Sensational Sophomore Night was a positive

Without many names to share, clearly there was talent on the field and the Florida staff started a new tradition that can be built on.

Thinking Outside The Box

Since the first two “Friday Night Lights” at Florida back in 2005 and 2006, there has been a growing issue that comes along with the event. Everyone wants to be a part and there seemed to be more of the “everyones” than the guys that the event was intended for.

The NCAA does not allow invite-only camps and so there has to be open enrollment for an event like Friday Night Lights although you are allowed to cut off the numbers. Coaches often circumvented part of the rules by inviting high profile prospects early and having them keep the date secret, to fill up the camp as much as possible before letting the “everyones” sign up.

It has been 10 years since the issue really arrived and finally, a group of coaches and secondary assistants under the leadership of Jim McElwain have come up with a plan, and an innovative one, that really may work and actually be more fruitful for the Gator football program in the long run.

The Florida staff held a “Sensational Sophomore Night” Thursday night, just 24 hours before the big Friday Night Lights event and without actually seeing the numbers you have to believe that the one issue that they have had will be diminished quite a bit.

There are different issues you run into with so many prospects at one venue at the same time. Not only do the coaches have a hard time keeping up with them all, the prospects inevitably get less repetitions at a camp they actually pay for. Some leave very aggravated with that notion. This literally should split the numbers of people and double the reps these kids are getting.

It is a win-win for both prospects and the coaching staff.

Building for the Future

Just the extra reps leaves the younger guys happy and wanting more. They got plenty of turns with the University of Florida Coaches watching and instructing on how to improve. There were prospects out there just entering the 9th grade that are have the size of some of the players at the same position on the Gators roster, but they got the attention and instruction from the staff as well. There were others that really look beyond their years and will likely be highly recruited prospects and the staff was able to instruct them as well and show them what they are made of.

And as much as a lot of these prospects were unknowns before the event on Thursday, the staff thought more outside of the box to make a connection that will last with these prospects on hand.

The man leading the camp from the beginning was Director of Player Personnel Drew Hughes. Hughes will be the one that they would talk to the most as Gator prospects until they get to the point where the assistants can step up a great deal when they are seniors. Hughes was all over them early in the camp making sure they knew who he was.

Another step that I thought was quite interesting and could or even should have long lasting effects on the relationships being forged for the first time was that they had the prospects split up in the beginning by the recruiting area coach that will recruit them. In other words, all of the Tampa area kids were assigned to assistant Chris Rumph during early drills, all the Jacksonville kids to Tim Skipper during these early drills.

These assistants were able to get an eye on these prospects and see who may stand out physically, much like they do when they travel around in Spring to the high schools to evaluate talent. Also, the prospects can get familiar with the assistant coach that will recruit them.

These are such simple little things yet, I myself have been around college camps of this type really since 2000 and haven’t seen this kind of ingenuity with possible positive ramifications implemented in any way. Trust me, this will be duplicated by many a year from now and we all will know who started it.

We won’t be able to tell how much a night like Thursday will pay off for quite some time, and a person like myself can’t get very much from it this year, but you have to believe that word will get out about it and then top sophomores a year from now will start getting in line to be a part of it. Either way, the staff certainly found some young talent they can recruit from years to come. A great head start.

One got the talk from McElwain

While it was hard for us to figure out who the participants were and who really stood out, one big time talent showed out again. Pensacola Pine Forest 2018 receiver Jacob Copeland constantly beat his defender and while the quarterbacks couldn’t always get him the ball, Copeland did what he could. He was offered after a camp performance in June and told me before he arrived that he would “be happy after he arrived at his soon to be second home”. Copeland strolled up to McElwain’s office after the event and they tried to persuade him to go ahead and commit, but ‘soon’ for him doesn’t actually mean right now evidently.

I caught up with Copeland after the event and you can see what he thought here. He will also work out at Friday Night Lights.


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