The 10 Toughest Fall Camps in College Football
The NCAA has a pretty solid list of guidelines governing practices and preparation during camp.
The days of Bear Bryant's legendary camp at Junction, Texas, are gone.
The 10 programs on this list did not necessarily make this list because their strength and conditioning routines are legendary.
Each one of them made it for their own particular reason.
Those vary, from the aforementioned physical aspect of the camp to the prospects facing the team this specific year.
And then, of course, there are systems that teams must learn, varied types of coaches to deal with, and the added weight of playing for an elite-level program.
All of these add a different type of pressure to a players' fall, and the combination of all or some of these led to the 10 making this list.
10. LSU Tigers
We have already established that Les Miles may be, at best, mentally unbalanced.
The man sure does know how to coach, regardless of his penchant for eating random grass.
The Tigers have regularly dominated the football field during his tenure, in large part due to a strength and conditioning regimen that is second to none.
And that's not just me spouting nonsense, although that does happen at times.
The LSU strength and conditioning coaches get kudos from all over the place for their work.
9. New Mexico Schools
No disrespect meant to those who are affiliated in any way with New Mexico or its wonderful institutions of higher learning.
The Aggies and Lobos, however, are plain bad.
And that may be the understatement of the decade.
It's difficult enough preparing and working hard to play for a winning team, much less for one that seems to never win.
8. Penn State Nittany Lions
This is more singular to this season, but still applies.
For the first time since 1966, someone not named Paterno is going to be running fall camp.
That's 45 years of doing things the way one man wants them done, looking to him for leadership and direction, and following them, without question.
I'm not saying that's a good thing, but this season will certainly be different, and change is always difficult.
7. Oklahoma State Cowboys
This is another of those one-time instances.
Beside the fact that the Cowboys' offense is another difficult offense to master, this season they have to deal with the loss of star quarterback and senior citizen Brandon Weeden, as well as the departure of the talented Justin Blackmon.
Replacing Weeden will be freshman Wes Lunt, and having him at the helm is sure to be a tough adjustment for OSU.
6. Syracuse Orange
It's difficult playing for a loser, and there is no question that the Orange are that.
The team has had one winning season in the past decade.
They routinely wind up on the bottom of the Big East, one of the weakest conferences in football, and there is no immediate hope in sight.
It's hard enough getting motivated to prepare when you play for a winning team.
For the Orange players, it must be extremely difficult.
5. Texas Longhorns
The team routinely labors under expectations from its fans that would crush lesser mortals.
There is no more dedicated, intense, widespread fanbase.
Mack Brown has this team ready to play on a regular basis, and they win.
Of course, in recent seasons that has not happened as often as 'Horn fans would like, but there is no arguing with a 141-39 record at Texas, nor with only one losing season since 1998.
This is not by mistake, as the Longhorns work hard, and their dedication to practice and camp shows on the field.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State fans, I'm sorry.
For the rest of you, this is forward looking more than anything else.
Buckeye fans should be excited about the talented players he has lured to the program, and about a fall camp featuring preparation with and direction from one of the best in the nation.
On the flip side, Meyer has struggled with discipline in the past.
No matter what team you play for, it's difficult to prepare for a season when you don't know who will be suspended, who will be in jail and who will be serving his mandatory community service.
No doubt, the Buckeyes will still be successful, but in the upcoming seasons, it will be interesting to see what kind of control Meyer actually has over his squad.
3. Memphis Tigers
Think of Memphis football as the "dark side" of college.
You don't want to go there.
The Tigers are, arguably, the worst team in college football, and have been for the past few seasons.
Imagine waking up as a football player at the collegiate level, and realizing you are starting fall camp at Memphis, where, to be frank, two wins this season will be an achievement.
Now that's rough.
2. Oregon Ducks
Have you seen the offense the Ducks run?
If you haven't get out from under your rock.
It's the fastest-paced system currently in use, one that leaves opposing teams sucking wind and vulnerable because the pace is incredibly torrid.
The conditioning it takes to prepare for this pace is extensive and brutal.
Beside the conditioning, the offensive system is complicated, and not just your ordinary offensive scheme.
Almost none of these players come into the program having played some variation of Chip Kelly's offense.
While opponents struggle to handle the pace, the Ducks are prepared by virtue of an extremely intense fall camp regimen.
1. Alabama Crimson Tide
This one is ridiculously simple.
Sure, Nick Saban's gameplans are excellent, and the Tide seem to regularly be loaded with top-flight athletes.
But Alabama is not the only team to have a head coach who prepares them for a game, nor are they the only program that recruits solid athletes.
The key has to be in the preparation, the countless hours spent on the field getting in shape, scheming and preparing to dominate.
Two national titles in three years is no accident.
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