Participants at Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins' showcase camp listen to Yellow Jackets defensive line coach Larry Knight (in bucket hat) at the Brock indoor practice facility on Monday January 3, 2019.

At Geoff Collins’ showcase camp at Georgia Tech

On a warm afternoon on a Georgia Tech practice field, Trey Bedosky settled into his two-point stance. A rising senior at Landmark Christian School, he was lined up across a lean-bodied defensive end for a one-on-one pass-rush drill near the end of coach Geoff Collins’ showcase camp Monday.

Bedosky had not drawn recruiting attention as a junior, but his performance at a similar showcase camp Saturday at Mercer had stirred interest, including an invitation from Yellow Jackets offensive-line coach Brent Key to come to Tech’s camp.

Typically, the drill works like this — five offensive linemen are positioned on the line across from five defensive linemen. One by one, the linemen square off as the left defensive end tries to get to the quarterback — sometimes a tackling dummy or a player standing stationary in the pocket as a target – against the right offensive tackle, then a defensive tackle lined up over the right guard, and so on.

They might get one snap to go against each other, maybe two. The purpose is for defensive linemen to work on pass-rush moves and offensive linemen to work on countering them. And, in this instance, for coaches to evaluate both.

On Monday, Bedosky and his opponent went once, and then again. Now, Key wanted to see more.

“Hey, rubber match,” Key told the players.

Bedosky was aware of what was happening. This was a showcase camp, after all, and he had been personally invited by Key.

“I would say kind of nervous, but I wasn’t shaking,” said Bedosky, asked how he felt. “I felt pretty confident.”

At Tech on Monday, few prospects received this level of scrutiny. About 400 Jackets hopefuls, from rising seniors all the way down to rising sixth-graders, filled three practice fields. Some came by personal invitation from a Tech coach, others answering the general call put out by Tech coaches to high schools and on social media, spending $50 for the chance to be evaluated and coached. Coaches from at least 10 other schools also attended as guests, mostly from other schools with Adidas apparel deals, a set-up that has become commonplace.

“It’s all we wanted – was to draw some eyes on us, see what happens,” said Michael Bright, an offensive lineman from Sarasota, Fla., who came to Tech with a few teammates as part of a trip to attend three showcase camps.

At the same time, Collins and his staff wanted the same — eyes on themselves. After testing for the standing broad jump and the 40-yard dash at Bobby Dodd Stadium, camp attendees gathered at the indoor practice facility, where defensive line coach Larry Knight warmed up the group and introduced Collins (“the architect of the 404 Takeover,” a slogan created for the Collins regime).

“Go as hard as you can, protect each other, compete,” Collins said.

The rest of his staff also spoke in quick succession, each hitting home a coaching point (“Compete, have fun, play fast,” cornerbacks coach Jeff Popovich said) and also showing off some of themselves.

“When the ball goes up, who comes down with it?” wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon asked, circling in front of the players. It is a question he asks his receivers, and, having taught the attendees the right answer, they shouted back the response.

“We do!”

Throughout the session, hip-hop music pumped through the speakers. Players were shuttled quickly from drill to drill. Showcase camps have become widespread in recent years, but Penn assistant coach Steven Downs (longtime Jackets fans may remember his brother Chris running roughshod over the Jackets for Maryland in 2002) said Tech’s was unlike any he had attended.

He had liked other camps, “but the energy throughout the camp with all the coaches is different,” Downs said. “The music going throughout the camp and the way they have it set up and it’s like it’s not very uptight. It’s very relaxed. You’re working, you’re grinding, but it’s a fun grind.”

Ivan Shultz, an offensive lineman from Mobile, Ala., runs the 40-yard dash on Grant Field under the eye of Georgia Tech defensive lineman Antwan Owens at coach Geoff Collins' showcase camp Monday, June 3, 2019.

Prospects were mostly from Georgia, but also Florida, Alabama and beyond. Ivan Shultz, a junior offensive lineman, drove from Mobile, Ala., on a camp tour that also includes UCLA, Clemson, Kentucky, N.C. State and North Carolina, among other schools. Some of the schools had invited him, though Tech had not. But his father, a former Alabama football player who is friends with Key, had encouraged him to attend.

Key mostly focused on the senior linemen (Shultz was with the younger group), but the two spoke afterward. But Shultz did reconnect with Louisville coaches after taking a visit there and plans to go to camp there next week. 

Another was Ace Alexander, a sixth-grader from Covington. At chest level with most of the other wide receivers, he waged a losing battle as others in his group jumped ahead of him to grab reps. A relative of Green Bay Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander, he and his father, Aaron, did leave having connected with coaches from Louisville – where Jaire played – and also caught a touchdown pass in a drill.

“The coaches kept calling him little Jaire,” Ace’s father Aaron said. They kiddingly told Ace that he has a scholarship waiting.

It was a useful afternoon for Tech coaches, who made a handful of scholarship offers. While they had seen many of the prospects previously, this was the first time getting to work hands on with them. And there were also some they hadn’t seen who made an impression.

“There’s guys that pop out of nowhere, especially younger kids,” Tech general manager Patrick Suddes said.

Bedosky was a late arrival because he had a team workout in the morning. He stretched and did some drills under Key’s watch before jumping into one-on-one drills. 

The winner of Key’s rubber match was inconclusive — the end took an inside route to the quarterback, but Bedosky was able to slow him — and then Key wanted a fourth matchup, and Bedosky was able to parry the end on a wide loop to the quarterback.

“I thought I was doing pretty good,” Bedosky said. “I didn’t know how good I was doing.”

Key saw enough of Bedosky, a 6-foot-6, 260-pound tackle with the sort of long body that Key prizes. After the camp, Key and offensive coordinator Dave Patenaude spoke for several minutes with Bedosky and his father Mike, an assistant coach at Landmark Christian and also the high school’s principal. Before the Mercer camp, he didn’t have any FBS offers. He picked up offers from Marshall and Troy after the camp (Temple added another Monday night) and now Key was inviting Bedosky back to Tech next week for a visit with Collins.

He had gone to the Mercer camp with low expectations. Now, an offer was likely forthcoming from Tech, which before Saturday had shown no interest. Bedosky’s father called the sudden turn in his recruitment a blessing.

“All my hard work and dedication that I’ve put in has started to be noticed,” Trey Bedosky said. “That’s the big thing. it’s paid off.”

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