Preseason practice: How hard is too hard?

 

It is one of the oldest questions in college football: Coaches know that at this time of year it is important to push their teams, mentally and physically, in order to get them ready for the season. At the same time, the coach also wants to get to the first game with a reasonably healthy team.

Push them too hard and the injuries start to mount up. Here are just a few injuries that have already impacted the upcoming season:

**–Darren Evans, RB, Virginia Tech: Evans, who set the school record for rushing by a freshman in 2008, tore an ACL and is out for the season. Virginia Tech opens against Alabama in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff on Sept. 5 at the Georgia Dome.

**–Isaac Madison, CB, Arkansas: Was projected to be a starter on a defense that desperately needs improvement. Torn ACL. Out for the season.

**–Jaybo Shaw, QB, Georgia Tech: The backup to starter Josh Nesbitt broke a collarbone and will be out for six weeks. He may decide to redshirt.

**–Aaron Corp, QB, Southern Cal: Corp won the job of replacing Mark Sanchez in the spring but cracked a bone in his leg last week. If he doesn’t return to practice soon, it is likely that the Trojans will start a true freshman, Matt Barkley, in their opener against San Jose State on Sept. 5 and their big trip to Ohio State on Sept. 12.

**–Oklahoma State opens with Georgia on Sept. 5 but quarterback Zac Robinson has missed a bunch of practice with a bad hamstring. Robinson is expected to be ready for Georgia but how sharp will he be?

But if coaches don’t push their players hard enough, they don’t have the physical edge necessary to play at the highest level of college football. Georgia’s Mark Richt admitted that he started to back off a little last season when the injuries started to pile up. There is no question that it impacted the team, especially on defense.

“The head coach has to make that call and it is not always an easy one,” said former Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer. “Your staff wants to get after it pretty good because they want to see their guys get better. The head coach has to look at how injuries are affecting the entire team and tell his coaches what to do.”

For most of Vince Dooley’s 25 years at Georgia (1964-88) he believed in tough, physical practices in the preseason to set the tone for what was to come. Once the season started, however, Georgia would hit on Tuesdays and then have no contact the rest of the week. Later in his career Dooley would limit contact in practice, especially in the second half of the season.

“The natural reaction when you start getting injuries is to back off,” said Dooley, who won 201 games and six SEC championships at Georgia. “But injuries are part of the game and you can’t back off too much or your team won’t be ready to play. At the same time, you’ve got to get your best players on the field on Saturday. If you don’t, you’re not giving your team the best chance to win.”

So what’s the answer? If you’re a fan, do you have to live with a certain number of injuries, knowing that it is necessary to get your team ready to play? Or should coaches be less demanding in order to limit injuries, especially to key players?

The floor is yours.

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197 comments Add your comment

m

August 18th, 2009
8:15 am

There is a reason that you put red jersies on the players you don’t want injured. That way the defense knows to hit them like ugag would hit them….powderpuff.

45-42….just the beginning.

Loyal Dawg

August 18th, 2009
8:16 am

Maybe Zac Robinson can manage to stay hurt until after Sept. 5th!!

Spike

August 18th, 2009
8:20 am

M = Poindexter.

UGASlobberknocker

August 18th, 2009
8:23 am

Other than the QB, I believe there should be full speed heavy hitting in August. You have to see who can do it, and to go less than 100% is to invite injury. Once the season starts, I believe in a hard hitting Tuesday and Wednesday. Ease off the rest of the week. Injuries are part of the game, and if you think about it..most injuries during the regular season happen in the games, not practices. In the preseason, a lot of the injuries are in the first week when their bodies are not used to the hitting. By keeping the hitting going, the bodies adjust.

Paddy

August 18th, 2009
8:29 am

If you are really a tough team and your tough players are not in uniform, you only have bragging rights not victories. CMR is going to be better prepared this season. I really like our team! We want to see them play on Sat. not read about them on Wed.

Dr. Bombay

August 18th, 2009
8:30 am

Depth may be the determining factor for a lot of coaches. And it always seems like Murphy’s law. If you’re thin at a particular position, that’s where injuries occur.

Gen Neyland

August 18th, 2009
8:44 am

Off season conditioning is vital to minimizing injury. Early camp non-contact drills will still see stress fractures, seperated shoulders, torn ligaments and broken bones occur from coast to coast. Once the pads are on and guys are fighting for jobs, toss in a head injury or two. It’s a fine line for coaches to get their horses to the starting line healthy…May the strong survive.

