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SEC coaches debate value of satellite camps

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema (Rivals.com )

HOOVER, Ala. – Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema approaches satellite camps in the way most people approach building a deck.

The fruits of the labor are the focus because the labor itself is a certified nightmare. Nobody likes sweating into a saw or accidentally striking their hand with a hammer, and it seems the act of hosting satellite camps has roughly the same approval rating.

“It's kind of a colossal pain in the back end,” Bielema said on Wednesday. “It takes a lot of time that we're normally at home. It was another conversation I had to have with my wife on why I wasn't in the house. But that's what we do.”

That’s not to say Bielema intends to pull back. The Arkansas head coach may hate the logistics, but, as it turns out, decks don’t build themselves.

“I think it brings exposure to our program, which is great,” Bielema said. “I believe right now, personally, in our program we have three commitments that I don't believe would have happened if we didn't have satellite camps.”

Over the last four months, the process of holding satellite camps has morphed into a necessary evil for some schools. The events took hold in a hurry and grew tedious shortly thereafter. Already, they feel especially paramount for schools located outside of recruiting hotbeds. It’s why Bielema and Arkansas will continue to hold offseason camps in Florida and beyond.

Still, coaches that are completely disinterested remain. If Bielema is the SEC’s poster boy for tolerance and patience when it comes to satellite camps, Kentucky’s Mark Stoops is the yang to his yin. Asked whether his program gained anything from the satellite camps it held this offseason, the fourth-year head coach was direct.

“No,” Stoops said. “We haven’t gotten a lot out of them. We want to see players on our campus.”

Then there’s the participant angle. Satellite camps can help an unknown prospect be discovered by a college. It happens from time to time, mostly at the FCS level. But most prospects with high FBS-level talent don’t see the events as particularly enticing. The open-to-all nature of the campus can make things convoluted to say the least. Just ask four-star running back Camron Davis, an Oregon State commit from South Florida who attended two satellite camps this summer.

“The one I went to in Florida was pretty ok competition, but the linebackers out there made it too easy for me,” Davis said. “It was good, but it wasn’t for players like me, you know? Then, the one I went to in Georgia, there were just too many people. It was just, like, way easier because it didn’t really seem like it was for guys with my talent level.”

Camron Davis ()

But the camps will push through the misery they seem to create. In fact, their frequency is likely to begrudgingly increase. And as long as the off-campus events are legal, college coaches will attend and high school players will flock to their gates. For now it seems the most for which anyone can hope is a tweak or two.

“To host them at high schools make it a little tricky,” Bielema said. “There's a middleman there that has direct passage to a high school athlete. And the facilities, just because of common sense, are not as good. I was at one that was hosted at a high school and simply a big rainstorm came in and there was no opportunity for us to continue drills because we got rained out. There was no indoor, there was no turf or field to go to. The only ones that end up being penalized are the student-athletes that already paid.”

Stoops, on the other hand, is less interested in making changes. He’d prefer to do away with the events altogether. Satellite camp detractors argue that college coaches aren’t at all interested in discovering new talent through holding camps in recruiting hot beds. They insist it’s strictly about finding a way to visit current targets near their homes. And that, it seems, more resembles the opinion the Kentucky head coach seems to hold.

“Satellite camps are recruiting,” Stoops said. “Let’s not call them anything else. You want to evaluate and you want to recruit. We want those players on our campus.”