November 11, 2009

JD's Mailbag


I think it would be interesting to see how the Utes break down the 20 hours a week they can spend on football. Does this include the games?


Thanks, Jason. That is an interesting question, one that does not come up too often.

The NCAA rule regarding time limits during the season reads as follows: "A student-athlete's participation in countable athletically related activities shall be limited to a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week." Countable activities includes practices, film sessions, weight training, anything that the staff has deemed mandatory and/or is performed under the direction and supervision of any staff member including the strength coach. NCAA rules also state that the athletes must have one day off per week and gamedays count as three hours. In reality, Utah has 17 hours to divide up among five days. According to director of football operations Jeff Rudy, the Utah staff breaks it down to consistently use 16 1/2 hours and avoid accidentally going over time.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, the Utes spend four hours each day in various activites; weightlifting, film study, and practice. Utah practices run about two hours, so the other two hours are divided up between weightlifting and/or film study/position meetings. Wednesdays and Thursdays the Utes spend three hours a day and practices tend to run a little shorter. Friday they use two and a half hours, which includes any walkthrough they have planned.

For film study, they review game film and break down film by position; the receivers will watch cut-ups of the corners and safeties, the defensive line will focus on the offensive line, etc. Each game they review has been cut up by the graduate assistants and all that information goes into a computer system that the players can access at any time on their own. The level of detail is amazing. I have been told that I could go on and find every play that, say, San Diego State has run since 2005 on third down and five with the ball placed at the right hash. If you want to go further back, there are DVD's and VHS tapes spanning almost 20 years. Each player also gets a DVD every Monday with film cut-ups of the opponent and position-specific players to review on their own time.

"They give us our individual film, and I try and go home and study that as much as I can," Brandon Burton told me. "If I'm matching up on somebody, I try to watch as much as I can on that receiver to get an edge. I probably watch another two hours a day on my own, so another 14 hours each week. This is a full-time job outside of school. As soon as I'm done with homework and school responsibilities, I'm hitting the film room and studying film. After watching so much, you do get kind of sick of it but it makes you better. I can pick up tendencies, routes, how they run their route, film helps a lot."

Individual film study is not required, but putting in time and effort to know the gameplan and know the opponent has become well known as a key to individual and team success for the Utes. Guys like Alex Smith and Eric Weddle really set the tone for the program and led by example, putting in countless hours of film study and individual work outside of the mandatory requirements.

Practices vary each day and sometimes by opponent. For example, the Monday after playing Air Force the travel team just does some light weightlifting and conditioning instead of practicing. Monday practices are typically in "shells": Shoulder pads, helmets, and shorts with limited contact where they begin installing the gameplan for each week. Some Mondays the third string and younger players will go through a short scrimmage to end practice while the first and second teams do sprints. Tuesdays are the intense days; full pads, full bore, usually more intense than a typical fall camp practice. Wednesdays and Thursdays go back to lighter practices where they are perfecting the execution of the gameplan. This schedule does not always take place, and sometimes a Monday or Wednesday practice will be full pads, but each week generally follows that plan.

I hope that answered your question and gave you some insight into the workings of the football program,

Got a question you want answered in the Mailbag? Send an e-mail to JD at [email protected].

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