Knights of The Round Table: The Camping Season

Bobby Deren, Editor
Scarlet Nation

Our latest Knights of The Round Table installment takes a look at the camp season and how it has changed over the years. Hear what former RU players Quentin Gause, Scott Vallone and Dennis Thomas had to say about the high school football camping season, which just came to an end this past weekend.

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LB Quentin Gause (2011-15)

“Some kids are blessed to get scholarships that way, but it has become like an AAU. You have travel teams getting sponsored now in 7-on-7. That really started getting big when I was a recruit. But it really helped a lot of guys out. I think going to camps helped me out. It helped me feel good going against that competition. Was I preparing myself at home to compete against the best in the nation? That let me know I was doing well. But even if you are not doing well, it lets you know that you have to step your game up. It definitely opened my eyes and it helped me out with some offers. A lot of coaches looked at what all those writers wrote. They had highlight film and this was also a way of confirming that a kid could play. People would also record those camps and coaches would see it on Rivals.com. That helped a lot of guys.

"I went to the Nike Combine and I even went to one in Ohio. They helped out a lot of guys and they helped me. I enjoyed it. It was work, I got a little nervous beforehand, but once it got going, I was straight. It was a good process and it helped me to help other people get into that realm and try to get a scholarship. A lot of parents don’t always know about that. Me, my dad and my uncle went through that process and got to see it all. They were able to come back and help others. That is how they created Next Level Beyond (Training). But it helped to develop me and helped make me who I am today.”

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DT Scott Vallone (2008-12)

“I don’t think there is anything more valuable in terms of recruiting than the in-person evaluation. They are important to the game. You could see a guy on a highlight tape and you only see the good things that are there. That is important because it shows what a guy is capable of doing. You see that blast and what he is capable of, so my job, as a coach, is to try to get him to do that consistently so we can win football games. Coach [Jim] Panagos used to tell me all the time, find out what a kid can do not what he can't do. Let’s find out what he is capable of doing and tailor to his strengths. A highlight tape shows a player is capable of doing this pass rush move or he has the ability to use his hands. There may not be a bunch of clips, but he has shown he can do it. So now, it is your job as a coach to get him to do that all the time. But the in-person evaluation is so important because you get to see how the athlete handles himself amongst his peers. Does he want to compete? Does he back away from competition? Does he get intimidated easily? Does he shy away from the spotlight? Does he tap out and is he in shape?

"I saw a kid come to a Rutgers camp when I was coaching there and we worked him about for about 10 minutes and he tapped. That shows you can’t trust that guy in the fourth quarter. So there is some big value to the in-person evaluation. The thing I think is overhyped is numbers; the 40, height and weight. Now, would you rather have a 6-foot-6 defensive end? Sure, you would. But then there is also a 6-foot-2 kid with the intangibles who you can trust.”

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RB Dennis Thomas (1998-2001)

“When I was being recruited, I didn’t attend any football camps. I didn’t even know of any football camps. A lot of schools knew about me because my coach sent tapes out. That is when VHS tapes were out. I had offers from Miami, North Carolina, Rutgers and other schools. But I really did not go to any camps. But now, if you are interested in a particular school and you believe you could play there, you should go to that camp and be seen by the coaches because they are the ones who are going to coach you. If they like you, they are going to recruit you. It is unreal now because so many schools come to New Jersey because the talent is so tremendous in this area. Some people look at it and say this great for kids to get exposure. Then, there is the flip side. All these kids are working out and not many are going to get a scholarship. So it is a huge money maker for the school.

"So you really need to be mindful of whether or not you have the tools to move onto the next level or not. It is a gamble whenever you go to a camp. Some coaches will say that a player’s season will speak for itself and other coaches feel like you need to go to a camp and run a 40 and see if you can move laterally. It really just depends on how actively a school is recruiting that individual and if that kid needs the exposure. But I was always told that if you are good enough, then schools will find you.”

For more insight into this topic, check out our latest Scarlet Slant.

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