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Would you use a spring practice to teach players how to approach summer? Sark did

Urban Meyer famously said that hiring Mickey Mariotti as his head strength coach was his most important hire after taking the job at Ohio State because strength coaches spend so much more time with players due to NCAA restrictions on coaches during the summer.

One of the most important times in player development is over the summer, when players have a full off season of the weight room and spring ball under their belts and look to take that momentum into the summer. During that summer session of their time will be spent with the strength staff (or holding practices on their own accord ), while the coaches have to take a more "hands off" approach for a few months.

With just two spring practices left, Steve Sarkisian decided to get proactive and start to train his guys how to practice over the next few months without the coaches. With just 15 spring practices allowed by NCAA rules, using one or two of them of it to prepare your guys for the summer is an interesting strategy that actually makes a ton of sense.

 After practice last night Sark explained their strategy.

"We really spent practice on trying to get our players prepared for summer when we, as coaches, don't get to be out here, and when our strength coaches don't get to be out here and these guys are out here working together in the summer preparing for fall camp. We want to make sure that they're doing things the right way."

"We want to be sure that they're warming up properly, that the leaders are stepping up, that there is organization, that they understand how to practice, because the big key is that we want to get better, but we also want to prevent injury."

"So that was the emphasis of today's practice, was really teaching these guys to coach one another through a summer practice because we're going to have about 16 of these through the summer, and it's imperative to our success that one, they get better and are working together well, but two, that we're also preventing injuries, which is key."

It's an interesting strategy that would be viewed differently from the FBS to the NAIA and Junior College levels, but it got me to thinking; With a set number of practices to get things accomplished with a new team (void of most, or all, of your incoming freshman class), how many coaches agree with Sark's strategy? Why or why?

Email or tweet your take to [email protected] or @CoachSamz (or leave them in the comments below), and I'll update the article with the best opinions from around the country. Be sure to add what level you coach at for context.

UPDATE 1: A few coaches have reached out to us to tell us that North Texas has followed a similar plan. They held their spring game as part of practice #14 and then used practice #15 similarly to how Sark ran practice last night.




Video: #BeADude, leave a man

Back last summer, Boston College and Steve Addazio made some waves by having the coaching staff use the hashtag #BeADude on Twitter. It started off as silly, and quickly became their catchphrase during recruiting season when they locked up a commitment.

With Addazio and his staff now entering their second season at BC, they've been able to expand on that message a bit, and they've recently added a sit down with Matt Ryan to talk about his experiences as a Boston College player, and how it has prepared him for the NFL and life since leaving Boston.

Ryan is considered by many to be the face of the Falcon's franchise, and has thrown for over 24,000 yards and 153 touchdowns in his six years in the NFL. He's one of the best players at his position, without a doubt. When you've got a guy like that from your program, sitting him down and getting his thoughts on his time in your program is a necessity.

This is an excellent idea for a few reasons. Number one, they're getting one of their most prominent NFL players in front of a camera to sell the program to recruits and families, and secondly, it's an opportunity to expand on the #BeADude campaign and get the mantra circulating again as recruiting picks up heading into the fall.




Louisville signs the third-richest apparel deal in the history of college sports

Louisville has done a lot of winning lately. More than anyone else in college sports, actually. 

The men's basketball team reached back-to-back Final Fours in 2012-13, winning the national championship a year ago. The football program is 23-3 in the last two seasons, including a Big East title and a beat down of Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl. The baseball program reached the College World Series in 2013, and the women's basketball program also reached the Final Four that year. 

Louisville is the only college athletics program to win a BCS game, appear in both the men's and women's Final Four, reach the College World Series and the men's soccer College Cup finals since 2000. They're one of six schools to appear more than once in each of the BCS, the men's and women's Final Four and the College World Series, and their span of appearances (seven years) is the shortest in college sports.

Tom Jurich's program has been on an incredible run on the court, and it's seen their status in the larger world of college athletics rise in parallel. The Cardinals were nearly kicked out of Conference USA way back when, but then parlayed their success into a bid in the Big East (later renamed the American) and now, this summer, they'll officially join the ACC.

But, on Thursday, Louisville joined even more exclusive company. Adidas signed the Cardinals to a five-year, $39 million apparel deal, an absolutely massive deal. 

Of course, there are larger market factors at play here; Louisville performed at the exact right time to sign an extension after Adidas' recent losses of Notre Dame and Tennessee. But, still, the fact that Louisville's name is mentioned in the same sentence with Notre Dame and Michigan - the brightest of gold standards among college sports branding - is enough. No asterisks necessary here.

