As a Recruit
Although he never played the sport before his sophomore year, Jalen Camp played his high school football at South Forsyth High School in (the world-famous) Cumming, GA -- about 35 minutes north of Georgia Tech. He originally committed to play at Liberty over the summer before his senior year, before receiving an offer from the Yellow Jackets in early December and flipping his commitment two days later. Though Camp had no other reported offers from FBS schools, there was reported interest from georgia, Cincinnati, Indiana, Penn State, Wake Forest, and others. He stands at 6'2", and weighs in around 210 pounds. Camp is rated a two-star recruit by Rivals (5.2) and by 247Sports (.7915 -- up from .7667 when he committed in December).
Simply looking at Camp's modest offer sheet and ratings on the recruiting sites make him look like a prospect without much reason for hype. In reality, he may be the single most underrated player in Georgia Tech's 2016 signing class. At his height and weight, Camp is able to bench press over 350 pounds, and can power clean 330 pounds (the latter of which was the best of any player on his high school team). From a pure strength and physicality standpoint, Camp has the makings of a truly tough wide receiver at the college level. It doesn't stop there though. Camp's high school coach, who has previously coached All-Americans Jay Rome and Malcolm Mitchell in high school, said that Camp is "their equal", and probably the "best secret in the state" this year.
The billing given to Camp by his high school coach is awfully high (especially compared to Camp's ratings), but it comes from someone who's very familiar with coaching top-level talent. It's hard to think that there's not something to what he's saying.
A look at Camp's highlights helps to better display what his coach was referring to. Here are the major takeaways I got from watching them:
- The first thing that jumped off of the screen at me was how consistently Camp catches the ball with his hands instead of using his arms. That's a great sign, as catching with the arms instead of the hands is a common cause for drops.
- Camp's physicality really shines through with his play on defense, but also in that he's not afraid of contact on offense. Particularly in Georgia Tech's offense, where blocking is a frequent requirement of the wide receivers, physicality on the perimeter can go a long way (as it did with the likes of Demaryius Thomas and DeAndre Smelter).
- It feels as though Camp has a bit of a deceptive level of speed. Most plays, he appears to have very average speed with no threat of really blowing the top off of a defense. However, there are other plays where he seems to really hit his top speed when running after the catch. It's unclear as to why he would only be running at 60-70% speed through his routes, but speed may not be as much of an issue with Camp as some of his highlights would seem to indicate.
- In one-on-one, jump ball situations down the field, Camp does a nice job of using his physicality and high-pointing the ball to make catches -- especially handy for a player who only measures in at 6'2". He'll need to improve his body control and positioning on those throws, but he's got a strong propensity for making those plays.
- Although it's the skill that I consider to be the most overrated of any when it comes to evaluating prospects (at any position), Camp's route-running ability shows a lot of room for improvement. As mentioned above, it includes things like consistently running full-speed and making sharper cuts. Again, he's only been playing football for three years now, so there's plenty of room for polishing some of those abilities -- but it's something that needs to improve before he can be effective at the Power-5 level.
Although Camp has room for improvement, his hands and physicality are clearly the basis for why Georgia Tech's coaches became so interested in having him on the Flats. With another year or two of experience under his belt, Camp could become a major weapon for the Yellow Jackets.
What to Expect
As one of three wide receivers in his signing class and with five other receivers in line for the battle for playing time in 2016, you should expect that Camp will redshirt his first year (especially with his still-limited level of experience playing football). That said, with an injury or two, it's not unthinkable that Camp could push for a little bit of playing time -- especially with his blocking abilities. There's also a chance that you see him regularly in the rotation by the 2017 season, and competing for a starting role in 2018. While Camp needs some more development in certain areas of his game, it's hard to ignore his natural abilities and how well he fits Georgia Tech's offensive scheme and how it uses wide receivers.
While the comparison probably comes with some very unfair expectations, I can't get away from how much his highlights remind me of watching Demaryius Thomas and DeAndre Smelter. All three players are basically the same size frame-wise, they're all very strong, physical players on the perimeter who make things very tough on cornerbacks, and they all do a great job of catching with their hands and high-pointing the ball whenever possible. That's not to say that Camp should be expected to be the same player as those two were, but is more to say that his potential is similar, particularly when it comes to his style of play. Camp appears setup to be a great fit in Georgia Tech's offense, and the sky is the limit for what he can accomplish on the Flats.