Spring Football Starts

Sometimes, there's not much football going on at Louisiana Tech's spring sessions. That's by design, said second-year coach Derek Dooley.

Free from having to install a new system this time around, Dooley is using these 15 practices to teach the little stuff.

Rather than focusing on what to do, Dooley gets to talk about how to do it. "And how to do it well," he adds.

Louisiana Tech is coming off a 5-7 season, with marked progress across most statistical fronts. Still, needing just one more win to become bowl eligible in 2007, the Bulldogs fell flat at Nevada.

Earning that extra victory, that extra inch, starts with the reps of spring. These details become big things, indeed, as summer turns into fall.

"With spring practice, it starts with improving fundamentally at every position," Dooley said. "You can never stop improving in fundamentals, and spring is always a great opportunity to emphasize that -- because, when you get into the season, the schematic issues become greater and greater. Your time developed to fundamentals becomes a little more strained."

Dooley was hired in December of 2006, just weeks before the flurry of activities associated with National Signing Day. He then had to make quick work of introducing his own philosophy into the program, beginning with nine new assistants then outward into a roster of student athletes still adjusting to the shift in leadership.

Every one was a step slower, stopping each time to analyze where they ought to be headed. A season later, players like senior Tech linebacker Quin Harris returns with one goal in mind: Improving.

"We know how practice is structured, how it's organized, and the tempo," said Harris, Tech's top returning tackler. "The things he wants to do, we're more accustomed to now. That will eliminate a lot of the learning time. It's not like we have to learn how the practice will be. That will be a huge step for the team, just from an organizational standpoint. That's how it was for the first week of spring last year."

Dooley found himself, naturally, spending the balance of his time on the process in 2007. After all, you've got to put in a foundation before you start worrying about where to arrange the furniture.

"You put in a play, and you tell them what to do," is how Dooley described it.

Back now with the bulk of his staff intact, and a group of returning players already familiar with his expectations, Dooley has new goals.

"We've taken every single play we have, and said: ‘What have we done poorly? What have we done well? And how do we correct it?' That's going to be the emphasis this spring," Dooley said. "Here's this play, here's this technique and, last year, this was the problem. Now, here's how we're fixing it. That's the emphasis."

Inside the repetitions, Dooley will tell you, you can find the elements needed for greatness. These drills reveal much about a player's toughness, his attention to detail -- and, yes, his physical limitations.

Far from monotonous, practices with so little football actually tell the coaches everything about football players.

Dooley, watching the drills, will ask himself: "What players give us the best chance to win at each position? And going along with that, those players that do give us a chance to win -- what are their strengths, what are they deficiencies and how can we best utilize their strengths?"

Then, Dooley will have them run the cone drill again. That's where the answers are.

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