Your Best 11 Mailbag: How to Improve Helmet Safety, Coach Quotes, Spring Starts

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Your Best 11 Mailbag: How to Improve Helmet Safety, Coach Quotes, Spring Starts
USA TODAY Sports

It is Thursday and not only are we another day closer to everyone's St. Patrick's Day celebrations, we are also at the day of the week when the Your Best 11 Mailbag opens up. So, before people who drink all of the time have their favorite watering holes bombarded by folks who never drink, enjoy some football talk. Oh, and if you are partaking in the festivities be safe out there, folks, and avoid the table of people drinking way too much, way too early. It will not end well for them.

First question, talking spring ball, of course. My buddy, Barrett Sallee, talked about it over at the SEC Blog a little while back. I've skirted around it a few times, but since you asked, here's my take.

Start late. Not because of the weather, and not "super" late as in kicking it off into April. Just start after spring break. That's the idea of the late start that I am looking for, where spring is concerned. By starting after spring you add continuity to the entire ordeal.

Some teams start early in March, take their spring break, and then get right back to it. That is fantastic for the players' bodies because it lets you recover from taking a beating. However, mentally and conditioning wise, I'm a firm believer in finding your groove and settling in. You get used to talking ball, meetings, lifting and running, then you get a week off, and they expect you to be right back into things like you were.

For 17 to 22-year-old guys, it doesn't work that way. Sure, some guys go and train with specialists, or work out at their high school. They read their playbooks to stay fresh and keep their knowledge up. Other guys go home to hang out with their family. And, yes, other players go to Florida or Mexico and spend their break like college kids, getting hammered drunk.

It is tough to restart things after the week off, and when you're in the critical heart of spring you cannot afford to lose time or reps. Save your players from themselves and start spring after the break. After winter conditioning, give them that week off to breathe, then start spring ball hot upon their return.

Get a hobby. Look, I love college football and when it rolls back around in the next few months, I'll be excited. Right now, though? I'm enjoying these gorgeous North Carolina Saturdays with my girlfriend, drinking cold margaritas, trying out new recipes and not having to do anything.

Just like I said with respect to spring break, time off can do the body good. Oh, and if y'all are looking for diversions, check out some college baseball.

That's easy, yelling at me.

I don't respond to yelling very well. I find it annoying and remarkably useless. Yelling at me to come on, is not going to make me come on any faster. Yelling at me for doing something wrong, is not going to fix the mistake that I made. And, because I don't care if you are yelling or not, there is no motivation in the hollering.

In football, my motivation always boiled down to two things: being correct and winning. I do not like being wrong, that should not be news to anyone. In football if you are wrong enough times you end up losing. I do not like losing.

So, yelling never did anything for me motivation-wise. What did work for me was talking like an adult. I consider myself to be a relatively intelligent guy, and if we can get past the point where you're just hollering obscenities at me, we can hammer out what I did wrong and get it fixed.

They are not even fit to print! Especially not any of the truly hysterical comments. I will say that James Webster, "Coach Web" as we called him, really opened my eyes to just how communication on the field could fix problems. I'd long known that talking was key in football, but when Daddy Web said, "Open your mouths! If we're all wrong, then we're alright."

In other words, if we are all doing the wrong play, but we all do the wrong play correctly, then we will be okay. If you have half of the team playing one play, and the other doing something else, then you have a bigger problem than everyone doing the same, wrong thing. I'd never thought about it in those terms, but it made perfect sense and still does to this day.

The helmets that players wear now are so superior to the helmets of old. Even to the helmets of just six or seven years ago. Both Schutt and Riddell have made major strides in helmet technology from a impact distribution and jaw protection standpoint. 

If we're looking at what I would do, right now, to help college football, the first thing would be pulling all of the old helmets. The fact that there are still guys running around in VSR4s is ridiculous to the Nth degree. I say that as a guy who, after being concussed and spineboarded, still wanted his VSR4 back, instead of the safer alternative.

To combat that, you have to pull the old guys out of rotation. Remove them as an option for players to wear. And don't ship them to high schools to use. Dump them, use them as souvenirs, that is what they are good for.

The next big thing, for me, is using the helmet sensor systems that already exist. Riddell makes helmets that come with the technology, and third-party vendors offer them as well. We're talking about the ability to monitor both the amount and severity of blows to the head for each player on the field and doing that in real time.

That, to me, should be the standard. Monitoring a player's frequency of blows to the head and, when probable concussive blows are registered, examining players. Then we could get into hit counts, dialing back the physicality in practice and the like.

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