State Staff Holding July High School Camp

With their own preseason practices less than two weeks off, you'd think the last thing Mississippi State coaches would want to be doing is…well, coaching. Especially coaching youngsters who will still be wearing high school uniforms this fall.

But that's exactly what the Bulldog staff is doing this weekend, at their annual July camp on the MSU campus. And if they do a really good job of it now, the coaches will find themselves working with several of these prep standouts when they pull on maroon-and-white gear. "I believe any time you can get guys on campus, and the more the better, you're better off," MSu running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer said. "And the more times we get guys here so they can see what we're all about, that's the best."

When Beamer says ‘the more the better' he's not kidding. Going into the weekend session, which began with Friday morning registration and runs through Saturday afternoon, the coach was hoping for as many as 500 high schoolers to report to campus. This tally included ten whole teams. That's a lot of youngsters, along with many coaches, to have drop in for a July weekend. And every single one has seen the welcome mat rolled out.

"We're excited about getting them on campus," Beamer said. "And we're got a lot of prospects coming. Quite a few commitments and quite a few guys uncommitted that we're still recruiting." As per NCAA guidelines, the coach did not name any of either or even say what school teams were participating.

It's a busy schedule Coach Sylvester Croom's aides have put together for this year's event. Registration went to lunch today with everyone reporting to the Palmeiro Center. There a schedule compiled by head manager Phil Silva showed how the teams had been divided and paired off for a long afternoon. "We had a schedule of games from lunch to 11:00 at night," Beamer said. "It becomes a tournament. Saturday we do the same thing through lunch, then we have a championship game for the different flights."

Of course these games aren't full-team tilts. They are standard camp 7-on-7 contests for skill players on each side of the ball. Linemen? They are doing their own thing and, the way State runs it, actually getting far more coaching.

"The offensive and defensive linemen are watching instructional videos, they're being filmed. And then they'll do some competition offensive against defensive linemen," Beamer explained.

"And there is a separate line camp going on, a lineman isn't playing in 7-on-7 but he's over there getting individual instruction from Coach (Brick) Haley and Coach (J.B.) Grimes and our graduate assistants." Of course there are some selfish motives here, too, and all know it. College football is built on linemen, both sides, and Mississippi State takes full advantage of this sort of camp setting to really study the young big bodies. Naturally it works the other way, as these line prospects are evaluating the MSU program and their potential tutors.

But, Beamer adds, there is an extra bit of spice to all sorts of camp matchups. Some of these teams will play each other and want to set a tone for the coming contest which will count on the record. Others will only read about their fellow campers and want to use this inter-action to show who could handle who if it really mattered. And yes, there are the individual competitions between pre-season stars, or lesser-known names, or both. Every body wants to be at his best.

"We see that," Beamer said. "I've got some guys that have told me hey, so-and-so from this school is going to be here, I want to come to go against him! And I think they also are observant. They know guys we've offered scholarships to or guys who are committed, and they want to prove something to themselves and that they are better than he is! We have some guys we haven't yet offered who are coming to try and show they deserve a scholarship and want one."

If this makes football camp look like one big beauty contest (though admittedly one where the contestants are also grading the judges!), well, that's the real point. Beamer said that State coaches love to get uncommitted prospects on campus this close to their prep season for some in-person evaluation of both abilities and attitudes. Yet he adds something surprising. "And if it's a guy already committed, we want to make him feel part of the family and get to know all of us. And, get the committed guys around guys that aren't committed; let them do some recruiting for us as well!"

Why pay such attention to prospects who have publicly said they will ink with State next February? Because, Beamer explains, recruiting cannot truly end until the name is on the papers

"I think a lot of people think once a guy is committed you ease off on recruiting. If anything that's when you've got to pick it up, because everybody else knows who they have to beat once he is committed. So we're recruiting the guys who are committed just as hard if not harder than the guys that aren't committed. And this weekend will be a great tool for us to get them up there and around guys that aren't committed."

And speaking of the uncommitted, that extends to prospects for Signing Day 2008. Beamer noted that camp is when State can start showing this year's juniors what the MSU program is about.

This is actually the third camp of summer at State, with two sessions back in June. "One was a junior/senior camp, and one was more individual attention," Beamer said. "This is really the same thing as the team camp in June, it's the same setup but just closer to the season." Much closer as many high schoolers will be on the practice field next week. It's tricky timing these things, but this seems an ideal time as the prepsters presumably have been working into ‘football shape' for at least a few weeks now. And, as the coach noted, there are no college entrance tests scheduled.

"You try to make it as close to the season as possible without any other complications," said Beamer, and the turnout shows State planned correctly. Of course having done this a couple of years has helped get the word out, too. Teams from Tennessee and Alabama were on campus this year, and as late as midweek Beamer was getting inquiries at the Mississippi High School Coaches Association clinics in Jackson.

"One coach from south Mississippi told me he'd heard good things about that camp and he wanted to get his kids up here."

Once those high school kids leave, the State staff can get back to planning for another sort of camp. As in, preseason for the Bulldogs. Giving up one of the last possible free weekends before practices start might not seem ideal, but it's just part of the business to Beamer.

"Once camp starts it's full-speed-ahead. This is kind of a warm-up for us getting ready for our own guys."

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