Dick Harmon: New BYU football recruiting strategy following footsteps of Notre Dame, Penn State

Published: Monday, June 2 2014 6:15 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, June 2 2014 6:34 p.m. MDT

BYU' Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall talks with his quarterback Taysom Hill during practice at the Smith Fieldhouse on Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

What of these satellite college football camps?

It’s a strategic recruiting move by Notre Dame and Penn State that’s stuck in the craw of SEC schools. It’s also a novel idea that schools like BYU hope to take advantage of through brand exposure and personal evaluation of players without having them on campus.

At the SEC’s spring meetings, the topic of satellite camps popped up because the big daddy league prohibits member schools like Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee from participating in camps more than 50 miles from their campuses.

NCAA rules prohibit coaches from running camps more than 50 miles from their schools, but they do not prohibit them from “participating” in camps more than 50 miles away.

SEC coaches are fired up that Penn State coach James Franklin is taking his brand to satellite camps in SEC territory at Georgia State (Atlanta) and Stetson (Deland, Florida).

Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly is planning satellite camps not only at Georgia State in 2015 but at sites in Dallas, Orlando and Los Angeles, which may not thrill rival USC.

In other words, with Kelly and Franklin donning their respective Notre Dame and Penn State logos, caps, shirts and personalities in SEC country, the SEC folks see it as an invasion of their sacred territory, although recruiting obviously takes place there anyway. It’s just that the Fighting Irish and Nittany Lions flashing brands and publicizing their appearances to prospective recruits in a setting where they can shake hands and inspect skills just bugs the grits out of the good ol' boys.

Locally, all of Utah’s in-state colleges have their own respective football camps. The popular Poly Camp, held annually in the summer, attracts college football coaches from all over the country as “participants,” and they glean a lot of knowledge about players.

BYU’s football staff will take its brand to Southern California later in June as part of a camp hosted by the University of Redlands near Los Angeles. Part of the camp advertising is that BYU coaches will be on site.

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall bluntly proclaimed in a tweet Tuesday: “Show your skills in front of our coaches in Southern California. Sign up for our camp at University of Redlands.”

The strategy of Franklin, Kelly and Mendenhall is obvious.

Prospective recruits who go to these camps don’t have to spend travel money, can sometimes stay in their own houses, and can be easily accompanied by family. Plus, access to significantly more bodies is accomplished with less cost. Doors are opened and relationships are established.

It is evident BYU is making a more concerted effort in SoCal with the hires of College of the Canyons coach Garett Tujague and new player personnel and on-campus recruiting coordinator Geoff Martzen.

SoCal is a key ground zero these days. Look no further than Cougar recruits signed in the last cycle. Some of the big ones came from USC Trojan, UCLA Bruin and SDSU Aztec territory.

Redlands is a 3-wood from where current Kansas City Chief free agent Daniel Sorensen played in nearby Colton. Redlands is 17 miles from Fontana, home of RB Jamaal Williams, WR recruit Devon Blackmon and LB Sione Takitaki.

This camp at Redlands is just over 100 miles from El Cajon, where WR Nick Kurtz played JC ball, and less distance from 2014 linebacker recruits Tyler Cook at Murrieta and linebacker Fred Warner at San Marcos. Key defensive line recruits in that class, Teancum Fuga (Huntington Beach) and Uriah Leiataua (Compton), could reach Redlands from their schools in about an hour — in good traffic.

What’s it all mean the first week of June?

It’s current chatter.

It’s talking new stratagem as we enter the dog days of summer. It’s a topic of Power 5 conferences. And according to BYU football spokesman Brett Pyne, this is a new first for Mendenhall and his staff. They do not receive compensation, but participating is geared for exposure and recruiting, Pyne explained.

Also, as we await word on BYU’s investigation into alleged improper benefits to some athletes, this is another sign, along with ongoing campus football camps in Provo this week, that Mendenhall’s staff is plowing right along, business as usual, three weeks from media day.

We may get an update from BYU on these NCAA issues this week.

Or not.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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