GILMER -- Scotty Walden expected between 40 and 50 high school football players along the Marshall-Longview-Tyler corridor to be interested in his Division III program. He got a turnout of about 80 potential prospects from across East Texas, West Louisiana and even one from the Austin area Wednesday at Gilmer High School's Buckeye Stadium.

And that was just the first camp of the day for East Texas Baptist University.

It's a strong starting point for the Tigers program as it transitions to its new 26-year-old coach, the youngest such in all of college football.

"That's what I've been told. The youngest," Walden said before packing up for a second camp at Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana. "I played in 2011 at Sul Ross State University, a Division II school. The very next year, I became the offensive coordinator at age 22. I was blessed, after that season, we had a real good season, Josh Eargle got the head coach job here at ETBU.

"I didn't know him from Adam, but he picked up the phone. Pretty soon, in February of 2013, I was hired as his offensive coordinator."

Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson attended East Texas Baptist University's camp at Buckeye Stadium

When Eargle left the Tigers at the end of a 7-3 campaign last season to join Division I FCS competitor Austin Peay as an assistant coach, ETBU president J. Blair Blackburn and athletics director Kent Reeves weren't hard pressed to find a successor.

The Tigers shattered school offensive records with Walden as coordinator. An explosive, pass-heavy offense helped the program move from a 3-7 record prior to Eargle and Walden's arrival to its present point -- defending co-champions of the American Southwest Conference alongside Hardin-Simmons and Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Recruits have taken notice of ETBU's upward trend. Four local players inked with the school on National Signing Day and a handful of others will be a part of the team this fall.

One of the objectives of ETBU's camps is to increase brand awareness.

""This is our first time doing a satellite camp here in East Texas," Walden said. "Gilmer has been first-class with it. Coach Matt Turner and his staff opened up their facilities. When we talked about it a month and a half ago, we were really fired up about it. It is awesome to see it come to fruition. It exceeded my expectations. Not only from a character standpoint. A talent standpoint."

Southern Miss, a Division I FBS school, sweetened the pot for local prospects. The Golden Eagles program was represented in Gilmer by first-year head coach Jay Hopson and outside linebackers coach Tim Billings.

Hopson, while very friendly, declined to speak to ETSN.fm at the camp. Satellite camps are a new thing for him, and he didn't want to say anything the NCAA could take issue with.

Coaches are barred from discussing specific recruits with the media per NCAA rules.

"Southern Miss is such a great mid-major program," Walden said. "You look at Brett Favre, you look at the quarterback they have right now in Nick Mullens. They have done such a great job, but, on top of that, they've brought in Jay Hopson. He turned around the Alcorn State program. Tim Billings, the assistant head coach, was the head coach at Paris North Lamar last season. There are a lot of East Texas ties. I knew it'd be a good draw."

But it was the ETBU staff's camp to operate. Hopson and Billings roamed the field evaluating while the Tigers coaches taught the lessons.

Walden himself? He was as likely to drop a bible verse as he was a command to the quarterbacks.

"The ETBU guys are great," Nacogdoches senior signal caller Noah Hildebrand said. "Coach Walden and coach Josh Cochran have been texting me, trying to get me down here. I was 100 percent sure they're interested in me, and I'm so glad they're interested in me. They're great guys. Good, nice, nice guys. They're not just putting on a front."

Hildebrand won the Tigers staff's best overall quarterback honor. They called it the 'Pacesetter' award.

Athens linebacker Noah Bush and Pittsburg receiver Tra'jon Sheppard also won Pacesetter awards from the ETBU staff. Other positional honors went to players from out of the region, mostly to prospects from West Louisiana.

"It was unbelievable, the turnout we had in Gilmer," Walden said. "It goes to show how much kids love playing football out here. That's what it's about for us. Awesome camp."

Athens linebacker Noah Bush won the camp's best overall linebacker award.

 

Noah Bush + Terrell Cooper Get Looks From Southern Miss

East Texas Baptist University would love to reel in the handful of Division I FBS prospects that attended the camp, but it knows that will be a tall task. An uneconomical one, even.

Athens linebacker Noah Bush and Lindale defensive end Terrell Cooper came to Gilmer in hopes of attracting Southern Miss offers. Bush has offers from Air Force and Army while Cooper owns invitations from Arkansas State and Memphis.

"Coach (Jay) Hopson, the head coach, said he really likes me." Bush said. "He likes the old school type of linebacker that I am. Coach (Tim) Billings, the outside linebackers coach, said we'll be in contact soon."

Cooper departed Gilmer optimistic as well. With a brand new workout shirt from the camp shredded from the neck ring to the torso.

"I got some compliments from them during one-on-ones," Cooper said. "Then the ETBU coaches pointed out some things I can work on before the season starts. Using my hips a little more, footwork and hands."

Wednesday's camp continued a busy stretch for Bush.

"I've already been to a lot of camps these past few weeks trying to get more exposure," the linebacker said. "Since I have these two offers, maybe it will help my credibility. I'm going to Air Force this weekend. I'll also be going to the Colorado camp up there. Just seeing what I can get."

Lindale defensive end Terrell Cooper works a drill with the East Texas Baptist University staff during the GIlmer camp.