College Football

Jim Harbaugh brings satellite camp to city

For two hours Monday — one hour in a Cal Ripken Jr. jersey, the other in a Ray Lewis jersey — Jim Harbaugh gave area high school football players an afternoon unlike any they had experienced during a camp at Patterson Park's Utz Twardowicz Field.

Before last week, discussion of satellite camps run by college football coaches swirled, but none had yet been held so it was unclear exactly what the workouts would entail.


Then, last Wednesday, Harbaugh and his Michigan coaching staff embarked on a month-long trip that includes 38 camps in 21 states and in Australia. On Monday, the eighth stop on that journey was in Baltimore.

Almost 100 local players competed in front of coaches from about 20 colleges, some more involved than others. Harbaugh and his entire staff, as well as Maryland coach DJ Durkin and his whole staff, attended, as did coaches from Towson, Navy and Stevenson. Former Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs appeared, and Harbaugh's brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, turned up for the evening session after his team's organized team activity in nearby Owings Mills.


Jim Harbaugh arrived at about 1 p.m., after most of his staff, and introduced himself to a number of players. He then led the campers onto the field as the other coaches straggled behind.

From 1:30 until 3:30, the camp progressed like a typical practice, with coaches from Michigan and Maryland showing as much intensity as they would during a workout for one of their own teams.

"You come out here and you just get invigorated by the youngsters that are out here," Harbaugh said. "You're connecting with the football world — other college coaches, high school coaches and the student-athletes themselves. It means so much to them."

Durkin was one of 18 members of the Terps staff at Patterson Park.

"It's our backyard," Durkin said. "We're really proud of this area. I know these guys and their families are very proud of this area, so it only makes sense. … It's important to us. I've said it many times and we're going to do our deal right here. This is important. It's the DMV, and Baltimore is a huge part of that."

Durkin spent last season as Harbaugh's defensive coordinator at Michigan and also worked with him for three years at Stanford in the late 2000s. While the first-year coach at Maryland said his focus was on the campers, Harbaugh said he enjoyed another chance to work with coaches he had known before.

For about three weeks in April, Harbaugh's satellite camp tour was on hold. His idea generated scrutiny all spring. Harbaugh was an outspoken proponent, and eager high school players supported him. But many of Harbaugh's colleagues voiced opposition and the NCAA was skeptical. On April 8, the organization's Division I Council banned the camps, but on April 28, the Board of Directors overturned that ban.

In the meantime, the NCAA leveled regulations regarding the camps. It forbids coaches from recruiting at the camps or talking to players about their schools (beyond introducing themselves). On Saturday, the governing body prohibited coaches from signing autographs, and on Monday, it added a rule against taking pictures with recruits.


"They're making them up as they go along," Harbaugh said about the rules.

Compliance workers from both Michigan and the NCAA have attended every one of Michigan's camps, which started Wednesday in Indiana.

Players did not wear pads, but the coaches kept the intensity up within that constraint. One drill put a player in the middle of a 10-by-10-yard box with one player at each corner. The player in the middle chased the outside players, one by one, until he tagged all four with two hands.

One coach timed how quickly each player could catch all four. The fastest was six seconds, achieved multiple times, once by Gilman tight end-defensive end Thomas Booker. After Booker finished, assistant coaches from Michigan and Syracuse shook his hand.

Booker, a rising junior, has received six scholarship offers, including from Maryland, Michigan and Pittsburgh. He said he appreciated the chance for instruction from high-profile coaches so close to home.

"They let me into some things that I didn't know about, how I should be quick off the line, what kinds of steps I should be taking, things that can help me in the season," Booker said. "I was only here for two hours, but I learned a lot."


John Morgan, a rising junior outside linebacker-tight end at DeMatha, has only one offer so far, but he also benefited from the exposure. He met Harbaugh, Durkin and coaches from other schools such as Wake Forest, his best opportunity so far.

Even without recruiting, schools have the chance to send coaches — or even a whole staff — to visit players and work with them.

"It's what I expected," said Michigan defensive line coach Greg Mattison, a former Ravens defensive coordinator. "When they hear that the University of Michigan is going to work their camp, kids get excited about it because it is Michigan. And I'm hoping that after we leave every one of these, these kids say, 'I see why Michigan is what it is.'"

It makes sense that a camp such as this could provide a recruiting advantage, though coaches deny it. After Monday's camp, Harbaugh defended his trip in the face of near-constant opposition.

"We're passionate about the game of football and teaching it and bringing it to the doorstep of anybody that's interested in being involved in athletics," Harbaugh said. "No, we're not going to just agree. We're going to fight for it. I'm passionate about that."

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Daniel Gallen contributed to this article.