Spring Football: It’s Time

Tom Herman (Will Gallagher/IT)

Tom Herman (Will Gallagher/IT)

Tuesday will begin another chapter in the yearly quest of building a championship football team. It’s called spring training. My best bet is coach Herman would love to start the spring with a rousing 1 on 1 circle drill. Perhaps he might opt to go with shotgun alley or even bull in the ring. They all set tone. It’s the first ingredient in physical football.

Who will show the consistent mindset needed to become a champion? One of the biggest disappointments any coach can inherit is developing a terrific football player that just can’t stay hooked up snap after snap, drill after drill, day after day, and finally for 60 minutes in a football game. The world is full of those what finished second. There is a long line of could have been’s—they aren’t shy about sharing their story.

It’s always fun to watch football players mature in the off season. UT has done a tremendous job of changing body types across the board. We have some fine looking specimens. We have reduced our number of less than finely tuned buffet busters in the process. That’s the good news. The bad news is probably half of the newly transformed shapes will still not bite the biscuit with vigor once the ball is snapped.

Championship football teams are almost always made up of 22 good production starters backed up by at least 22 pissed off second teamers that are pushing those starters every day to the maximum. Starters practice differently when their job is threatened on a daily basis. Consequently, you have fewer mistakes and less battles lost on the field. Attention in the film room gains newfound popularity.

The net result is usually three finely tuned machines (offense, defense, and special teams) for your viewing pleasure. When you have 85 or so that are determined to offer the right amount of “want-to” all day everyday you have the opportunity to become a championship caliber team.

Schemes, play-callers, and decision makers are all equally important but the fact remains good physical players can produce in any situation. The secret is always be sound. Always coach the playing field level. Give your players the opportunity to have success. Never align beaten. Well coached usually means well prepared—making the correct decision regardless of the development of the play.

One of the often criticized characteristics for recruiting is the inability to judge a player’s 40 time with any degree of fair and balanced. I’m too damn old and past expiration date to persuade many but I still try to make my point when offered a chance.

I believe every recruit should be timed running the forty with full pads. I think you need to find out exactly how well the individual player carries his pads. I personally like it to be timed with a five yard running start but wouldn’t quibble with a stance start. It’s my belief that too many of these 4.4 guys slow down to very catchable once they pad up.

If pads made that individual 4.4 player a 4.65 he automatically became a different type threat. I always wanted to see just how well the individual player could pursue the ball and running in shorts never told me the exact truth. I always honored the “anticipation” rule as a contrast though—saving one step or so with instinctive anticipation allowed me to systematically lower a player’s time in my evaluation.

Since I’ve already bored you to up-chuck with absolute nonsense I will add a little more personal thoughts after reading Eric and Justin’s terrific “State of Recruiting” post this week. Maintaining a solid trust with recruits relies heavily on past reputation and current word. Inference is a terrific tool. Cause and effect can be utilized. Never breaking ones confidence is big.

Allowing the kid to have his day his way is the right thing to do. I applaud the IT way of doing business.