CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Training camp is loaded with individual position drills that emphasize basic fundamentals of the game. Once the season begins, those periods shrink due to a focus on the next opponent, thereby allowing technique slippage to occur the deeper a team moves into its schedule.
The NCAA limits in-season student-athlete participation to four hours per day up to a maximum of 20 hours per week. Included in that breakdown is one mandatory day off per week, which North Carolina implements on Mondays.
Tuesday and Wednesday are installations days, Thursday is a polish day, Friday is a walkthrough and Sunday is corrections day, in addition to the game played on Saturday. With so much to accomplish in so little time, game prep moves to the forefront.
“What you do is you end up cutting back on your individual periods,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said after practice on Wednesday. “You start cutting the practices back as we go to make sure these guys are rested so they can peak on Saturday. You start losing some of your individual time, which means you don’t get to get in all of the fundamental and technique drills that you want to do.”
The benefit of a bye week five weeks into the season allows for a return to the techniques and and fundamentals that were such an integral part of training camp.
“We’re all working on our own individual problems, if you will,” defensive coordinator Gene Chizik said. “That’s what we’re concentrating on before we even go on to our next opponent. The last two days have been simply that. It gives you a chance to slow down, talk through stuff, teach it. You don’t feel like you have to get a million reps because you have to get reps for the next opponent. It’s really more of teaching moments.”
On Tuesday and Wednesday, UNC spent 30-40 minutes each day on individual work, ranging from tackling to tracking angels for the defense and route running and blocking for the offense.
The linebackers, for example, have focused a significant portion of their time on footwork, according to senior middle linebacker Jeff Schoettmer.
“[Linebackers] coach [John Papuchis] said as the games progress and we’re getting tired, our technique is slipping a little bit,” Schoettmer said. “During the course of a season, you can’t spend much time on individual periods because you have to implement a game plan in two days, so you’re working on that the whole time.”
Fedora told reporters that in addition to rehashing basics from training camp, his coaching staff is prepping the roster with technique tweaks and adjustments that UNC may need over the final eight weeks of the regular season.
“It’s definitely a little refresher for us going into the second half of the season,” Schoettmer said.
After two days focused solely on his players, Fedora will introduce UNC’s next opponent, Wake Forest, on Thursday.