This past Saturday I was invited to attend spring practice #11, held in the stadium. It was originally scheduled to take place in The Bubble, but due to the great weather we had, it was moved outdoors.
My invite came from the Rutgers Touchdown Club, who had their members invited to watch a practice. It was a great opportunity to see what happens, how it goes, and what is involved with these practices.
Spring football is a challenge for both the staff and the squad. By NCAA rules, there are only 15 total practices permitted, a lot needs to be accomplished in a very short window. As a result several things become apparent.
The first thing you notice is that there is NO wasted time during a practice. There are several separate activities occurring around the field at any give time. While the #1s are practicing at one end, the #2s are practicing at the other, and the field goal kickers are at mid-field taking long-range practice at the goalposts. On the sidelines, Coach Henry is working with the DBs, working with the five potential corners just as he described in an article last week.
There are a multitude of sounds coming from all corners. In addition to the sound setup through the PA system, coaches are yelling instructions, players are grunting with exertion, air horns are sounding, and periodic instructions are also being given through the PA, such as “Five minutes to 7 on 7!”
The energy is almost palpable. Everyone is working hard, and movement is constant. I did not see any players taking it easy for the 2 1⁄2 hours I was there. Even players with green jerseys (denoting injuries so no contact permitted) were active. I watched Janarion Grant running while going from one station to another, and participating in scrimmages despite not being allowed to make physical contact.
Throughout the practice, while the coaches are working with the players, and the players are training, a bevy of activity is also taking place around the edges of the field. Staff are constantly moving equipment around for the next set of activities, whether it is a tackling skids, pads for a particular group to practice or even bands for stretches. It just never stops the entire time!
The coaches worked closely with the players throughout, in small and large groups. Among them, always, was the head coach. He was involved in instruction, as well as overseeing all that was going on. He never stopped, was scanning activities at all times.
Instruction. Never. Stopped.
At the end of practice, when Coach Ash had them huddle up as a group mid-field to close up practice prior to players doing their post-practice stretches, the instruction on how to behave during the break was not neglected. In fact, he talked to the players the way a father talks to his own about being careful, making good decisions, and remembering they carry the school’s reputation with them.