Football summer camps bring new opportunities, new challenges for coachesAug 04, 2022 02:08PM ● By Brian Shaw
It’s that time of year when high school football coaches around Utah try to figure out what they have at their disposal for the coming season. For two coaches in particular who are good friends off the field and are also on opposite ends of the coaching spectrum, the feeling is similar in some aspects going into 2022.
Bingham head coach Eric Jones is optimistic. Despite never having been a high school head football coach, he is excited about his team’s prospects going into the 2022-23 season. Summer camp moved right along in his estimation and the learning comes with the job.
“Camp is going well. Making lots of mistakes but that’s good. Gives us something to coach and improve on. We’ll get there,” Jones said.
In his first season at Bingham after having been a longtime assistant at Roy under the legendary Fred Fernandes—who later followed Jones to Bingham at Jones behest and became the Miners offensive coordinator—Jones brings expertise on the defensive side of the ball, in particular.
The new Bingham head coach and his staff welcomed approximately 165 kids June 21 to Ron Thorne Stadium. Each of the 165 will be assigned to one of four Miners teams (freshman, sophomore, JV and varsity) after that camp is over and after the kids have been evaluated by Bingham’s coaching staff.
On the other side of the valley, nestled up against the Wasatch Mountains is Cottonwood High School, home of the Colts, where head coach Casey Miller is dealing with a completely different kind of problem: numbers. The fourth-year head coach is also optimistic he’ll have what he needs when his camp begins July 11 and he is banking on that all of his players will be attending.
“There are only 60 kids in the program,” said Miller, who added that like Bingham, his Colts will be doing the camp at school and not at an area college. “We’ll practice in the morning, we’ll have meetings and team building throughout the day, and practice again in the evening.”
For an independent that was on the brink of having its football program fold several years ago for the first time in school history, and since that time has been consistently improving its product on and off the field, Miller has been doing everything in his power to keep Cottonwood High School football afloat.
The Cottonwood coach is fighting like crazy to not only keep the program solvent during difficult times by holding fundraisers around the clock. Miller was urging his kids to keep their grades up this past semester so that he can have enough guys on the field to actually play a game when the Utah high school football season officially begins July 25.
Last year, that was a problem for the Colts, who in several games were only able to field about a dozen players on varsity—something that forced Miller to have to play nearly all of his players both ways on offense and defense for the entire game. And, some had even played the JV game the day before, he added.
In order to fuel their bodies properly during the two-a-day camp, however, Miller has had to get creative—to the point that he and his wife pay for four meals worth of food out of their own pockets for all four days of the Cottonwood football camp and cook it all the day before camp gets underway.
“A lot don’t get them at home,” Miller said. “It’s important they get shown it’s possible to have good food three times a day and it isn’t just Pop-Tarts and Takis.”
Miller added that by doing things this way, he’s keeping costs well below what it would be to go to a camp and gives the kids more freedom to do more activities.
“It all means more work for my wife and I, but it’s fun,” Miller said.
That’s a different kind of problem than that of Bingham who has so many kids that the real problem comes not in finagling enough nourishment for the players, but in figuring out the final 10% of kids who will be playing on the varsity team.
“We’re constantly evaluating practice drills, practice reps, and scrimmage reps through the use of film,” said Jones, who will dress 80 to 85 kids per varsity game. “The actual players on the field getting the majority of the reps would be between 35-40.”
For the scrimmages, Jones was able to line up several local high schools to play against two days of the week—the majority from Davis and Weber counties.
“I had a hard time finding others to participate with us. Had Farmington originally but their helmets aren’t back from painting,” Jones said. “So we ended up with Layton, Copper Hills, and Roy. We scrimmaged all three of them the [third day of camp] at Layton. On the [final day of camp] we scrimmaged Layton and CH at our place for about an hour each.”
Jones is taking over a Bingham team that lost over 40 players to graduation so he’ll have some holes to fill. Above and beyond that, the Miners have a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator and new head coach so there will be a heavy learning curve as well.
“It’s a long process,” said the first-year Bingham head coach. “These kids are on their third OC in three years and second D.C. That’s hard from a learning perspective. The kids are improving and getting better with it though.”
That said, another trend in Utah high school football may be developing, because for both coaches, holding summer camp at their own high schools is not as cost-prohibitive. For Jones, the reasons are simple and threefold.
“I don’t like going out of town for three reasons: too expensive, I can’t pay my assistants for their time unless we stay home, and we get more done at home.” λ