COLUMN: The buzz surrounding the Ole Miss football program doesn’t just include the fans, preseason magazines and blogs. High school seniors, juniors and even some sophomores want to see what Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze and his staff have to offer them.
A year after signing the most star-studded football recruiting class in the history of the school, Ole Miss is off to a great start in garnering pledges for the 2014 class. A good example of the interest level being increased was seen this past Saturday at the first camp of the summer. A parade of players showed up early and kept arriving an hour after registration started in order to take part in the one-day skills camp.
“We had between 350 and 400 players here. It was the biggest camp we’ve ever had. We set a record for a one-day camp,” said Branden Wenzel, Ole Miss’ Assistant Recruiting Director. “I think it’s the excitement about Ole Miss and everything like that. The staff did a real good job of marketing it around town. Everybody is really upbeat about Ole Miss football. Everyone is really excited and the excitement showed in that one-day camp.
“We were really pleased with our turnout and it was the best looking camp that I think we’ve had in a long time as far as sheer numbers and quality and quantity of high schoolers,” Wenzel added. “There were a lot of Mississippi kids and guys from Memphis. We’re really excited to have a lot of the kids from around the area.”
The cost to participate is $50, but the players are paired up with their respective position coaches and able to learn useful skills for the upcoming season. It’s also a chance for prospects to garner a much desired scholarship offer with a good day completing drills.
“Our main responsibility in these camps is to give proper instruction and to make them better athletes and really advertise and show the character and hard work of our coaching staff, continue on the momentum from last year and carry it out through our summer camps,” Wenzel said. “There is always a guy that kind of breaks through at the camps. Last year, looking back, Derrick Jones was a guy that came to our camp and we gave him a scholarship and he became one of our top signees. Trey Bledsoe is the same way. Those were guys we identified in the spring but we still had questions about them.
“They came to camp and they really showed out. There is nothing like seeing a kid live especially when you can put them through your own instruction and the way we do things here. There is no better way to evaluate talent. With the instruction we give them to execute those drills properly, you get a really good evaluation on the kid.”
McComb quarterback Alex Woodall was one of almost 400 players to attend Saturday’s camp. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder, who is a member of the 2014 class, had already been in contact with Ole Miss coaches but the camp was a way for him to showcase his passing skills even better to quarterbacks coach Dan Werner.
“With this being my first camp prior to my senior year, I think I did pretty good. When we did one-on-one, I felt I did my best. I completed all my passes. That’s what I’m really focusing on, the coaches want me to come to their camp and see me throw,” said Woodall, who currently has an offer from Louisiana Tech. “Coach Werner told me to keep working hard and he recommended me to come back up to another one-day camp.”
Woodall plans to come back to Oxford for the Senior High Camp July 19. He is scheduled to be at Memphis’ two-day camp starting today and will then head to Mississippi State’s camp Sunday.
“All the coaches say they like my highlight tape. They want me to come to the camps and see what I can do,” said Woodall, who added he liked his time in Oxford. “I think everything was right and to me everything ran good.”
Wenzel, who coordinates the camps, is currently engaged with the Little Rebel camp that is for ages 5-10 and the junior high camp that is for grades six through nine. This Saturday, 24 teams are expected to compete in the 7-on-7 Team Passing Camp.
“We’re hoping to have a good turnout for that. There are 24 teams from Mississippi expected to take part in the 7-on-7 camp. Our goal is we want to get as many people as we can to camp. It’s a great tool to have to get kids to campus,” Wenzel said. “Not only do they get to see camp but they get to see our beautiful campus here, one of the top campuses in America.”
A lot of questions
The facilities are also getting worked on and while the line to get into the camp was a little tougher to deal with due to the construction at the IPF, the number of questions from the players and parents allow the staff to show the future.
“The kids are asking a lot of questions about the building and the addition to the IPF. We have remnants of the addition and pictures all over so it’s a really good resource to have. Everyone is excited about Ole Miss,” Wenzel said. “When they pull up they’re looking around about what’s going on. They walk in and see pictures of what we’re building and people come in with a lot of questions about what’s going on and it turns into instant excitement when they see pictures and the progress that we’re making to have one of the best indoor facilities in the nation.” (June 4, 2013, Page 8)