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Friday, February 15, 2013
Cameron ready to re-enter recruiting game

By Gary Laney

BATON ROUGE, La. -- When we last saw Cam Cameron on a college football sideline, he was finishing a five-year stint as head coach at Indiana with George W. Bush just finishing his first year as president and Nick Saban still a year away from winning his first national championship at LSU.

Twelve years and three NFL jobs later, Cameron is back to the college game as LSU's offensive coordinator. That means relearning NCAA rules, remembering what it's like to coach players at a different stage of development from the pros and, perhaps most importantly, there's one more aspect he'll have to get good at again.

"I'm thrilled to be back in recruiting," said Cameron, who recruited plenty in his days as an assistant at Michigan and Indiana, and then again as Indiana's head coach from 1997 to 2001.

Cam Cameron
Cam Cameron says after one staff meeting at LSU, he's already a better recruiter than he had been years ago.
"When you look at what we do as coaches and teachers, it's a relationship business; it's a relationship proposition."

His chances to start building relationships will come quickly.

LSU is hosting a massive junior day Saturday with about 200 players expected to attend. It's the "big" junior day for LSU, which brought in a more handpicked group for the Boys from the Boot junior day in January.

Cameron will get to meet many of the LSU targets, including several who had attended Boys from the Boot. Some of the prospects have already weighed in on the Cameron hiring.

Offensive lineman Will Clapp, a 2014 ESPN Watch List pick who committed to LSU after Boys from the Boot, said it was "a great get for the Tigers," in a text message. "I think Coach Cameron will help us a lot."

Others expressed anticipation about meeting the new offensive coordinator.

Dave Quinn, the father of 2014 Watch List receiver (and LSU target) Trey Quinn, said an impending coordinator change was not mentioned during past recruiting trips, and Greg Studrawa, the offensive coordinator of the past two seasons who was reassigned to his old offensive line coach duties, was the coordinator they dealt with.

"I think Coach Stud is a great man and coach," Dave Quinn said in an email. "And we are equally excited to meet Coach Cameron."

So there's plenty on Cameron's plate as he returns to the recruiting game -- and the players he will begin recruiting were between the ages of 4 and 6 when he last sought out college players-to-be.

In that time, social media has become a big part of it. NCAA rules have changed several times (including an upcoming change that will create new, noncoaching recruiting positions, one that former quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe may be assigned to).

And since Cameron last was in the college game, LSU's place in the recruiting world has changed. To get a feel for the timing: Cameron departed the college game two years after the Tigers fired head coach Gerry DiNardo, in part because he was not able to secure in-state talent (ironically, DiNardo replaced Cameron as head coach at Indiana). DiNardo's LSU successor, Saban, quickly turned LSU's focus toward keeping the bulk of its talent-rich state at home, thus growing it into a national power. (Years later, it's worth noting, another coaching irony is that Cameron later replaced Saban as head coach of the NFL's Miami Dolphins).

It's within that context that Cameron will face perhaps his first big challenge as an LSU recruiter: He must work to keep local talent in Louisiana.

A bumper crop of Louisiana players from the 2014 class includes 12 players on the ESPN Watch List of 300 players, nine who project to play on offense. Of those, two (running back Leonard Fournette and offensive tackle Cameron Robinson) are candidates to be the top players at their position, and the state's class is unusually deep at wide receiver (four Watch List players) and offensive line (three).

"This is a world-class opportunity," said Cameron of his return to recruiting, in an LSU context. "I've known that for a long time and now I'm seeing it even more."

He dove into the new aspect of his new job early Friday, attending his first recruiting meeting with the other LSU coaches. He said he walked away impressed by LSU's level of organization and campuswide cooperation and what he called "teamwork" when it comes to recruiting. Plenty has changed since he was last a college recruiter, and at LSU, he says, it's changed for the better.

"I've gone to one staff meeting," he said, "and I'm a better recruiter now than I was two hours ago. I'm excited about that."