Schiano: Camps "hugely critical"

Rutgers' camp season kicks into high gear Friday with the kickers/specialists heading to campus, and the week-long camps won't end until Thursday's grade school event. In between, nearly 2,000 high school prospects will travel to the Busch Campus, a time coach Greg Schiano said is "a hugely critical part of our recruiting." Come inside to see what else he had to say about it.

BEDMINSTER, N.J. – Despite wearing a cast because of a torn thumb ligament, Linden (N.J.) High receiver Ruhann Peele dominated play for two days last summer, and Bloomsburg (Pa.) High's Blake Rankin was the best quarterback at Rutgers camp last June.

Both are committed to Rutgers for the 2012 class.

Rutgers signees Miles Shuler, Kaleb Johnson and Mike Bimonte were among the throngs of class of 2011 players to camp at Rutgers last June, and the cycle is now underway for this June.

Arguably the most important week of the recruiting calendar begins Friday when Rutgers' specialists camp begins. It is followed by Saturday's Schiano Shootout 7-on-7 tournament and the four-day high school prospects camp begins with Sunday's check-in.

And Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is not shy in talking about the importance of the next seven days.

"It's been a hugely critical part of our recruiting," Schiano said during the Greg Schiano Charity Golf Classic this week at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club. "If you look at our recruiting classes – I don't know the percent, I should probably figure that out – but well over 50 percent of our class comes through our camps at one time or another."

Rutgers' camp season actually began June 11 when it hosted a Big Man Academy, from which Archbishop Carroll High (Washington, D.C.) class of 2012 offensive lineman Derrick Nelson earned an offer.

However, a number of top prospects of future classes, including Immaculata High's (Somerville, N.J.) Tashawn Bower, Timber Creek Regional High's (Erial, N.J.) Greg Webb and Dunbar High's (Washington, D.C.) Derwin Gray were in attendance.

"The Big Man Academy last Saturday was very important," said Schiano, who is prohibited by NCAA rules from talking about individual high school prospects. "We actually came to some decisions out of that camp. We actually have a kicking/specialists camp Friday that will be very important.

"Obviously, this is the year we are in the market for a scholarship kicker, so we're going to look very hard. We're not just going to take one to take one, but we're going to look very hard. We've offered a few guys, they're coming to our camp, so it's very important."

Among the kickers offered are Charlotte (N.C.) Latin School's Paul Griggs and Ross Martin of Walsh Jesuit High (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio). Griggs is slated to arrive on campus today, but Martin told late Wednesday he is now heading to campus in July.

Schiano estimates 2,000 high school players will be on campus in the coming week. He said the importance of the camp is to find a few more hidden gems in the 2012 class, and build relationships with members of the 2013 and 2014 class.

"With the way recruiting has accelerated …the lineman camp, when we started it, was for our (current class)," Schiano said. "We didn't have a lot of 2012s unless they were trying to earn a scholarship. We had a lot of 2013s, 2014s that were involved in the camp. So, it's a great way to get a head start and build those relationships, especially in our circle, the State of Rutgers.

"We know those kids. We've been in the schools. Our assistant coaches do a great job of identifying. So, now get them on campus and start building the relationships."

The Schiano Shootout includes approximately 80 high school teams, most from New Jersey.

The overnight camp, which runs Sunday-Wednesday, will feature many of the state's top prospects, including all five committed players in the 2012 class, as well as many of the highly-prized recruits remaining on Rutgers' board.

And given the new recruiting rules in which head coaches cannot make off-campus visits in the spring, it is an opportunity for Schiano to build a relationship with the recruits.

"It's most important for me," Schiano said. "I can't go off campus to see them, all but December and January. This is a great opportunity for me as well as the 2012s that we will have on campus. At the conclusion of the camp, when they're released, it's the opportunity to get with some of those kids."

The week closes with Thursday's grade school camp, but Schiano doesn't take that one lightly, either.

"Our philosophy has always been grow them up Rutgers, and we continue to do that," he said. "Friday through Thursday, it's a sprint."

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