Brentt Eads of Student Sports, which conducts the camp for NIKE, explained. "Alabama is hosting the camp, but The University is not putting the camp on. We have a staff of our people that go around and run the camps, but also NIKE provides athletic trainers and speed performance trainers. This is the fifth year we've handled this, and we're heading up on our 50th camp."
The camp itself will take place Saturday from approximately 11 till 3 pm. NIKE expects over 250 athletes to attend, from states all over America. The majority will of course be from Alabama and adjoining states, but participants from as far away as Massachusetts, Virginia, Illinois and Missouri will also be on hand.
"In any given year we'll do from 10 to 12 camps," Eads said. "This year we have 11. This year we'll have one in Alabama, one in Georgia and one in Florida. We also did one in North Carolina, and next weekend we'll be in Texas. NIKE tries to be fair and rotate them among different schools. Last year we were at LSU. We're at Georgia this year, but last year we were at Georgia Tech."
The various camps are hosted at major colleges around the country for convenience and safety's sake, but they're intended for prep players. "It's pretty much for high school athletes that are current juniors," Eads said. "95 percent will be current juniors. We'll get a handful of select underclassmen.
"Technically it's not an invitation only camp. One reason NIKE comes to us is we have an expertise in identifying the top players across the country. We try to find players that can take these training tips and benefit from them, use them in high school and beyond. We try to identify top players that would be interested. We send them information and they pre-register."
As Eads explained, non-invited players can also participate. However, space and instructors are limited. And to be guaranteed a spot an athlete must be pre-registered. But it's the elite nature of the NIKE camps that makes them so interesting to recruiting gurus and college coaches. "A stat we're proud of is that in the last couple of years one third of the guys that signed Division 1A scholarships attended a NIKE camp," Eads said. "And many others sign with Division II or other schools. But if we can just help them be better football players this fall, then it's been a successful camp."
According to Eads, the purpose of the camp is instruction. "Our view is that it's an educational camp first. It's designed to help athletes become faster and more explosive. One of the trainers will be Tom Shaw, who is the speed coach for the New England Patriots. He's trained everybody from Deion Sanders to Warrick Dunn to Donovan McNabb. In last year's NFL draft he trained five of the top ten guys."
Given NIKE's extensive investment in other high-school sports--especially basketball--it will come as no surprise that the camp is free of charge. And in addition to the quality instruction, participants will be given a magazine subscription, a free workout T-shirt and a goodie bag to take home.
With more than 250 athletes to be processed, registration will take some time. But once things get started events will move quickly. Eads explained, "There will be four quarters. The first will be the testing--emphasizing that it's optional. In the second element they're shown SAQ--speed, agility and quickness drills. In the third quarter they break into positions, and they're shown different techniques that they would use according to position. The fourth element, which the kids like the most, is they'll do some one-on-one. Lineman versus lineman. Quarterback to receiver being covered by a defensive back. They get to apply the skills that they've learned."
During that first segment the various athletes will be tested and measured on height, weight, the 40-yard dash, the 20-yard shuttle, vertical jump and bench-press reps with 185 pounds. Results from the testing will be of great interest to both athletes and coaches alike, but Eads emphasizes that the purpose is instruction. "The mistake that people make is they think that this is a combine," he said. "It's not a combine. There will be testing elements, but the players can scratch any results. And they don't even have to test. We don't want people telling athletes not to go to NIKE camps, because they'll hurt their stock. But if they're worried about testing slow, then skip it. That's not the purpose of the camp. It's a speed training camp. It exists to train athletes to be better. It's a misconception to think it's a combine. We offer combine elements, because the kids want them. They want an authentic, third-party time."
Of course even more than the athletes, college coaches will be anxious to garner accurate numbers on prospective recruits. "There will be college coaches there on Saturday, and that's great," Eads acknowledged. "We'll try to help them out. But we don't go out of our way to talk to college coaches and tell them to come. It's not for the coaches. It's for the players. It's not a college combine. It's not for exposure. Of course that element obviously comes."
"There are indirect benefits (to the athletes)," Eads continued. "The exposure, the photos, the ability to see other top players, maybe they'll get some recruiting attention. There could be five college coaches there or there could be 500. Kids want recognition. It's great that the kids get some recognition at the camp, but it's even better that they learn something that makes them better athletes. That's what we're trying to accomplish."
Of course with scores of top prospects from Alabama and nearby states in attendance, the Tide coaches will be on hand to observe the action. "There is a value in having these athletes come to a school and see the facilities," Eads admitted. "But Alabama coaches have to play by the same rules that everyone else does. If they're going to evaluate that day, then they have to declare it (with the NCAA). They can't show highlight films or make presentations, but there is an advantage to have it on your campus."
