Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Pillow Fighting

One critic of former UW Rick Neuheisel used to tell me that his practices looked like a pillow fight. That was an obvious reference to the lack of structure, hitting, and tackling going on during practice not to mention the rock music and Popsicle breaks. Teams eventually play like they practice and Rick's teams were on a downward spiral when he was fired. Rick actually recognized the problem and was about to correct it because he felt his team was beginning to lack toughness.

A good friend of mine who watches UW practices told me that if you think Neuheisel's practices were non physical you should see Willingham's. He felt the structure and organization was better but he questions if this team will ever learn to be physical and tackle well if they aren't allowed to do it in practice every day.

Ninety-nine percent of Ty Willingham's practices have been closed since he hit campus. The reason insiders say is because he does not want to be open for criticism about the way he does things. Truth be told the Huskies rarely tackle and scrimmage full bore at practice these days and it shows on Saturdays. It is hard to expect a team to tackle well if they don't do it in practice.

Don James and Jim Lambright had a completely different philosophy about practice. They used to scrimmage, and do a lot of hitting. You worry about injuries but it was the only way to get a team ready to play on Saturday. If you could survive practice with those two warriors surviving a game wasn't as much of a challenge.

Willingham takes more of an NFL approach to practice. If you have ever been to a Seahawk's practice you notice that it is more about teaching and preparation than it is about being physical. The health of the 53 man roster during an 18 week long season is paramount.

We all understand that Ty wants to keep his so called bullets healthy, but how can you expect these kids to light it up in games when they are not allowed to do it in practice? I think you need to accept the risk if you are going to build a solid college football team. You may have some disappointing injuries along the way but overall your program is going to win more games and be tougher.

How would Don James respond to last weeks Oregon game if he was in charge? It wouldn't be pretty. They would be scrimmaging all week till they got it right in addition to running gassers till they puked.

The top team on the West coast and arguably the best team in the country over the last ten years beats up on itself every day in practice. Most of those practices happen to be open to fans and media. Pete Carroll of USC has this crazy idea that if you don't practice what you are supposed to do Monday thru Friday you aren't going to do it on Saturday.

Like the Huskies of old the toughest team USC plays each week during the season is its second team. In Carroll’s seven years at USC, the Trojans have gone 76-14, been to six BCS bowl games, won two national championships and produced 30 All-American first-teamers.

Don't you think this guy might know what he is doing?


Anonymous said...

While I'm not a Ty-defender, I don't think you can necessarily condemn him for the minimized tackling in practice. As I understand it, Frosty Westering of PLU never had tackling in practice either, yet his teams won 3 NCAA D-II national titles and made it to 7 D-II national championship games with a similar philosophy. Yes, D-II players never had to match up with the likes of Oklahoma and USC, but it's all relative.

That said, this crap we keep rolling out on Saturdays makes me want to PUKE! Ty's #1 point since last Saturday's fiasco has been that it's so difficult to simulate the speed of the game during practice. WHAT??? UO sure didn't look like they had any difficulty preparing for the speed of the game...of course, when UW was playing at a snail's pace, that's not hard to replicate.

The other thing that's pissing me off is this: Lappano has defended his decision not to go to the no-huddle because of the intricacies and challenges of the spread offense. How is it that Jake, who is supposed to be one of the best QB's in the country, supposedly can't grasp the system out of a no-huddle, but UO's two back-ups QB's, a JC transfer and a true freshman, could roll up 30 points out of the no-huddle in a single half of football???

~ Adam

John Berkowitz said...

Adam - I don't think there is any condemnation going on. Just maybe an explanation of why after four years these kids have trouble tackling and being physical.

It is tough to get up to game speed if you are not practicing at game speed.

I am well aware of what Frosty did at PLU and I think it worked fine for the type of program he was running. Frsoty just happened to be one of a kind by the way.

hairofthedawg said...

I can see the NFL guys not practicing tackling so much. They should know what they're doing by that point. College athletes, not so much. That would depend on the quality of their HS coaching. I think there's still a need for teaching proper tackling in college and hearing that they don't surprised the hell out of me.

Dummies are one thing and live athletes are another. It's one thing to see your players tackle in practice and see them do it well and then minimize the hitting. It's another to see what we saw on Saturday and think there's not a need for practice.

Anonymous said...

How much of this MIGHT be due to the fact (?) that James had something like 110 players available, and now they can't have that many? I'm not defending Ty,but just wonder if the reduced number of available players in practice creates different practices.

Of course, USC blows that theory completely out of the water, but still....

Seems that if you don't want to hit much during the season then camp should be all out war. Then, perhaps, one could lighten up later. Maybe?

Anonymous said...

The change in schollies happend before James left and before 91.

We have a total of 105 players on roster, 85 can be scholly and the rest walkons.

There are plenty of bodies to practice live tackling, plenty.

Just match up the third team O with the first team D if we are really that scared.

It is inexcusable to expect 18 year old kids to come into CF and understand how to tackle completely. It must be practiced.

Go Dawgs!

Anonymous said...

Just curious- do you know of any other D1 teams that go the no tackling pratices? The fact USC does not tells volumes, but I'm just curious overall how common or uncommon it is?

bigdave967 said...

though it was D-II we hit all the time...bye weeks were the worst because we had live scrimages. It is relative like Anon but you HAVE to hit...its not like an all out war and you dont try to hurt your own players but once the whistle blows on Saturday you kind of know what to expect. I hope to god we play better this week. I could live with a loss as long as we look like we belong in D-1. I still cant believe the retards who made this schedule. Play a patsy week one to get the new players used to the speed...god its frustrating!