and promote the game of football. Unfortunately, I think it’s been portrayed that way. That’s unfortunate. That’s not what this is about. We’re out here just trying to have a good time and coach some ball.”
All of that was irrelevant to Sharlon Pringle, the father of Christ the King (Middle Village, N.Y.) defensive back Randy Pringle, who will be a senior next year.
“He needs both coaching and exposure,” Pringle said. “At the same, time he needs exposure more because we want to get a scholarship. That’s what it’s all about.”