6 Most Important Lessons College Football Coaches Learn from Spring Practice
Spring football is a critical piece of the college football game. It provides a preview of what the coming year can hold, shows what players have developed in the offseason and provides a handful of lessons to the coaches roaming the sidelines.
This is a look at the things that stick out to coaching staffs after spring.
The spring session is 15 practices built for development, and it is a kick-start to summer workouts for college teams. A number of players step into new roles, and starters emerge overnight during early April.
At the end of the spring, these six things are what coaches are looking for as they prepare their teams for summer workouts.
Who Are the Leaders?
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One of the first things that coaches look for in the spring is leadership.
Which players have taken on winter workouts as a necessity and not a chore, and who is leading the pack are things that are looked at closely.
A team has to have leadership during spring, and most importantly in the months after leading into the new season.
Summer workouts are voluntary, and without a motivator leading the team to the field it won’t happen. Coaches know that finding a couple of guys on each side of the ball that can be quality voices for the program is a must during spring football.
Without that sideline leadership, a team will not play championship football.
Can Replacements Fill Gaps?
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Spring football brings more than just practices. It brings program defections.
Some players decide to move on to the NFL, and some decide to transfer. Whatever the reason for roster losses, filling gaps on the depth chart is a major focus for coaching staffs during the spring.
Finding players that can fit into schemes as starters within 15 practices is a chore that is rarely a perfect science. Even when players have been understudies for years there are no guarantees at success.
Spring does give coaches an idea of who needs to be developed during the summer, and who can be leaned on heading into the fall.
Who can fill gaps is one of the most important lessons a coaching staff can learn during spring.
Will New Schemes Work?
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Every season brings coaching changes. With coaching changes comes new schemes and implementation of new terminology and plays.
One of the first things a new staff will do is try to see what will work with current roster personnel and what won’t.
Does this team have the speed needed for spread sweeps? Does the receiver corps block well on the perimeter? Is there a quarterback that can run the spread option?
More questions linger with new staffs and schemes, and each year those new coaches try to sift through the haze of change and learn what will work.
What Can Early Enrollees Contribute?
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One of the major benefits to spring practice is bringing in early enrollees.
Every season college football teams are faced with roster gaps that need immediate replacements, and bringing in early enrollees is typically the answer.
Coaches look over early enrollees with a microscope during spring, and they throw as much at the new players as possible. Coaches have to find out who can be relied on during the fall as immediate contributors.
Early enrollees come into a program looking for playing time and coaches sign them hoping that they are on the field by fall.
Finding which players make the cut, and choosing those players wisely, is one of the toughest lessons that coaches learn during the spring.
If they have signed flops at key positions a coach can set their program back at least one season.
Who Can Stay Eligible?
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Fall is a tough couple of months for college football players. They have to balance school and football for nearly five months, turning in 16 to 18 hour days at times.
It is not an easy task to stay eligible, and there are times that a number of players can’t make the cut.
Spring is the first time that news begins to leak about who can stay eligible and who can’t. Coaches learn which players have the heart to stay in the program, and which ones need to fall off the roster.
Signing top talent helps win ballgames, but coaches have to keep players in school. Finding out who stays eligible and who doesn’t can be one of the most devastating lessons learned by a coaching staff during spring.
Challenge for Titles
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A coach knows if his team can challenge for titles by the end of spring training.
There are some surprises that can come from the offseason, but those are extremely rare. A coach learns his team in the first 15 practices, and the staff knows whether a team has the “it” factor.
Heading into summer there are things that can be changed about preparation in hopes of creating a better program, but by spring a coach has learned whether his team can be special.
This is the most important lesson a coach pulls from spring as it helps mold his approach for the coming year.