The Cardinals were back at it Wednesday afternoon with their second of fifteen practices this spring. Coach Lembo… what did you have to say about numero dos?
The second day of Spring Practice was met with another great weather day. How do you think the players responded to getting back in the routine of practice?
It was good to get right back out here today after a good first session on Tuesday. We were able to make corrections in meetings and, with a few exceptions, had a pretty focused day. We did have one procedural penalty and one errant shot gun snap on offense. We have to eliminate those miscues. The defense was a bit sharper defending the zone read and covering option routes. We are putting a big emphasis on pursuit and understanding where your help is coming from. We limited our installation for today’s practice, but a little more will go in for Friday’s session. The overall effort and competitiveness has been very solid.
How much time is spent on special teams during a typical Spring Practice session?
We have a 20-minute special teams meeting every day. Coach Justin Lustig is very organized and does a great job covering a lot of material in that amount of time. In addition to the installation for particular units, we spend a lot of time teaching concepts. We have a half a dozen special teams “mantras” we expect all of our guys to thoroughly understand. Better awareness leads to better decision making in pressure situations. In a typical practice, we spend 35 to 40 minutes on various aspects of the kicking game – from basic fundamentals to unique game situations. These are typically five to 10 minute periods spread out through the practice session. The combination of meeting time, practice time and head coach involvement sends a clear message that this is an aspect of the game we take very seriously and expect consistent results.
How important is it for your veteran players to assist the younger players in a daily Spring Practice?
That is a big part of the culture we are trying to put in place. We are all in it together. Everyone must take responsibility and ownership of our destiny as a football program. We are competing with each other right now, but at the end of the day it is all about the program having success. We have some really bright guys. That has impressed me since we first arrived at Ball State last year. We have about 15 guys that have Ivy League type intelligence. They learn quickly and can turn around and teach others around them. Sometimes it is a specific technique they are helping a teammate learn. We also have some players that might be more modest students in the classroom, but they have a good football IQ. The game does not move too fast for them. Some guys still have a lot to learn and that is okay as long as they are committed to getting it done. In some situations, the support from teammates is more general – such as helping a guy get refocused or bouncing back after a miscue. Football is a tough game and there is adversity on a daily basis. Whether it is a coach or a player, we must try to attack challenges with a positive attitude.
Day 2 was another practice in shorts and helmets. How do those practices differ from the days of full pads?
Our practices don’t differ a whole lot whether we are in helmets, uppers or full pads. They have the same basic structure and flow to them. Once we transition to full pads and contact, we will back off some of the time spent on individual techniques and fundamentals and dedicate more time to interior run and 11-on-11 team periods. We have three “tempos” for any team period and it is critical every player understands what mode we are in at that time. The last two days was basically “tag” tempo because of just being in helmets. Most of the time, we operate in “thud” tempo, which is full speed, but form tackling without bringing the ballcarrier to the ground. We expect everyone to finish the play on their feet and there is no cut blocking when we go “thud”. Throughout the spring, we will mix in some scrimmaging on days when we are in full pads. Those periods typically have an emphasis such as first downs, third downs or red zone. If everyone is on the same page, we can reduce the amount of injuries sustained in practice.
Defensive improvement, attention to special teams, and building a family atmosphere through tutoring and mentorship? Me likey.