There is a period of fourth months from the end of spring practice until the start of preseason that gives players a chance to grow physically and mentally. That is a long enough period to make a significant difference for a young man at this stage of life who wants to work hard at getting bigger, stronger or faster.
It's enough time for a player to come to the football complex on his own and study video of upcoming opponents or last year's games to figure out ways he can become a more productive player.
It's enough time for the quarterbacks to get a feel for their receivers in the voluntary workouts or the older linemen to teach the younger linemen details of the offense or defense.
With many players moving to college campuses to start classes and workouts immediately after they finish high school, this time of year can be very important for the ones who are physically and mentally mature enough to have a chance to contribute in the fall. Auburn's 2010 national championship team received a real boost from newcomers who got to campus early and worked out with the strength and conditioning staff and got adjusted to the college lifestyle before plunging head first into preseason practices and fall semester classes.
The transition from high school football to college football, particularly in the SEC, is a major one and can be overwhelming. How quickly a player can make that adjustment, especially mentally, will determine how quickly he will be ready to play.
A lot of these kids who come into college programs have probably never really been pushed hard like they are going to be pushed by college coaches. How well they adapt to that is all part of the maturation process that determines how quickly they will be ready to contribute on game days.
The summer months can be a good time for college football players. They aren't under pressure to get ready to play a game. They are not having to answer to anybody at home about why they aren't playing or why they aren't a star yet. Plus, this is a time they are developing their relationships with their teammates and making friends across the campus and in the community, an important part of the growing experience after moving away from home for the first time.
In Auburn's situation, with the 2011 team relying on so many young players, the four months from the end of spring drills to the resumption of team practices is a great opportunity to do the things that will make the Tigers a better team in August than they were in April.
The highlight for the Tigers this offseason was the recent trip the team made to Washington, D.C., to be honored by the president of the United States. It is something they will always remember and it was well deserved recognition for a team that had a terrific run.
It was a wonderful experience for the players and coaches to get to meet the president, something that not many people ever have the opportunity to do.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik is shown at the podium with President Barack Obama at the White House.
The trip was also a great chance for the players to get to see the capital of the United States. It is a trip that every American needs to take at sometime in their life. There were probably a good number of the Auburn players who were seeing Washington, D.C., in person for the first time.
Hopefully, the brief visit excited them enough to return for a more extensive trip. Regardless of all of the problems recently in our nation's capital, if you go to Washington, D.C., it is an impressive place with all of the history, the memorials and the great places to visit like the Smithsonian Institute. <
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.