If the Division I Football Oversight Committee’s proposed changes to preseason camp practices are approved later this month, the ramp-up to college football season will include considerably less physicality.
The recommendations, made Thursday, include reducing the number of full-pads days of practice to nine, reducing the number of contact practices from 21 to 18 and requiring at least seven helmet-only days.
Part of that is increasing the acclimatization period at the start of camp to seven days from five. Currently, teams go two days in helmets, two days in shoulder pads and then full contact. The new format would likely mean three days on each step rather than two.
The recommendations also include allowing no more than two straight full-contact practices, no more than 75 minutes of full contact in any single practice and no more than two scrimmages during camp.
In announcing the proposal, the NCAA said the recommendations, "informed by a number of data points that suggest the preseason practice period may lead to a disproportionate amount of concussions and head impact exposure."
During an hourlong appearance on the “Sports Nightly” radio program Thursday evening, coach Scott Frost weighed in on the proposed changes.
“Safety of our players has got to be the primary concern and everybody’s priority. That being said, I hate to think we’re following the NFL at every step,” Frost said. “I played college football and was lucky enough to hang on in the NFL for a while. When you’re up at the NFL level, a lot of those guys don’t need as much practice blocking and tackling and hitting. College is kind of where you learn it. Learning it helps you be better and helps you be safer.
“So I hope we’re able to find a happy medium and not reduce it so much that we’re not getting guys ready for games and ready for contact.”
Even so, Frost said he is all for changes that can help keep players healthy, as long as the rules don’t go too far.
“The flip side of that is we certainly want to reduce injuries and help the entire team stay healthy through camp,” he said. “Hopefully we can find a place to land where we feel like we can get guys educated and taught how to do things the right way without grinding on them too much.
Utah athletic director Mark Harlan, who led the effort to come up with the new recommendations, said in a release that he thinks the recommendations strike that balance.
“The challenge in creating this model was to balance the need for a reduction in contact with preparing student-athletes properly to play a football season,” Harlan said in a statement. “The framework achieves this and allows coaches appropriate freedom and flexibility.”
Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos recently told the Journal Star that he thinks there's a fine line to walk and perhaps the NCAA's recommendations go too far.
“What the NCAA is talking about is totally to protect the players, and I can agree with some of that because these guys are bigger, stronger, faster and there are still programs that are going to turn them loose,” he said. “Now, having said that, you get into the season and you’re playing games, and guys aren’t tackling well these days.
“If you want to play good golf and you go out and play three holes a week and don’t practice on the range, you’re going to struggle. Sports is about repetition. Tackling is an art. Blocking is an art. And just running up there three-quarters speed and hugging some guy, that ain’t gonna get it done on Saturdays when the action is live.”
The proposal keeps the overall structure of camp — a maximum of 25 practices over 29 days before a team’s first game — the same.
The Division I Council is set to consider the recommendations on May 19.
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