Whistles were blowing and pads were clacking all around the Autzen athletic complex Thursday. The Oregon coaches' full-contact camp sprung into action as hundreds of high school athletes from across the Northwest gathered in Eugene for the week. Coach Otis Yelverton brought five of North Carolina's best for the morning session.
The Oregon camp always brings in droves of the northwest's enthusiastic high-schoolers. In a growing trend, it also is attracting national players, who use the camps as an opportunity to showcase their talent to distant colleges. The five who traveled from North Carolina were only able to stay for one full day of camp, but they made quite an impression.
Keenan Allen - Tall, fast WR with nice routes and ultra-sticky hands.
Gabe King - Athletic defensive end with D-1 frame and motor
James Scales - Stout CB who can play physical
Chris McCain - Very tall, lean but can handle more weight, moves very well
Maurice Harris - Nice frame, very athletic and raw, class of 2011
Duck Sports Authority asked Coach Yelverton about his reasons for shepherding his group of athletes on a west coast tour.
"In my opinion if you grew up somewhere all your life you should have an opportunity to see other things," Yeverton replied. "The Lord has blessed me to be able to help make some kids dreams come true, and I'm going to provide them with everything possible and then it's left up to them. As a coach you want to see your young men develop into great young men, be productive citizens and do all the right things. I hope people from North Carolina don't get upset but I don't make that decision. They have offers from every school in North Carolina, all of them except Scales. They tell me they want to see other things so I'm trying to provide that for them."
Certainly seeing different parts of the country is an invaluable experience for a young person. Why the North Carolina group decided to make Eugene their destination has a bit of history. The first player Yelverton coached who became a Duck was Remene Alston. His visits in support of Remene made an impression he wants others to experience.
"Every kid that wants to come to Oregon may not have that opportunity," said Yelverton. "This is different, east coast to the west coast. But Greensboro is a lot like Eugene. I think that's why the kids like it. Eugene reminds me so much of Greensboro. I've been out here five, six times per year since Remene got here. One of the best things about Eugene is the weather. It's perfect weather. People say it rains but there is no humidity. In North Carolina right now it's probably 95 degrees and 100% humidity. And that's where the kids are at now. They're all, 'Coach, it's nice here!'. You've got the mountains right there, you've got the beach an hour away, it's a great place."
Travel isn't the only growing trend in high school athletics. More and more people have relationships with top recruits going through the process. One such arrangement widely discussed last year was the role of Brian Butler in the recruitment of Bryce Brown. DSA asked Coach Yeverton to clarify how he views his role in his players' college choice.
"My role is to be a mentor," Yelverton explained. "I want to see them become good young men and get a degree. It's so hard right now, you've got so many kids who go astray, who don't have somebody to look up to and to guide them in the right direction. I want to see good young men have an opportunity to do what they enjoy doing whether they ever play one down in the NFL. Because when they get that degree, that's something nobody can take from them. I was privileged to get my degree, I'm working on my Masters degree in Sports Administration, and with that I'm pushing them to be the best they can possibly be. Not everybody likes me. Some say I push the kids too hard, some don't like it when I take them out of state. I've had a lot of people complain about that."
One thing less people could find fault with is the experiences Coach Yelverton has presented to his players.
"Some of them have never been on a plane before," smiled Yelverton. "And that's one of the things people don't understand. One thing about football is that in one play your career can be over. But here we are in Eugene, and for them to fly out here, and just to see their excitement about getting on a plane for the first time, that brings joy to me as a man and a coach. I'm going to keep doing it. I love Oregon, they've been great me and it's like a family here."