Cedar Grove coach Jimmy Smith understands people might not be happy with his decision to invite Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh deep into SEC territory for a satellite recruiting camp. He also understands that, as the leader of the Saints’ football team, he needs to do what’s best for his players and for the school.
And bringing Harbaugh to town has plenty of benefits in that regard.
When the camp begins on June 2, local athletes will have the rare chance to work out in front of talent evaluators traveling from over 700 miles away. The event could be a financial boon, too, with 300-500 players expected to attend.
So in Smith’s mind, the pros of collaborating with Harbaugh greatly outweigh the cons — even if SEC coaches, media and fans choose to voice their displeasure.
“It’s difficult enough as it is for our program to have fundraisers and get kids opportunities to get to school and get them what they deserve,” Smith said. “It’s a great opportunity for our guys to meet with coaches both inside the SEC and (outside).”
Smith got to know Harbaugh during the Wolverines’ recruitment of Cedar Grove linebacker Elysee Mbem-Bosse, a three-star Class of 2016 recruit who signed with Michigan in February. The two coaches have been in touch ever since.
During their conversations, they realized working together can be mutually beneficial. By joining forces in Ellenwood, Ga., Smith’s players will receive invaluable exposure, and Harbaugh will build more influence and presence in a region dominated by the traditional SEC powerhouses.
Smith knows plenty of SEC figures — including UGA coach Kirby Smart — have criticized Harbaugh for his expeditions into the Southeast, but he doesn’t believe this camp will garner much backlash.
Smith noted he and Smart have a good connection, one that strengthened when Cedar Grove’s Justin Shaffer, a three-star offensive lineman, committed to Georgia in February. And he believes he has good relationships with other SEC coaches, as well.
“I don’t think (Harbaugh’s presence) will be too much of a problem,” Smith said.
Coordinating with Harbaugh carries one more perk for Smith: a chance to soak in knowledge.
Cedar Grove fell in the AAA state semifinals last year. Perhaps advice from one of the game’s sharpest minds can help Smith improve himself and his program in 2016 and beyond.
“I like just the way he carries himself,” Smith said of Harbaugh. “Hopefully I can learn a lot. That’s one of the biggest things, too, because I can’t even go to one of his clinics because it’s too far for me.”