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How WSU's June camp strategy has evolved under Mike Leach

WASHINGTON STATE’s coaches were in San Diego Tuesday for the staff's annual retreat. Later this week, Mike Leach and crew will kick off a five-camp tour of satellite camps in California. All of which begs the question …

What about the WSU camp this past weekend in Pullman?

Things have changed markedly in the recruiting world when it comes to June.  The proliferation of third-party camps, combines, showcases, etc. have seen a huge surge in attendance in recent years. As a result, school camps have seen a decline, including WSU's.

Many schools would actually rather not have to do their own camps these days, Scout.com’s Brandon Huffman says. Liability issues are one reason. From a pure recruiting standpoint, schools can send coaches to satellite camps where someone else has to run it, and they can get a better gauge on the talent without having to deal with the camp management of 200-300 prospects, says Huffman.

In talking to prep coaches since Saturday, they estimate there were about 200 prospects in attendance at Washington State’s one day mini-camp on Saturday. One of the most intriguing was from Arizona, we’ll get to that in a moment.

Satellite camps also allow Mike Leach and Co. to see many more prospects who might not be able to afford a trip to Pullman. (And of course, it has always been more difficult to get recruits to come camp in Pullman than in major metropolitan centers in the first place). So it came as little surprise when Leach blistered the NCAA ruling when a ban was issued on satellite camps in April before being later lifted. Recruits can also be seen by many coaching staffs at a satellite camp, rather than just one staff at a school camp.

WSU’s own camp remains important to its recruiting efforts – attracting in-state talent to camp with the Cougs is important to both the scholarship and walk on ranks.  But the writing was also on the wall in recent years.

WSU’s camp used to be a four-day, smash mouth event. It used to be full contact. Mike Leach tinkered with the formula in 2013 ahead of his second season in Pullman, holding a three-day full contact camp, 2 mini-camps, 2 kicking showcases plus a camp for grades 3-8.  But as noted earlier, things have changed markedly in the recruiting world with third-party camps. 

Leach in 2014  did away with both the high school team camp component plus the full contact portion, holding a pair of mini-camps in Pullman.  That was the year the June emphasis truly turned to satellite camps under Leach.   In 2015, and this year, WSU held one non-contact mini-camp in Pullman.

At the WSU camp this year, Jalen Harris out of Desert Ridge caught the eye of the prep coaches we talked to.  What makes Harris intriguing is that the 6-4, 210-pounder earlier this year was ranked as the No. 25 wideout prospect in the West. But WSU likes him as a defensive end (and Scout does too now, having reclassified him as a 3-star ATH/DE).

Meanwhile, Leach is following the same June plan as last year although he's switching up the order: first will be a brief retreat in San Diego, followed by a quintet of satellite camps in the Golden State.  (Leach prior to San Diego last year held the retreat in either McCall or Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and they went a little longer. But they've always centered around the same thing: what they can do to become better coaches and to make the players better).

WSU’s first of five satellite camps in California will be held Thursday in Oceanside.

RELATED STORY: WSU will coach 9 camps in 4 states this June


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