To succeed in college and professional football, you need a mix of raw talent, an unbelievable work ethic, a positive attitude, unmatched confidence, and the determination to always improve, and that your team can win every game, no matter what the odds. Now another ingredient can be added to the cookie batter of sports success, great vision.
If you watched Duck football last year, you know firsthand just how vital great vision is on the football field. No matter what position you play; quarterback, running back, receiver, linebacker, or a secondary position. You may not be the best at your position, but if your vision is in mint condition, you can turn a 360˚, and transform into one of the best.
As the guinea pig of vision training last season, running back Jonathan Stewart participated in a new vision training style, where running backs coach Gary Campbell sat Stewart in a chair facing a concrete wall, and using a laser pointer, made Stewart follow the projection of the pointer on the wall. This strengthened the muscles surrounding Stewart's eyes, and improved his peripheral vision. This training led to many big games and performances by Stewart last season.
This offseason, four Oregon players, Quarterback Nate Costa, Wide Receiver Jaison Williams, Tight End Ed Dickson, and Cornerback Walter Thurmond III, traveled to the Nike World Campus outside Beaverton, OR, to participate in a new exercise regimen involving the eye muscles. In addition to reading playbooks, they stared at light boards and through stroboscopic goggles.
The players tested their hand-eye coordination, trying to touch colored lights as quickly as possible, as well as peripheral vision in an active setting. But the real tool was the stroboscopic goggles that intermittently blocked their vision, forcing them not only to work their eyes but also the brain's response to the eyes' messages.
Dickson said it helped alleviate that common receiver blind spot, finding the ball while coming out of a break. A receiver can pick up the ball a split-second sooner, see it just a bit clearer and anticipate its flight a little better.
"It forces you to anticipate where the ball is going to be, from a receiver's perspective," Costa said. "From my perspective, it forces me to anticipate where the receiver is going to be."
"I can feel my peripheral vision is a lot better, and my ability to split attention, to pay attention to a receiver downfield and kind of feel everything around me, has improved."
These stroboscopic goggles are a rarity to be worn in August around the country.
"If you do a workout with those on, it's tough," Costa said. "Take them off, and everything seems so easy, you can see everything. It's like turning the lights off and then turning them on."
With all the positive feedback coming from the coaching staff and the players, all facets of the Ducks' squad this season seem to be improving greatly with each passing workout; Costa impressed offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chip Kelly with his accuracy in his first full-contact workout since his season ending ACL tear last October.
Jaison Williams is convincing Duck fans, and sports commentators around the nation to relieve him of his notorious nickname "50/50", which seemed too generous last season. Williams, who was one of the four players to participate in the regimen, caught everything thrown to him during Monday's first practice.
This is a great sign for the Ducks' team, who has had many nagging questions about their offense this season: Who will replace the holes left void by Dixon and Stewart? Will Williams learn to catch the ball?
With both Costa and Williams looking so sharp, those questions now have answers. This Ducks offense is coming together rapidly and very nicely. Their secondary is touted as the best in the country. Watch out Huskies. If you think that your season opening game against the Ducks is going to be an easy one, think again. This Ducks team is now in place to do some amazing things this season.