The Southeastern Conference versus Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has become the biggest off-the-field spectacle of the college football offseason – at least here in the South. There’s no sign of the skirmish coming to an end anytime soon, either.
On Thursday, Baylor coach Art Briles announced that he and his coaching staff would team up in June with Harbaugh and Michigan’s staff to hold a football camp for 500 rising high school juniors and seniors. Briles’ announcement dubbed the event “The #1 Instructional Camp In The Country.”
— Coach Art Briles (@CoachArtBriles) March 17, 2016
Just like that, Harbaugh – after finding a way to invade the fertile recruiting grounds of the state of Florida and spend spring break at IMG Academy to hold a week’s worth of practices – has ingeniously carved out another notch in his out-of-state-football-camp bedpost. Texas, along with Florida and California, is one of the most plentiful football-producing states in the country. Harbaugh wants access and he’s getting it in a HUGE way.
The SEC isn’t happy. But instead of crying foul in the media (which backfired in a big way), addressing the subject on social media (also didn’t go as planned) or trying to dip toes into the fight (yes, bad idea), maybe the coaches of the biggest and baddest conference on the planet should adopt the strategy of imitation. It is the sincerest form of flattery, and since Harbaugh has turned anyone who attacks him or his strategies into the equivalent of a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest, it’s time to stop reacting and play the game just like Harbaugh does.
Even though the SEC is geographically located in an extremely preferential area of the country for recruiting, there are still other areas the conference could attack. That’s why we’ve put together a road map for a few of the SEC coaches to use to step into other areas to recruit.
To choose links between coaches and states to visit, we looked at some of the coaches that would benefit the most (sorry Nick Saban, you don’t really need that much recruiting help, but if you decided to take us up on this strategy, we’re sure you’re one of the few who could slap Harbaugh around enough to make him reconsider) from expanding their horizons. Here are the first four we came up with, with the notion there are many, many more to exploit:
Will Muschamp Should Plunder Texas and California
It’s no secret that Florida, Texas and California are the three richest recruiting states in the nation. After his time in Gainesville, he already has a bunch of inroads laid in Florida, so he should hit Texas and California now.
Muschamp was the defensive coordinator at the University of Texas from 2008-10, so that will help. He can also call defensive line coach Oscar Giles, who is now at Houston and set something up there. Giles and Muschamp were together in Austin with the Longhorns, so that relationship is there. By going to Houston to set up a camp, Muschamp could recruit in a totally new Texas geography.
Duane Akina is currently the defensive backs coach at Stanford. He and Muschamp were together in Texas, too. And by hitting both California and Texas, Muschamp would take care of two huge recruiting states.
Bret Bielema Could Shoot North
Current Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz was Bielema’s defensive coordinator for two seasons at Wisconsin (2006-07) before Hankwitz moved to the Windy City.
Illinois, while cold and not a fantastic place to spend time at a football camp compared to Florida or Texas, is still a fairly fertile area for recruiting. At some point, coaches who follow Harbaugh’s lead are going to have to pass on the low-hanging fruit of Texas, Florida and California and branch out elsewhere. Illinois, along with Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and even New Jersey could be good secondary spots.
Dan Mullen Does Dallas
Mullen and Dan McCarney are linked by more than just their first names … they both spent time at Florida as assistants in 2008. While Mullen is the head man at Mississippi State now, McCarney coaches at North Texas.
Before you hop into a map to find North Texas, I’ll save you some time. It’s in Denton, 40 miles northwest of Dallas. Mullen would find it hard to beat Dallas as a target-rich recruiting environment.
McCarney would benefit too. Think of the recruits that would come out to this Conference USA campus to get some SEC exposure.
Kirby Smart Could Hit Harbaugh Where It Hurts
There’s a reason why Harbaugh is traveling all over the country to hold camps: Recruiting in the state of Michigan isn’t as plentiful. But Smart could devise a plan to keep Harbaugh in his own state.
Smart should give Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio a call and utter the secret word that I’m sure every member of the Nick Saban coaching tree knows (there’s probably a secret handshake and a yearly retreat, too).
Dantonio and Smart are both Saban disciples. If the new Georgia coach could jump into Michigan and steal a recruit or two from Harbaugh (he and Dantonio may want to put a few “hands off” agreements in place so Dantonio doesn’t lose face) Wolverines supporters would start to scream for Harbaugh to spend more time closer to home.