It will be especially impactful on the defensive side of the ball. It is important that the players eat right, drink lots of fluids and we're talking water and Gatorade, stay off their feet, and relax while also getting plenty of sleep. When you are looking for and expecting peak performance then you better put peak care into preparing for it.
The defense defended 44 snaps in the first quarter, 61 snaps in the first half, and 91 plays for the entire game against Texas Tech. That is a lot of plays for a unit that other than on the defensive front doesn't have just a plethora of depth.
Head coach Mike Gundy said after the UTSA game that managing the workload, not only in games but in practice, for the defense would be a major factor for the season.
"I think that will be our biggest challenge as coaches is just trying to find what the perfect mix is for rest and recovery and preparation for the next game," Gundy stated. "You can't just shut it down completely, their bodies are in a certain pattern and they expect to be run certain days, certain days off, and X-number of reps on certain days in practice.
"So, it will be really important for us to handle them in the right way. There are some bumps and bruises and we have to get them back out. The young guys, you know we don't want them to hit that wall and they can hit that wall real quick and there is not really anything you can do about it. There will really be some strategic coaching going on in practices over the next few weeks in practices."
Helping Gundy, defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer and the defensive staff is the fact that by force and by the grace of some quick healing the depth on defense is improving some.
In the Texas Tech game, following the injury of cornerback Ashton Lampkin, freshman corner Ramon Richards out of San Antonio Brackenridge came on and played well. He was, as Gundy said, "lost at times" but he had a pick and gained confidence and stayed with his receivers well with one pass broken up to go with his "oskie."
Late in the game fellow freshman Juwan Offray came in for Kevin Peterson and played well. Safety is a position that is closing in on being a solid four deep. On the back end of the defense where seven players have taken the vast majority of the snaps in all the games except the Missouri State game there were 12 players that registered a tackle or a defensive stat in the game on Thursday night.
At linebacker, two players getting healthy has helped as Demarcus Sherod is back healthy at middle linebacker, although starter and certain captain Ryan Simmons played 85 of the 91 defensive plays in the game. At the weak side position, just less than five months after tearing his ACL former junior college All-American Devante Averette was out on the field playing and giving a break to playmaker Seth Jacobs. Averette had to ask a lot of questions but he had his first Division I unassisted tackle. He is a player that can really help.
"He (Averette) is just nervous, and he knows what he is doing most of the time," Simmons said. "But making sure and it is his first time and he has jitters and I'm just giving him the confidence to play like he is capable."
I'm no sure how much more depth can reasonably be built but special teams are trying to weather playing a lot of younger players in order to keep the older defensive starters fresher. It will be an issue for this team as they continue to gain experience for the talented but very inexperienced younger players, while balancing the health and freshness of the smaller group of experienced and older players on the defense. Defensive line is good shape in numbers and talent and need to play well throughout.