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

August 18th, 2009
8:44 am

It seems that one victory in a decade is all a Technerd needs to pump up his or hers or its confidence to an all time high. 45-42 the beginning and the end of this period of equality. Hope you all enjoy it. Practice those chop blocks boys….cause Hell’s coming, and he’s wearing Red and Black

lakerat...

August 18th, 2009
8:51 am

This is an age old question – we had the same questions, and injuries, back when I played in the 60’s – 70’s, and even before. The bottom line is that injuries are a freakin’ big part of the game, especially the season ending knee injuries. They are unavoidable, and unless you want to field a wussified team, try to practice like UGA did last due to the injuries, and the results are less than stellar. You deal with it and move on – and have great year (9-4 a la Tech), or a mediocre year (10 – 3 a la UGA). You just keep pluggin’ and doing the best you can!

Sunshine

August 18th, 2009
8:53 am

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho, hell may be coming, but it wont be in the form of red and black. Maybe maroon or baby blue.

skydawg

August 18th, 2009
8:57 am

@lakerat…love the backhanded slap at the North Avenue trade school. Classic!!!

Jethro Boudine

August 18th, 2009
8:58 am

I ain’t sure why the Gawja Tech Jackettes practice at all. No body can stop the triple option cept Gardner Webb and they don’t play them this year. They have such rich football tradition… they win at least 7 games a year and once in a decade they win 9 and give themselves a ring.

Maybe some day, if they were to start practicing real hard they’d win an ACC Championship and a bowl game. They might even be able to sell some tickets to the games too. I’m gonna buy me a ticket and get those free hotdogs and cokes, weeee doggie….

PMC

August 18th, 2009
9:02 am

Just something you have to deal with in the preseason. It is the reason recruiting is so vital. They have to be ready to play and you can’t do that without contact.

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

August 18th, 2009
9:03 am

We’ll see little Sunshine, we’ll see

mitch

August 18th, 2009
9:03 am

Dear Mr. CB–sometimes I think you ought, sometimes I think you ought not. Who knows, not me. Your pal, Mitch

Ehsanul Islam Sadequee

August 18th, 2009
9:03 am

Tech is used to heavy contact in their tickle piles.

Bama Aaron

August 18th, 2009
9:04 am

You have to hit but you be smart about the way you hit. I like the way Saban does it. Bama will hit plenty in spring practice and get used to the contact, but they don’t tackle to the ground. His theory is most of the injuries occur on the ground or going down to the ground. The last couple of years they’ve been a pretty healthy team and still one of the toughest out there.

DawginLex

August 18th, 2009
9:05 am

m,

Rennie Curran called. He wants to discuss the term powderpuff with you. now be a good little nerd, go blow up your doll for your date and go to the Varsity for some chili dogs.

Are you the guy that always said “what’ll you have, what’ll you have? at the counter??

Tech education pays!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Utah

August 18th, 2009
9:06 am

Bama Aaron….bama did not look to tough in the Sugar Bowl…..what is your excuse here?? Hit the bars in New Orleans too much?

IM4BAMA

August 18th, 2009
9:22 am

I think you always have to protect the QB unless you’ve got a another good one one the bench and you protect your best player or “cornerstone” (most talented or best leadership) player, other than the QB.

GA Tech Insider

August 18th, 2009
9:23 am

Injuries happen during football practice, regardless of whether its during full scrimmage or by freak accidents. Look at what happened to Roddy Jones, just lifting weights this off-season.

Jaybo Shaw hurt his shoulder when someone fell on him; not from a viscous hit. Last season, Josh Nesbitt’s injuries could be attributed to things other than hard hits on the playing field during games but getting his ankles rolled up on by linemen, etc. These things can happen whether these kids are wearing a red shirt during practice or not.

I guess my point is that having these kids going at full speed before the season starts, including in full pads, will at least give them an opportunity to get a good feel for what the conditions will be like once the season begins so that they’ll have a better chance of protecting themselves once the opponents are coming at them at full speed.

GT Que

August 18th, 2009
9:24 am

DawginLex

Talk about m all you want, but do yourself a favor and don’t make any comparisons between a GT education and the salary it commands versus a UGA education and the salary it commands. You’re no where in the same league.

