Helmholdt Road Show: June Mega Camps
The summer camp season has kicked off, and in the Midwest a pair of events hosted hundreds of college coaches, primarily from the FBS level, and thousands of prospects. The Lindenwood Mega Camp took place in St. Louis on May 31-June 1, and the Best of the Midwest camp at Grand Valley State (Mich.) was held June 2.
The attraction for prospects to these large, mega camps is obvious – an opportunity to work out for dozens of college coaching staffs at one time. The effort paid off for many, as scholarship offers were flying all over the place at both camps I attended this past weekend. A couple prospects who particularly cleaned up on Friday at Lindenwood were East St. Louis offensive center Javontez Spraggins and Barrington, Ill., defensive end Lukas VanNess. Both prospects ended up landing their first Power Five offers at the event, with Illinois, Iowa State and Missouri offering Spraggins, and VanNess picking up Illinois and Kansas offers.
Both VanNess and Spraggins were prospects who took part in the Rivals 3 Stripe Camp Series presented by adidas this spring, and their run of offers comes as no surprise. Both prospects have Power Five-level abilities and should continue to see their stock rise this summer.
Kansas City running back Jaylin Richardson also landed his first Power Five offer, from Kansas on Friday, while collecting a half dozen other offers in the wake of that camp.
Sunday’s Best of the Midwest camp produced more offer waves for top prospects. Canadian defensive end Wesley Bailey, who will play out his senior year in Florida next season, grew his offer tally with four new FBS offers Sunday. Belleville (Mich.) offensive tackle Coleon Smith, meanwhile, attended both Lindenwood and Best of the Midwest, picking up offers at both stops. Iowa State and Kansas offered Smith at Lindenwood, and Eastern Michigan offered him at Best of the Midwest.
DIVISION II SHOWCASES
Both hosts for this past weekend’s showcases – Lindenwood University and Grand Valley State University – are NCAA Division II programs, and will benefit greatly from the opportunity to showcase their facilities to the thousands of kids who attended these camps. Grand Valley State is my alma mater, but the facilities look a lot different than when I was there 20 years ago. It was nice hearing the positive comments from players and other coaches about the West Michigan campus and facilities.
This was my first time on Lindenwood’s campus, and I was extremely impressed with their set-up. The stadium sits down in a bowl, surrounded by buildings including the Spellman Center high up on the hill to the south of the stadium. It really is an idyllic college campus setting and the facilities at the St. Louis-area University are second to none. I remember the differences between Division II and Division I facilities being a lot more stark when I was doing recruiting tours in the 1990s, but visitors cannot help but be impressed by what GVSU and Lindenwood showcased this past weekend, and it should serve both schools well in recruiting for the coming years.
HEAD COACH APPEARANCES
The majority of college coaches who attended the Lindenwood Mega Camp were assistant coaches, but several head coaches made appearances as well including Kansas’ Les Miles, Illinois’ Lovie Smith, Iowa State’s Matt Campbell, Minnesota’s P.J Fleck and Missouri’s Barry Odom. Speaking of head coaches, the newly-named head coach of the XFL’s St. Louis franchise, Jon Hayes, was also on-hand for a large portion of Friday’s camp, chatting with his brothers in the coaching fraternity and watching the action on the field.
At Sunday’s Best of the Midwest Camp, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh drew the most attention, which is unsurprising for a camp held in the Wolverine State. The dynamics of the camp meant that college coaches, parents and observers were often in the same areas, and Harbaugh looked comfortable mingling with the crowds, taking pictures and chatting with those who approached him. He also spoke to campers to open the event, discussing humility, academics and not using drugs.
I’ve described covering events like these mega camps as drinking from a firehose. So, while I did not get a chance to see every top performance, there were several prospects I wanted to highlight. The first is 2021 cornerback Jakailin Johnson. Already with double-digit offers to his credit, Johnson was dynamic in posting one of the most discussed performances at the Lindenwood camp. Even his high school coach said the performance exceeded his expectations. Another young cornerback that had a great day at Lindenwood was Belleville (Mich.) 2022 standout Myles Rowser, who used his length to get his hands on nearly every pass that was thrown his direction.
Some lesser-known players who had strong performances and could see a spark in their recruitments included Papillion (Neb.) La Vista South’s Will Swanson, who worked out at both tight end and offensive tackle, Troy (Mo.) Buchanan defensive end Jacob Ferguson, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Wayne running back Keshaun Fields and Ottawa (Ill.) Marquette 2021 tight end Victor Mullen.