Monday, August 20, 2012

IU coach throws out practice-by-the-book mentality

Kevin Wilson isn’t a by-the-book football coach. He’s willing to change if it can help the Hoosiers win.

So this season he’s scrapping the traditional afternoon practice schedule in favor of a morning one. There’s 6 a.m. lifting, and then meetings and practice. Basically by noon football is over and players can focus on class.

“I’ve never done it. I’m not truly a great morning person. We’ll try it.

“So physically (when practice is over) we’re done,” Wilson said. “They might get back over later and watch a little tape, but they’re done physically. Their football day is over and now they’re students.”

Oregon has had success with morning practices. Wilson checked it out a couple of years ago while he was still offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. He asked a couple of players if they liked the early format.

“They said, ‘I’m done. I’m done. I’ve got my classes, but I’m done (with football for the day).”

The new format went into affect on Monday, when fall semester classes began.

“We’re hoping this going in the morning will get the academics going in the afternoon and get (the players into) more of a normal biological clock.”

Last year, and pretty much every year for Indiana coaches over the years, practices ran from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wilson would have liked to have started an hour earlier, but because so many Indiana classes are at 1 p.m., and so many football players wind up with classes at that time, they struggled to get to Memorial Stadium and get taped and ready to go by 3 p.m.

“I thought 3 to 7 was too late,” Wilson said, “especially when the sun starts setting. You’re leaving when it’s dark and it’s dreary and it’s dull and there’s not a good vibe.

“We were practicing too late, and then study hall/academics was starting too late. For me, I don’t care what time I get home. If I’ve been out recruiting and don’t get home until 11 or (midnight), I’m going to watch a couple of hours of TV to veg out. You need your getaway time.”

Wilson didn’t want that schedule for his players, although he said he knows sleep isn’t usually high on a college student’s priority list.

“By the time they waste all of that time facebooking or twittering, then doing your job and academics, what gets deprived is the sleep. It’s hard to be a good football team when you’re not resting. You don’t recover physically. You’re not fresh. You can’t practice fresh.”

Last year Wilson eventually adjusted his practice schedule from 3 to 6, while also going about an hour in the morning.

“We started out by doing meetings,” he said. “I don’t think those meetings were very productive, because I don’t know if we were awake.

“So then we said, well, let’s practice for 45 minutes in the morning, and come back in the afternoon. Well, if you’ve got a bad groin, you’ve gotta stretch twice. If you’re a quarterback, you’ve gotta get heated up twice. You’ve gotta tape twice, you’ve gotta shower twice. It was just a lot of stress.

“As young as we were last year, I don’t know if it mattered, because we were trying to practice and toughen up and get some young guys ready. But this year, I didn’t want to practice that way. I didn’t want to split it. So we’re going with the morning.”

Because IU’s season opener with Indiana State isn’t until Sept. 1, the Hoosiers have this week to get the kinks out before entering regular game week preparations.

Several years ago, when Gene Keady was coaching Purdue basketball, he tried early morning practices. It was hard to tell how much effect it had, good or bad, and it had no lasting impact. Current coach Matt Painter runs afternoon practices, as does Hoosier coach Tom Crean.

The bottom line in all this is IU has to play better, and it has to win. If early practices help with that, morning practices will become the norm. If it doesn’t, look for a return of the afternoon schedule.


Granted, a 1-11 record –- as IU was last year -- doesn’t inspire a team to draw a lot of NFL scouts. But representatives from four NFL teams attended Monday’s practice. They were the Indianapolis Colts, the Oakland Raiders, New England Patriots and the Washington Redskins.


You might think veteran running back Stephen Houston would be set in the starting lineup after rushing for 802 yards in his Hoosier debut season.

You’d be wrong.

Wilson pushes the compete-hard-or-else message. He said Morehead State transfer Isaiah Roundtree was pushing hard for a starting role until missing the last couple of days with a concussion. Wilson said Roundtree was right in the running back mix, and will be again when he returns. He also said sophomore D’Angelo Roberts and true freshman Tevin Coleman were practicing ahead of Houston.

Is that the cold-hearted truth, some verbal old fashioned motivating or a little bit of both.

We’ll know when Indiana State comes to Memorial Stadium.

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