Atlanta Gator

August 18th, 2009
9:26 am

There’s a fine line between “playing through an injury” and aggravating an existing condition. Young players don’t always know the difference. Players want to play, and will sometimes try to hide the true extent of an injury, fearing the loss of playing time. Good coaches and trainers must know the difference and recognize the problem. Some injuries are unavoidable (that’s why they’re called accidents); others result from the player or coach doing something foolish. It’s better to bench an injured Percy Harvin for a game or two than lose him for the season. When a player is obviously limping or favoring an injury, it’s time for the trainer and possibly the team doctor to have a look-see.

Injuries typically occur in full-contact practice, not conditioning. Coaches must know when and for how long to allow their players to hit at 100%, and its not 100% of full-contact practices. Few skill players can take 10-15 hours of 100% hits in weekly practices (that’s 10 to 15 times what a starter will take in a game), and no smart coach structures his practices that way.

Jimmy McGinty

August 18th, 2009
9:32 am

“That’s why girls dont play the game”

SimpleDawg

August 18th, 2009
9:37 am

Proper practice precautions should include not hitting a teammate while he’s in a vulnerable position. Play hard, hit hard, but don’t take kill shots against your own team.

Sometimes injuries occur even while taking adequate precautions….it happens. Team depth usually determines who survives to play for the title at the end of the season.

NYJacket

August 18th, 2009
9:38 am

The game is played fast. If a team does not go full speed, it is impossible to develop the timing that is required to execute. Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game. A team that plays with the QB deep or is predominately a passing team, can do some things to protect the QB. But, if the plan is to run a quick hitting, option style offense, it is vital that full speed practice be used to develop the split second decision making that is required to win.

DawginLex

August 18th, 2009
9:44 am

GT que,

would love to engage in civil conversation/debate with a Techster. Hasn’t happened in my 50 years on the planet.

All I get is the same stereotypical garbage about how you are better than me just because you went to Tech. When you want to discuss college football in a civilized manner, let me know. Until then, all I have to go on are idiots like “m” who spew his nonsense about UGA football despite the fact UGA has won 70% of the time vs GT in the last 3 decades and holds an overall 20 + game advantage in the head-to-head series.

We also have the best coach at UGA we have ever had(including Dooley) and we have actually won our conference and made BCS bowl games and finished rated higher in the polls as compared to the preseason prediction 6 out of 8 years under Richt.

Coach Johnson is a fine coach. He tutored under Erk. Here’s hoping there are 22 wins between the 2 teams when we meet in ATL.

m

August 18th, 2009
9:45 am

dawginlex,

Is Rennie Curran new? Or is he one of the little powderpuff dawgies that got left in the diesel fumes of Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones.

Paul Johnson is like a train…he will run over you…back up…..and run over you again…of course you dawgies have already experienced that first hand.

45-42…glad is still hurts so bad.

DawginLex

August 18th, 2009
9:46 am

GT que,

See above post.

I rest my case.

Joey

August 18th, 2009
9:48 am

I think it’s mostly luck. UGA had terrible luck with injuries last year, Bama and GA Tech to name a couple, had great luck with nearly no injuries. This year UGA is having pretty good luck (knock on wood) to date and the injury bug has hit Tech. Just luck…

GA Tech Insider

August 18th, 2009
9:48 am

DawginLex;

“would love to engage in civil conversation/debate with a Techster. Hasn’t happened in my 50 years on the planet.”

That’s a bit harsh now, isn’t it?

DawginLex

August 18th, 2009
9:49 am

POWDERPUFF

The only football “m” ever played

GA Tech Insider

August 18th, 2009
9:51 am

DawginLex, I don’t recall ever slamming the GA Bulldogs even once during any of my posts. I may have come down hard on a few posters, but I think I’ve been pretty even-handed between the UGA and GA tech juveniles…

Bamafan

August 18th, 2009
9:51 am

Today’s football players come across as being soft than the players from the 50’s and 60’s and 70’s who would put some dirt on a liitle problem and take a asprin for pain relief!! ROLL TIDE FOLKS!!

DawginLex

August 18th, 2009
9:52 am

How is it harsh?

Read “m”’s posts. You think he wants to engage in anything civil or for that matter discuss anything in an adult manner?

He is so delusional it is absurd.

ACC was 6-4 vs the SEC last year according to m. I guess that bowl beatdown doesn’t fit his agenda so he doesn’t count it.

Just an example. There are countless others.

DawginLex

August 18th, 2009
9:53 am

GTI,

Maybe you are the exception to the rule. I would like to think so.

m

August 18th, 2009
9:54 am

dawginlex,

You didn’t answer the question…where was Rennie Curran last year??? Oh, that’s what I thought.

