FNL: A taste of the fall in late July
The excitement has slowly been building over the summer with a new kind of event coming to Ohio Stadium just in time to provide a taste of the future while also wetting their appetites for what's but a month away at this point. Urban Meyer (and really, Mark Pantoni's) Friday Night Lights will debut just two days from now, in front of masses of anxious fans awaiting to see some of the highest level high school talent gathered from across the country. FNL, as it is commonly referred to, is a new tradition being implemented in Columbus after a wildly successful run down in Gainesville during Meyer and Pantoni's tenure there.
Created by the staff in 2005, the camp idea wasn't anything new in theory, but the way it was presented was unique. For years, teams have brought in high school recruits to compete against each other in camps and get coached by the same coaches recruiting them. But these camps were usually multiple days long, weren't necessarily covered by the media, and failed to involve fans.
Friday Night Lights is a one-night extravaganza that annually draws some of the biggest names in the recruiting game. The event was so successful at Florida that Will Muschamp, the current head coach for the Gators, has continued Meyer's tradition. Even Butch Jones down in Cincinnati has borrowed the tradition in an effort to get recruits to Nippert Stadium.
A key component of making this camp so successful is that the players involved are not just seniors. In fact, juniors frequently attend, giving Meyer an advantage over some camps nationally that cater more to ap articular class
So with the broader details out of the way, let's get down to brass tacks: what can Buckeye fans expect from FNL and how can they get in on the action?
Earlier this week, Ohio State released the full schedule of events for this Friday's festivities. To help mentally prepare yourself for the evening, here's what you can expect:
5:30 to 6:30 p.m. - Registration (Ohio Stadium - Gate 32)
6:30 to 7:00 p.m. - Welcome by OSU coaching staff
7:00 to 8:00 p.m. - Strength & Conditioning/Speed Training
8:10 to 9:10 p.m. - Individual Drill Instruction
9:15 to 10:00 p.m. - 1 on 1, Pass Rush, Skill vs. Skill workouts
10:05 p.m. - Dinner*
* Fans can purchase a meal for $11.
It's important to note that Friday Night Lights is an open event to all registered participants. This means if you're in grades 10-12 and a high school football player, you can pay the registration fee ($40) and participate in the various drills.
For the event itself, fans get in free and if you're in Columbus, it's the last shot you'll get at hanging out in the Horseshoe until early September. The more participation the better. Imagine you're a high profile recruit on the fence about Ohio State entering a one-day summer camp only to see the 'Shoe lit up at night as you enter, packed with thousands of screaming, cheering Buckeye fans. Has to get your blood pumped up just a little bit, right?
Which recruits are attending?
As of now, over 40 high-profile recruits will be attending the event. Unlike the local area kids hoping for a once-in-a-lifetime football coaching experience or those off the radar types hoping to catch at least one position coach's eye, these recruits received actual invitations to the event, meaning that they are probably worth watching (and potential future impact players at the FBS level at that).
Land-Grant Holy Land has been able to personally confirm a number of the players that are going to be in attendance on Friday. That list, as of today, is below:
Quarterback - Drew Barker, Caleb Henderson, DeShaun Watson, DeShone Kizer
Running Back -
Derrick Green, Mikale Wilbon, L.J. Scott
Wide Receiver - Shelton Gibson, Artavis Scott, Devon Allen, Thaddeus Snodgrass
Offensive Line - Jamarco Jones, Mason Cole, Nick Richardson, Kyle Trout, Brian Allen
Defensive Line - Donovan Munger, Billy Price, Tracy Sprinkle, Joey Bosa, Andrew Brown
Linebacker - Clifton Garrett, Raekwon McMillan, Tyquan Lewis, Nile Sykes, Davonte James
Defensive Back - Rashaan Gaulden, C.J. Reavis, Darius West
Athlete - Darron Lee, Dareian Watkins, Christopher Worley, Johnny Townsend (Punter)
We reached out to for as many of these prospective student athletes as humanly possible for independent corroboration of their attendance and leveraged public facing social media to fill in the few remaining gaps. Still, Ohio State blog Eleven Warriors has owned coverage of the event since its inception. They were also able to track down and confirm some other high profile attendees. You can supplement our list with what they have here.
Besides the other details we know about, you can be pretty sure in addition to the fall Saturday like excitement Pantoni, Meyer, et al will have some extra surprises in store. This event is also not only a great one for the fans but also a sound strategic move by the staff for recruiting, knowing that July is an NCAA-mandated "quiet period" (meaning it's impermissible to make in-person recruiting contact with recruits *unless* the individual happens to be on that institution's campus) for coaching staffs across the country. By bringing those high-profile names to central Ohio and letting them showcase what they can do, it's a great way for fans to be ahead of the curve, learn about the potential future of Ohio State football, and have a great Friday night in the process.