Photo Credit: Jake Roth
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of college football recruiting for the 2021 and 2022 classes a lot. From an NCAA-instituted dead period to limited camps that have just started popping up in recent weeks, most CFB analysts including myself agree that this is going to be one of the hardest recruiting classes to evaluate.
This means that we are going to see players fall through the crack and teams miss out on a few players they would have normally found through a plethora of evaluating places wiped out by COVID-19 including satellite camps.
Now you may not know much about satellite camps, but they have gone from controversial when Jim Harbaugh and Michigan were among the first in the early to mid 2010s to host these off-campus camps to now being commonplace with teams usually hosting 4-6 every summer. Virginia Tech is among those hosting camps both in-state in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and the 757 along with out-of-state locales like New Jersey, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.
Unlike normal on-campus camps, satellite camps usually allow teams to evaluate talented players that may not be able to make a trip for a camp, but can if it's in their backyard, or may not be willing to make a longer trip to work out for an offer. For most teams, it's a great way to get in-person evaluations and find hidden gems that may go overlooked otherwise.
Additionally, unlike the camps we are currently seeing, it allows CFB coaches to actually do hands-on work with players and give insight into not only the on-field potential they may have, but also into how they may fit both within their coaching philosophies and their program as a whole.
It's been valuable for teams across the country with the Hokies benefitting greatly from it, landing multiple players from these camps who eventually became Hokies.
Most notable on this list is the man who the ACC's Digital Network now ranks as the #1 returning cornerback ahead of the currently-scheduled fall 2020 season.
Yes, Jermaine Waller was arguably Tech's most prominent satellite camp pickup to date as Waller earned himself an offer during a satellite camp in the Washington D.C. area in June of 2017.
Over the next several weeks, Waller would trim down his recruitment before choosing the Hokies over several Power 5 offers. The craziest story about his recruitment may be the fact that he informed other Tech commits in the 2018 class of his decision prior to letting the staff know, something that is very rare to say the least.
Without satellite camps, it's easy to envision the Hokies failing to find and properly evaluate Waller who could have ended up at somewhere like Maryland. Instead, Waller is now poised to be Tech's top cornerback and continue on the Hokies' strong DBU tradition.
Another major satellite camp find for Tech came in June of 2018 in the Richmond area where a speedy WR prospect by the name of Jaden Payoute impressed VT coaches. That performance helped him earn a Hokies' offer with a visit and commitment all happening by June 10th of that summer.
Tech finding him before anyone else via one of their satellite camps obviously gave the Hokies a major edge that allowed them to close quickly on him prior to Payoute emerging as a hidden gem of the 2019 class. By National Signing Day, Payoute was ranked as one of the top 6 recruits in Virginia in the 2019 class by all four major rankings including #2 by 247 Sports.
Tech's first major summer of satellite camps saw them discover 2017 Atlanta athlete Malik Willis who was committed to Tech for much of the summer and fall prior to decommitting during the 2016 Belk Bowl and eventually landing at Auburn (he's since transferred to Liberty).
Waller, Payoute, and Willis may be the most notable offers out of satellite camps for Tech, but there has been plenty of other talent Tech has offered out of their camps including players for the following cycle.
One of Tech's top remaining targets this cycle, four-star TE Jordan Dingle, was offered by TEs coach James Shibest after he was impressed by Dingle during a satellite camp last year. That satellite camp pushed Dingle to the top of the board for Tech at tight end in the 2021 class with the Hokies quickly emerging as a serious contender in part because of how early they got involved in his recruitment, something that continues to be true.
Take out that satellite camp, and it's easy to envision the Hokies not getting in early on Dingle and likely not being a contender in his recruitment.
While the most spotlighted parts of satellite camps are the summer gems found for the current cycle, these camps usually prove to be more significant as a launching pad for the next cycle's evaluations.
The lack of satellite camps will cause teams to be behind on their 2022 evaluations in addition to a lack of fall football in many states also delaying evaluations. If anything, satellite camps (and on-campus events) may prove to be more important than usual in the evaluation of lots of 2022 recruits in addition to the 2023 class.
Satellite camps have proven to be a valuable recruiting tool for Virginia Tech helping the Hokies find talented players like Jermaine Waller and Jaden Payoute. However, the Hokies will have to make due with evaluating talented late gems from afar and trying to use tape from last fall and recent camps to get ahead on their 2022 recruiting instead of in-person evaluations at summer satellite camps.