Daniel Chi / Asst. photo editor
Ohio State football coach Urban Meyer and director of player personnel Mark Pantoni added what they hope will be a new Buckeye tradition with the debut of the first annual Friday Night Lights, a one-day football camp for high school football players inside Ohio Stadium.
OSU students, alumni and fans were granted free admission into Ohio Stadium Friday to watch more than 100 high school recruits run through drills with the Buckeyes coaching staff.
Meyer and Pantoni created the Friday Night Lights camp in 2005 back when both held positions at Florida, and they decided to bring it to Columbus after its successful run in Gainesville, Fla.
Some OSU fans like Andrew Warren, an OSU graduate, said they think the camp is another tool that could give Meyer an advantage when it comes to recruiting the top talent in the country.
“Most of these kids have probably never worked out in a stadium this big,” Warren said. “I think just being here in front of all these fans will make some of these guys want to commit because it’s a memorable experience.”
Clinton Bowman, stepfather of Trotwood-Madison High School running back Ashton Jackson, said that Friday Night Lights is a good idea, but recruiting ultimately leads back to Meyer’s reputation.
“This camp, this stadium and these fans are all great but it comes down to coach Meyer at the end of the day,” Bowman said. “When you look at his track record, his two national championships at Florida, and his coaching style, that’s what kids want to be a part of.”
The parents of the campers watched from the East side of the stadium, while the general public was permitted entrance to the West side of the stadium.
Donte Horton, father of Lakota West High School running back prospect Mikel Horton, said the camp was just as exciting for the parents watching as it was for the campers participating.
“It feels great to be out here in this atmosphere watching my son compete against some of the top high school talent,” Horton said.
Horton also said the camp is a good experience that will be beneficial for his son going forward.
“Now Mikel has a feeling of what is demanded from him on the college level,” Horton said. “I think this will prepare him and motivate him to be the best he can be.”
Luke Fickell, co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, Mike Vrabel, defensive line coach, and Everett Withers, co-defensive coordinator, were among the OSU coaches present helping the kids through their drills. Meyer, who began his day at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago Friday morning, led drills and talked to players between reps.
Jake Collier, an OSU graduate, said the camp overall was a success, but said there’s room for one improvement next year.
“I think it would be helpful if they could pass out some printed rosters in the future so people can keep track of who is who,” Collier said. “Besides that, everything was great.”
The camp was also a chance for OSU fans to be in the stadium before September 1, when the Buckeyes open up the season against Miami (Ohio). Kickoff is scheduled for noon.