Not the game, but practice…..oh, the famous words of Allen Iverson. Yet, to bring things into perspective Iverson is a freakishly talented professional athlete. I shouldn’t have to point out the differences between college athletes and professional athletes. They are not marginal.
I would like to take you back a few years. Bronco is a ambitious defensive coordinator and it is the Monday before we play Stanford in Palo Alto. The Cougars had just been handed a tough loss and Coach Mendenhall was eager to make a statement. That week -which I have no problem calling Hell Week- was nothing short of the hardest, most physical, practices of my career. The first 3 days of practice from the moment we stepped on the practice field was full contact, but not to the ground.
It was tough…you know manly, like red meat, dirty hands, and Cowboy boots -but the pokes still suck.
Oh and by the way, BYU lost that game and the defense played horrible.
Yet, on the other hand I have been a part of some very little practices where we have both won -and played well- and lost and could have played better. Both styles have merit and both have positives and negatives.
What would I do. Well, looking at BYU I see a young team with potential and talent. I also see some very seasoned players in key spots, where an injury would be devastating. One way to handle that is to give more reps to the younger guys and let the veterans sit out and take “mental reps” -which turns into joking and talking about facebook or whatever is going on that day. Although that could have just been me
With BYU current player mix of underclassmen and veterans, I would lean more towards spirited practices with a lot of yelling and encouragement. Mistakes wouldn’t be taken lightly, most of all mental one, and I would rely on my veterans to keep everyone engaged in the practice. This would means daily meetings with the leadership council -short and after practice- to asses each days production and tempo. BYU’s team/position leaders should have a finger on the programs pulse and should be able to gauge each days practice. If your leadership council says it was easy, but they can’t breath and their limping around…well you might wont to give them a “lighter” practice the next day. If they are eager and excited about their day, well then stay with what works. This type of responsibility takes time to develop, but Bronco has guys on the field that have been in the program for ages and aren’t afraid to stand up and speak their minds. Rely on those players to help you in manipulating the practice structure in order to maximize efficiency and production -both on the player and position level.
Has the current practice structure resulted in our teams losses. NO! The fact that BYU hasn’t made enough plays to win games are the reasons for our current record. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the individual players have to accept ownership for their performances and put in the time and effort necessary to produce wins. When is the last time you say Coach Hill miss a tackle that went for a TD, or Coach Mendenhall blow a coverage or not get pressure on the quarterback and give up a huge first down. Have I missed Coach Anae displaying poor footwork and pass blocking technique resulting in a collapsing pocket. Hopefully, you get what I am trying to say.
If players think their practices are too easy, then they should say something. If they feel like being more physical during team work sessions of practice, then by all means start blowing up walk-ons like fireworks on the 4th. You might get a “talking to” but your impact could spark a few fires in a few other players, which could then lift the spirit of the practice.
I remember very vividly how hard the Poppinga brothers worked during practice. When it was a physical day, then heads rolled. When it was a light day, shoulder pads popped. When it was a jersey day they ran hard and played fast. I hope the work ethic of past players -that struggled through 6-4 seasons- hasn’t been lost among the ohhs and ahhhs of a few Las Vegas Bowls.