Along with the rest of the nation's Division I football coaches, West Virginia cornerbacks mentor Brian Mitchell has found his summer schedule a little more crowded this year. In addition to recruiting and the running of WVU's football camps, he's also spending eight hours per week over an eight-week stretch with his players as a result of modified NCAA rules allowing direct coach-player contact and mandatory summer workouts.
While that leaves even less time for coaches to sneak in a brief vacation before football preseason practice begins in August, Mitchell isn't complaining. The benefits of just being around his players will pay dividends in a variety of ways. From developing a better understanding of terminology to more direct supervision of academic work, Mitchell expects the level of performance to rise in his players.
"Right now the main focus is to develop their football IQ," Mitchell said. "We get in there and get more time with them so there won't be the big disconnect in fall camp from the spring. I think that is going to bode well for us, especially when you have kids that have just gotten on campus. You can get them caught up as far as what our scheme is, our fundamentals and our technique. They are going to have the benefit of being on the same page with guys they are going to be playing with and competing with come fall camp."
While the coaching can't include direct on-field work with a football, Mitchell believes the teaching that is allowed will still help get his players better prepared for the first day of fall camp. Such an outcome should allow quicker installation of defensive schemes, and more reps, to be run on the field, and a quicker assimilation of corrections in those valuable fall practices.
"The kids are able to get coaching with the exactness that you need. We are going to benefit from it."--Brian Mitchell
"The beauty of what we are doing this summer is that [previously] when you got done with spring practice, you went out recruiting, so you didn't have the time to sit with those players and go over those things. Now we have the cutups from the spring, and we can go back and make corrections from those. Then we can move forward with what we want to do from an installation progression."
As they have in the past, players and position groups can work on their own, and still do. Seven-on-seven work is still organized by the players, as is technique work by linemen. However, there is one drawback with those, which the new in-person periods can help correct.
"In all my years of coaching you had players coaching the younger players [during the summer], but there may have been some miscommunication or things lost in translation," Mitchell explained, noting that a concept might be taught wrong, or a mistake ingrained in a player's habits without being corrected. "Now, the kids are able to get coaching with the exactness that you need. We are going to benefit from it."
The value of the summer sessions will also come into play in other areas. With defensive coordinator Tony Gibson tweaking some roles in the defense, accompanied by position moves for Karl Joseph and K.J. Dillon, every rep and video review session will help build more comfort and familiarity. There are also four new corners already enrolled, (senior transfer Cullen Christian, juco transfers Keishawn Richardson and Khairi Sharif and freshman Dravon Henry), all of whom will have to learn West Virginia's schemes and systems. If they can get at least a basic understanding during the summer, they should be at a more advanced stage, and ready to learn more quickly, when fall practices begin in August.
Of course, the view could be taken that all of this is a zero sum game. Every school has the same amount of new contact time available, so if everyone improves, there might not be an advantage for one team over the other. However, every coaching staff isn't the same, so those with the best plan, and the best execution of that plan, should come out ahead in the end. That's part of the idea behind WVU's approach -- lay the foundation during the summer so it can hit the ground running during the fall.
UP NEXT: Mitchell discusses personnel, position moves and the way in which defensive changes affect the cornerbacks.