BUFORD, Ga. — More than 200 of north Georgia’s top players got after it Monday, pushing and sweating through drills with the heat index climbing over 100 degrees.
Buford’s 10-year coach Jess Simpson, once an Auburn football player and assistant coach, watched closely over the satellite camp he was hosting.
Simpson, wearing a black, long-sleeve nylon top — apparently immune to the heat — kept a close eye on the athletes.
More than once, Simpson interrupted conversations to call for a heat break or ensure the water buckets stayed full.
“Our goal today was to make sure this camp was organized and detailed and everyone stayed healthy,” said Simpson, whose camp appeared to accomplish each of those objectives.
Tennessee’s coaching staff — with the exception of Butch Jones — was on hand to lead the drills. North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren and his staff were there, too, as was Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson and his Demon Deacon assistants.
The Wolfpack signed a Buford player in the 2016 class, and the Vols signed two in 2015, so Simpson was willing to host the satellite camp when the schools asked.
“You’ve got 14 college staffs represented here in all, and 50 high school coaches out here getting better, because they’re watching those college coaches run drills,” said Simpson, 138-8 as Buford’s head coach, including seven state championships.
Buford’s sprawling facilities impressed, the field turf in mint condition, consistent with the well-maintained school buildings on the campus.
Simpson explained that Buford is a unique district in that it’s a city school system that’s tied into its city government.
“In a city like Buford, the school is the crown jewel,” Simpson said. “It’s about our kids and providing something special for them, whether that’s academically, athletically or artistically.”
Monday, it was all about football, and the athletes were eager to impress with hopes of landing scholarship offers or more camp invites.
Simpson said he could “see the good and the bad” with the controversial satellite camps.
“Done the right way, it can be great, but is it out of hand? Yeah,” said Simpson, a high school coaching legend in the making. “These coaches are hosting camps on their campus and having to send half their staff to camps off campus. It’s great for player exposure, but there’s probably a better and more efficient way to do this that’s more streamlined.
“I don’t know if it’s in the model of an NFL combine, (or) if it’s letting coaches get back out to watch more practices, but there’s probably a happy medium.”