ANN ARBOR, Mich. — In less than two weeks, the youngsters — the hopefuls — will start their descent upon the University of Michigan.
Not the incoming freshman class for the football team, though those players will start to arrive during the course of the next four weeks, too, but the happy, hopeful campers who will take part in Michigan’s seven on-campus football camps.
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They’ll get a chance to show their wares for Michigan’s football coaches. They’ll get a chance to compete against each other. They’ll get a chance to be momentarily awestruck by third-year Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. They’ll probably even take the Wonderlic test, if they’re part of Michigan’s quarterbacks camp, which has become a crown jewel of sorts in Michigan’s camp offerings.
With coaching staffs now limited to attending only 10 off-campus satellite camps during June — an NCAA mandate — Michigan can no longer aim for worldwide domination in a span of 30 days.
Instead, Michigan’s coaches have the chance to impress their prospects in the comforts of Ann Arbor, during daylong camps in Michigan’s facilities. And prospects have a chance to impress coaches in their backyards, as opposed to a limited window at a camp in another part of the country.
Worth the visit
The on-campus camp became a huge benefit for incoming Michigan freshman Andrew Stueber, an offensive tackle from Darien, Conn.
Stueber initially attended a satellite camp that Michigan coaches attended last June in Cheshire, Conn. Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown offered Stueber some advice — it would behoove him to attend Michigan’s Big Man Camp, a daylong camp targeted toward offensive and defensive linemen, later that month in Ann Arbor.
“The satellite camp (in Connecticut) was my first exposure to coaches as a player,” Stueber told Land of 10 in March. “Don Brown told me to come to the Big Man Camp to get hands-on experience with the O-line coach. I’m not going to pass up that opportunity, to go to the Big House, to talk to the coaches.”
Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno oversees the Big Man Camp, and when the camp was over he offered Stueber a scholarship.
“That’s something I’ll never forget,” Stueber said.
Michigan’s quarterbacks camp is a twofold design. It showcases the athleticism of quarterbacks, whether it’s fielding baseballs from Brown, running through a bouncing castle inside one of Michigan’s training facilities or playing dodgeball. It also showcases the brainpower of quarterbacks; some of the attendees took the Wonderlic test, which evaluates problem-solving skills and aptitude for learning.
“It’s such a unique camp,” Michigan signee Dylan McCaffrey said last June. “One, it’s just a blast. You get to throw some footballs, then hop in a bouncing castle and race the guy next to you. It’s fun, as well, as you learn so much.”
The camp is a little more star-studded, too. Among last year’s camp counselors: private quarterbacks coach George Whitfield, former Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler and Detroit Lions quarterback Jake Rudock.
Oh, and Harbaugh.
At one point during last year’s quarterbacks camp, Harbaugh made a statement. Maybe it was a recruiting pitch. Maybe it was a chance to draw more attention. Or maybe it was just an appeal to prospective campers.
“Maybe we aspire to be the NFL’s 33rd team,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve got a lot of players and a heck of a lot of coaches out here, so it feels like it.”