With such an sizable investment, Adidas is now incentivized to push Louisville as a true national brand alongside Michigan, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Ohio State and a dozen or so other schools undoubtedly offended they weren't mentioned in this sentence. 

"Adidas has been a loyal partner for 16 years and I am thrilled that we will continue through this significantly expanded agreement as we move into a new era in the Atlantic Coast Conference," Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich said Thursday. "The synergies with the sport of soccer and our new stadium, future innovative uniform designs, and the passion adidas displays towards outfitting all of our student-athletes at the highest level nationally make this a model relationship." 

The deal reportedly comes with five separate football jerseys and numerous uniform combinations, so stay tuned. 




The best dance off of the season

Alabama State's "Black & Gold" game was this past Saturday. Shortly before kickoff, head coach Reggie Barlow circled'em up for what the players thought was going to be a drill; but oh no...

This might just be the best dance off of the season. Enjoy the whole thing.




OL or walk-ons. Who's happier about unlimited meals? Helfrich has the answer

Coaches, scholarship players, and walk-on's everywhere scored big when the NCAA announced earlier this week that NCAA Division I athletes can receive unlimited meals and snacks during the season

KEZI 9 News, who does a great job covering Oregon football, posed an interesting question the other day after practice. They asked a handful of players; What group of players were more excited about the food rule change, offensive lineman or the walk-ons?

Of course the walk-ons deflected and said the offensive lineman were the happiest, and the big fellas said that the walk-ons were the happiest, and they were happy that they could all now break bread together regularly...but head coach Mark Helfrich nailed it with his answer.




Video: This might be one of Nebraska's best recruiting tools

The University of Nebraska football program has no shortage of things to sell to recruits. They've got a rich football tradition like no other program in the country, and Bo Pelini has won at least nine games every full season that he's been at the helm in Lincoln.

They've also got one of the most unique entrances in college football, and what better way to demonstrate that to recruits than by equipping one of their players with a helmet cam as they make their way to the field? Recruits are going to eat this up.

This is an impressive entrance for a spring game, imagine what it's like when Ohio State or Michigan are in town. 




The Luther College staff takes a polar plunge, challenges the rest of the IIAC to do the same

The Luther College coaching staff was challenged to take a polar plunge, and like all good men they not only answered the call, they filmed it as well. 

The Norse staff found a naturally fed pond at Twin Springs, which they claimed houses the coldest waters in the state of Iowa. Each coach survived, but there was one casualty. Defensive line coach/head strength coach Ike Hammerly lost his glasses in the 33-degree waters of Twin Springs, and they were never recovered.

Now the Luther staff has issued a formal challenge to the rest of the Division III Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference to do the same. Are they man enough? Only time will tell. 




Kliff Kingsbury has a coaching model, and it's not a football coach

Kliff Kingsbury grew up in New Braunfels, Texas, a city of 60,000 people lying 30 miles north of San Antonio. Growing up in the halcyon days of David Robinson, he naturally became a fan of the NBA's San Antonio Spurs and, growing up the son of a coach, he naturally gravitated toward the Spurs' general manager-turned-head coach, Gregg Popovich.

 Now, as a coach himself, he watches Popovich and wonders how he can become college football's version of Pop.

“I watch the Spurs quite a bit, and Coach Pop just fascinates me,” Kingsbury told Tim Griffin of the San Antonio Express-News. “They had some guy named (Patty) Mills who popped up and scored 26 points the other night."

Under Popovich, the Spurs spent the first half of the last decade as a defensive-minded team and a plodding offense centered around Tim Duncan. But as point guard Tony Parker matured, the Spurs' attack became more free-flowing, and now Popovich's team moves the ball better than any in basketball.

As a football coach who prides himself on putting the ball in as many hands as possible, the similarities are obvious.

“Coach Popovich is able to develop things like that all of the time. They just win, and it's incredible. He stays undercover and never gets the love he probably deserves. He doesn't want it. He just wins.”

As for Kingsbury himself? He may not be at the level of an 18-year veteran and four-time champion, but he's miles ahead of where he was at this time last year.

“The biggest thing is you have to find ways to stay consistent,” Kingsbury said. “That was the hardest thing for me last year, especially with the way our season went. I'm trying to do that more this year, make sure the team and the coaches can feel that consistency from me in everything we're doing.”

Read the full piece here.