But NCAA rules strictly regulate contact between football prospects and coaches, and the NCAA doesn't allow tryouts in Division I. Still, Petty knew that for a few weeks near the summer solstice, coaches and prospects get a brief reprieve from those rules at school-run, funded-by-parents camps. At these events, coaches and prospects can finally talk football without violating the "bump" rule or worrying about who called who and when. At the same time, coaches can see with their own eyes whether a player deserves a scholarship offer. The ensuing weeks after camp season usually feature a flood of commitments from under-the-radar players and a reshuffling of favorites by highly recruited players who finally got to spend some quality time on campus.
Petty is a prime example of the former. A few weeks ago, he had scholarship offers from Portland State and New Mexico, but several big-time schools kept telling him an offer might be forthcoming. "They like you," he said. "But they don't love you."
So Petty hit the camp circuit. He went to Tennessee, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and Nebraska. At Tennessee's All-Position Camp (June 11-13, $290 for overnight campers), Petty spent plenty of quality time with first-year Volunteers offensive coordinator
And while Petty may have impressed Clawson, Clawson impressed Petty just as much. The coach may not have been able to make that impression on the phone. "The coaching staff is a really big deal to me," Petty said. "Camps are a really good place to (get to know coaches). You get what you see."
Most college programs throughout the country held camps in the past two weeks for elementary and high schoolers, but coaches know prospects have busy camp calendars. So some schools offer short elite camps that receive little billing in the official camp flyer but plenty of word-of-mouth advertisement from coaches and other prospects.
On Wednesday and Thursday, USC will hold its annual Rising Stars camp, which is open only to rising high school juniors and seniors. The Trojans' camp brochure points out that the camp is intended for "advanced" players only, and players may find themselves competing for scholarship offers in drills. Last year's edition featured a who's who of recruits, including future USC signees
And because many of the players at the camp are recruits, they get a show. Last year, campers emerged from the tunnel as a few
Two schools in the Sunshine State take a similar approach. On July 18, Florida will host its fourth Friday Night Lights camp. Last year, elite players competed in drills as a