After winning a national championship, the Ohio State coaches figured more kids than usual would register for their football camps. They just didn't know it would be quite this many.
"We've had more than we expected, which is a good thing," Ohio State recruiting coordinator Bill Conley told Bucknuts.com. "It's good to know high school football players from around the state and the country are interested in our program and what we have to offer."
The first session of the senior camp wrapped up today at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. Session two, with a new group of seniors, will be held Thursday.
This format is a change from the last few years when the "senior advanced camp" was a two-day camp. This year, OSU decided to have a pair of one-day senior camps.
"We split it up this year," Conley said. "We have about 200 seniors out here today and we're expecting about 150 more tomorrow."
That's a drastic change from last year when there were about 80 players at the two-day senior camp.
Conley, who oversees all the gridiron camps at OSU, has been pleased with the way things have been going. He isn't a big fan of 90-degree heat, but everything else has gone according to plan.
"It's going real good," Conley said. "Like I said, the numbers are way up this year, so we're working a little harder, but that's a good thing. We had 1,600 kids the first session last week, then we had 1,450 at the next one, and those went great. Some real talented kids that we'll have to keep our eyes on. We also have 200 punters and kickers here today and tomorrow for the kicking camp and around 350 total for the senior camps. So, that's about 3,600 kids in all."
The main thing OSU fans want to know about is scholarship offers. Have any campers received an offer from the Buckeyes so far?
"I can't say anything about that, you know that," Conley said with a wry grin.
The one thing he could tell us is that he is seeing a lot more out-of-state license plates in the WHAC parking lot this year.
"Yeah, definitely more out-of-state kids this year," Conley said. "You'll see with these two camps - the senior camp and the kicking camp - a lot more kids from around the country. We had kids from out-of-state at the other camps too, but there is a higher percentage here today and tomorrow."
How many kids get turned away from the camps?
"For some of the camps, we have to cut it off because of limited dorm space," Conley said. "But we really didn't have to do that for the senior-only camp because it is a commuter deal. But the overnight camps, yeah, we had to cut those off."
From asking around, we found out that Thursday's session is the de-facto "elite camp" this year. Conley wouldn't go that far, but did have this to say: "There are some very talented players here today, but tomorrow's group is probably the more talented of the two. But there are a lot of future Division I players here today."
What are some of the things Conley looks for at these camps? What makes players stand out above the rest?
"Speed and explosion," he said. "When the pads are off, you have to focus on speed and explosion. We're looking for kids who play with velocity."
Most of the players we tracked down today were not players being recruited by the Buckeyes. However, cornerback Brandon Underwood from Hamilton (brother of E.J.) is a guy to keep an eye on.
"Things are going good," Underwood said. "It's a little hot, but I'll be alright."
Does the 6-foot, 174-pound Underwood have any scholarship offers on the table?
"Yes, I have offers from Indiana, Purdue, Maryland, Cincinnati, Penn State, Arizona State, and Ball State," he said. "Notre Dame said they would offer if I got a certain score on my ACT and Michigan State told me they want me to come up, so I am going to see what all that is about. But Notre Dame is my favorite right now."
What if the Buckeyes step up with an offer?
"I would take a bigger look at it, for sure."
When can fans expect a decision?
"After the season. I just want to take five officials and then make a decision. I don't want to wait all the way until signing day."
Is Underwood expecting an offer from OSU this week?
"I don't know. If it happens, it happens."
What are the strength and weaknesses of his game right now?
"Technique is my strength. My weakness is that I have to improve on covering certain routes. I was just out there in one-on-one and I have to work on not going for those double moves," Underwood said.
We also spoke with OSU quarterbacks/receivers coach Joe Daniels. We asked him what he was expecting to see from standout QBs Brian Hoyer and Mike Maciejowski tomorrow, but the NCAA rules are very strict regarding what he could say.
"Well, I can't talk about any of the kids individually," Daniels said. "I can't even mention names. But I can talk in terms of the group. We are expecting a good group of quarterbacks tomorrow. This particular day, there are some very talented quarterbacks here as well. We are expecting some of the, quote-unquote, bigger names tomorrow, but there must be about 6-8 kids here today that must be looked at, must be evaluated. And that's good to get that many at a camp like this."
Daniels is also overseeing the receivers and gave a quick assessment of what he saw today.
"There is probably at least a half a dozen receivers that have what we are looking for as far as size and speed," he said. "The best thing about these camps is that you're going to get some evaluations on some guys that we've got to make sure we follow through their senior year."
Like Conley explained, there are many more kids to evaluate this year.
"Overall, the numbers are growing quite a bit at these camps," Daniels said. "We've gone from about 80-90 seniors last year, to 350 this year."
What was the reason for changing the senior camp format?
"What happened last year was that we had a two-day senior camp, but the guys could come in only one-day if they wanted and not a very high percentage stayed for both days," Daniels said. "So, this year, we figured we might as well make it just one-day and then another one-day. I think most of the guys like that better, it gives them one more day of vacation. Both days are exactly the same, just with different kids. They go through the exact same drills with the same instructors."
All of Ohio State's coaches, including Jim Tressel, were out on the various WHAC practice fields today instructing the seniors. It must be a thrill for these players to turn around and see that the coach barking instructions at them is Tressel.
The OSU coaches that seemed the most active today were Tim Spencer with the running backs and Mark Dantonio with the defensive backs. It's pretty well documented that Spencer looks like he could still be playing, but Dantonio is in pretty good shape himself. He was out there actually running through the drills with the DBs.
As Conley and Daniels hinted, tomorrow is the day the stars come out. A bunch of players the Buckeyes are targeting are expected to be in attendance.