If I played powderpuff, I would be over there in Athens with your fluff puppies.

45-42….glad it hurts so bad!!!

Tide Rising

August 18th, 2009
9:55 am

The ACL tears usually have nothing to do with contact. They often occur when a player is just trying to make a cut. Not a whole lot you can do about that.

Bama has been lucky in regard to avoiding injuries but Bama Aaron was right about the way we avoid injuries. Since most injuries occur on the ground because obviously the ground doesn’t give Saban has his players try to avoid tackling to the ground.

Utah, nice little dig there about us not tackling so well against Utah. That’s okay. We still tackled well enough to win about 12 other games. Not to many programs that could say that last year. I imagine you’re a fan of one of those programs that can’t say that and hence you live vicariously through Utah.

DawginLex

August 18th, 2009
9:57 am

and the evidence continues to flow……………………..

shah rukh khan

August 18th, 2009
9:59 am

A federal judge found former Georgia Tech student Syed Haris Ahmed guilty of conspiring to provide material support to terrorism in the United States and abroad. When asked for comment his only response was “45-42″.

m

August 18th, 2009
10:01 am

dawginlex,

Here is all the evidence you need;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HuLwz-I2QOE

45-42….glad it hurts so bad!!

Tide Rising

August 18th, 2009
10:01 am

DawginLex,

I kinda noticed that too. Never did understand how m or some of the other ACC fans conveniently ignore the 2 bowl beatdowns. Or the fact that 5 of the 6 SEC wins were by blowout proportions of 23 or more points or that overall we outscored the ACC by a whopping 119 points in those 12 games.

I guess some folks just don’t let the facts get in the way of their argument.

Frozen_Gator

August 18th, 2009
10:02 am

It’s a man’s game,hate the injuries but that’s why we have 85 and that’s why we love it so. Choose your depth wisely, you may need it more than you think.

Joey

August 18th, 2009
10:03 am

DawginLex,

I’ve got to disagree with you about Dooley. He won a lot of SEC titles (7?), won a national title, played for another a couple of years later. Even after Hershel left he beat a #2, unbeaten Texas team in the Cotton Bowl. Played for yet another title in ‘76 against a Dorsett led, unbeaten Pitt team. He owned the Gators and Jackets, and held his own with Auburn and Alabama, and never lost to underdogs. Went to Ann Arbor and beat defending nat champ Michigan… I could go on but won’t. Mark Richt may become the best ever at UGA, but he’s not yet…

m

August 18th, 2009
10:07 am

dawginlex,

Maybe you need more evidence on your fluff puppies:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHzxEKEQle0

45-42…glad it still hurts so bad!!

DawginLex

August 18th, 2009
10:08 am

Dooley was a great coach but the SEC was watered down compared to today. UT was horrible most of the time and Florida went through coaches like Tech does.

Dooley had too many 6-5 and 7-4 seasons. Richt’s worse year was his first at 8-4. I just believe richt works in a much tougher environment today than Dooley did.

They are both quality coaches.

David

August 18th, 2009
10:10 am

If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen but make me a sandwich before you do.

m

August 18th, 2009
10:14 am

David,

Those fluff dawgs majoring in Home Ec can’t play football worth a damne…but I bet they could make you a mean sandwich…or deliver you a tasty pizza.

45-42…glad it hurts so bad!!

Coach

August 18th, 2009
10:17 am

I think it’s less about how hard a team practices but how “smart” they pratice. As a coach, you want to prepare your team for any kind of situation, and you want your team to play with great technique. You instill this during the summer. But at the same time, it’s counterproductive for a team to beat themselves to death. Injuries happen, but to me technique is key. You teach the players basic techinques in drills( foot work, hand placement, pursuit angles), then you have the test their skills in live contact drills. Technique is what players will default to in adverse situations, and if you get away from the fundamentals too much it will cost you in games. I think this is what happened with UGA last year. Sometimes coaches, when they know they have more talent, will get away from fundamentals and allow their team to cost on their athletic abilities. UGA was a little too finesse last season and not enough smash mouth. In 2007 they had both, which is why they finished the way they did.

murfdawg

August 18th, 2009
10:23 am

When you get down to 11 players, stop the contact!!!I would rather play with walk-ons who will wrap up and drive on a tackle than a five star shoulder bumping scholarship player. I always thought coaching cliche #1 was you play like you practice. But I guess the Dawgs did last year.