The squad spends most of each session with their position coach working through the formations, calls and technique. It is here that teaching skills are paramount. The combination of limited practice time and a squad of players who have a lot to learn finds the coaching staff squeezed on both fronts.
This pressure makes for some wild mood swings on the part of the coaches. As the players' or the units' growth curve stutters and stalls - as is likely when dealing with young players – the tenor of the communication tends to become sharper and more individually focused. As the successes begin to accumulate that tone assumes a more encouraging and inclusive nature.
When the positional units are assembled for the 11-on-11 drills, the coaches step in after each snap and critique the play of their group. With repetition, the performance of the group begins to become cohesive and they react as a team rather than as individuals.
The ability to teach to a variety of skill and intellectual levels within a severely constrained time frame is not a skill possessed by many. That the staff must wait several months for the competition of the regular season before a true grade can be posted only makes the situation all that more challenging.
In sort of a back-hand fashion the change in offensive scheme may have forced a more enthusiastic method of teaching than the past few camps have seen. Given prior successes and every expectation that momentum would sustain, practice and instruction may have been more matter of fact, a "been there – done that – do it this way" approach.
How much of this new enthusiasm carries over into fall camp and eventually into game day is certain to be a determinant in calculating the grade point average that is a season's won/lost record.
A MAN OF EVERY SEASON
One of the more fascinating elements of spending 15 afternoons on the practice field is to count the number of duties strength and conditioning coach Jim Radcliffe fulfills. Following ten or fifteen minutes of "pre-practice" position drills, as practice officially convenes, "Coach Rad" runs the players through a series of drills to loosen up their muscles to get the players ready for the full speed drills that follow.
Then on to the special teams group where he would simulate the center snap for the punters using an under-handed fast-pitch softball type throw – perhaps 40 or 50 as Coach Bellotti measures hang-time and offers suggestions on the punters technique. Radcliffe only bounced a couple and those may well have been intentional to see how each kicker would handle a poor long snap.
Next on the schedule was the women's basketball team. Moving over to the soccer field Radcliffe would pace Coach Bev Smith's group for a series of stretches and running exercises to build their conditioning.
Not to play favorites toward what is still the best team on campus (though the track team may give them a run) this scholastic year, a frequent sight before football practice was Coach Radcliffe working with the men's basketball team.
Once the ladies completed their conditioning drills, it was back to football to lead the team through a "cooling off" series of stretches.
No rest for the weary is the old saying though given Radcliffe's perpetual enthusiasm and the bounce in his stride, it would be difficult to imagine "weary" is a condition frequently experienced by the Ducks' man of every season.
More than at any other position it appears the Ducks will be loaded at wide receiver. Much of the attention during spring centered upon James Finley, and rightly so – he is going to be a player. Brian Paysinger, Jaison Williams and Demetrius Williams all posted solid spring performances and will be counted upon this coming season. Seemingly lost in the shuffle to a degree both last year and in the early spring sessions was junior Kyle Weatherspoon. Saturday's scrimmage saw him take a large step back into the mix as he had one TD on ten receptions for 129 yards. Garren Strong also made several nice catches this spring.
The player clearly at risk as a result of these exploits is Cameron Colvin. Much hyped coming into the program, his rookie season was tempered by the performance of the team as a whole. In a season when opportunity presented itself to Colvin more than once, he wasn't able to fully take advantage. Though decidedly a significant step for a freshman, one need only think back to Keenan Howry's freshman season and recall how much a boost to one's career taking advantage of that opportunity can provide. Nor is it difficult to calculate the boost in the fortunes possible for the team as a whole when such opportunity is fulfilled by a talented individual.
Injury prevented Cameron from competing this spring and the view here is the others put a significant distance between they and he and Colvin will be very challenged to narrow that gap. Without a commitment to an extensive off-season regimen of film study and physical conditioning he may find himself buried on the depth chart or perhaps taking a red-shirt to break up the log-jam at the wide receiver position.
Till the next time…