Numerous in-state athletes will be participating, many of whom have been linked to the Tide. Listed by name, high school, home town, position, height and weight:
*Henry Blackmon Wilcox Central Camden AL LB 6-0 215
*Matt Caddell McAdory McCalla AL WR/DB 6-0 175
*Charles Campbell Rain Mobile AL FB/RB 6-1 215
*Tim Castille Briarwood Christian Birmingham AL RB 5-11 220
*D.J. Chambers (committed to Alabama) Highland Home Highland Home AL WR/DB 6-0 180
*Will Denniston UMS Wright Prep Mobile AL DE/LB 6-3 225
*Eric Gray West Morgan Trinity AL DB/RB 6-0 190
*Chris Gunter Central (Phenix City) Phenix City AL LB/DE 6-1 230
*Clay Harrelson Benjamin Russell Alexander City AL QB/Ath 6-2 190
*LaBrose Hedgemon Hoover Hoover AL DB 5-10 185
*Michael Hill Smiths-Station Smiths AL DL 6-4 275
*Chad Jackson Hoover Hoover AL WR/Ath 6-1 201
*Daniel Jackson Jackson (AL) Jackson AL RB/LB 6-1 210
*Michael Jamar Butler (AL) Huntsville AL LB 6-4 215
*Terrence Jones Tuscaloosa County Northport AL DB 6-0 205
*Thomas Kirksey Davidson Mobile AL QB/Ath 6-2 205
*Kelcy McKissic Central (Phenix City) Phenix City AL QB/Ath 6-1 195
*LeRon McClain Tuscaloosa County Northport AL LB/FB 6-2 225
*Irving McGuire J.O. Johnson Huntsville AL OL/DL 6-1 267
*Eric Packer (committed to Alabama) Wilcox Central Camden AL RB 5-9 178
*Cole Peace Cedar Bluff Cedar Bluff AL QB 6-2 210
*Tyrone Prothro Cleburne County Heflin AL DB/RB 5-10 175
*Justin Ray Hoover Hoover AL DB 5-10 185
*Carlton Rice J.O. Johnson Huntsville AL RB/LB 6-1 205
*JaMarcus Russell Williamson Mobile AL QB 6-6 220
*Melvin Scott Henderson Troy AL LB 6-3 247
*Mitchell Thomas Smiths-Station Smiths AL LB 6-3 210
*Adam Truitt Hoover Hoover AL OL 6-3 265
*Demarcus Waldrop Pinson Valley Pinson AL LB 6-1 197
*Corey White Lanier Bessemer AL RB/LB 6-0 215
*John Wright Hoover Hoover AL DL 6-2 250
*Jonathan Wilson Butler (AL) Huntsville AL DL 6-3 245
Out of state athletes participating of particular interest to Alabama listed by name, high school, home town, position, height and weight:
*Daniel Brooks Central-Merry Jackson TN LB 6-4 225
*Todd Brooks Parkview (GA) Lilburn GA LB/Ath 6-1 210
*Andy Bunkelman Ackerman Ackerman MS OL 6-4 275
*Derrick Cleveland Newton County (MS) Decatur MS DT 6-3 260
*Josh Coffman Palmetto (FL) Palmetto FL TE/DE 6-6 220
*Donovan Davis Callaway Jackson MS OL 6-7 325
*Peyton Eggelston Bartlesville Bartlesville OK DE/TE 6-4 225
*Delvechio Ellis Vicksburg Vicksburg MS OL 6-5 300
*Austen Everson Brentwood (TN) Brentwood TN QB 6-3 208
*Paul Gorney Vicksburg Vicksburg MS OL 6-4 300
*Nick Larkin St. Xavier (OH) Cincinnati OH DE 6-5 240
*Zachary Leger Bishop Sullivan Baton Rouge LA OL 6-5 280
*Marquis McBeath Moss Point Moss Point MS LB 6-1 210
*David Overmyer Parkview (GA) Lilburn GA OL 6-5 265
*Brodie Overstreet Boyle County Danville KY OL 6-6 270
*Jerry Sevin John Curtis River Ridge LA C 6-3 287
*Kolby Smith Rickards Tallahassee FL RB/DB 6-1 195
*Mike Snyder John Curtis River Ridge LA LB 6-2 215
*Rashaud Walker Malvern (AR) Malvern AR DL 6-4 310
*Ryan Watson John Curtis River Ridge LA DL 6-4 285
*Donnie Woods Tampa Jefferson Tampa FL OL/DL 6-5 290
For post-camp information and results, check out the Student Sport website, following the camp at StudentSports.com