Georgia quarterback Hutson Mason is taking over as the starter this year for the Bulldogs, who plan on playing at a faster pace this season. (Reuters)
ATHENS — Not so long ago in college football, assistant coaches would signal in plays from the sideline, the quarterback would crack the code and call the play in the huddle. All 11 players would clap in unison after hearing the call and trot to the line of scrimmage and execute the play.
When the play concluded, everybody slowly got up and jogged back to the huddle to repeat those steps.
Not anymore. According to Georgia coach Mark Richt, who apparently spent a good deal of time studying this after last season, sometimes fewer than 30 seconds are passing from the snap of the ball on one play to the snap on the next. Knowing this, the Bulldogs adjusted their off-season training regimen in preparation.
“There was a lot more sprinting,” Richt said. “There was more of a goal to get leaner. We got a bunch of pounds that were lost. And we got more flexible.”
Georgia opened preseason football camp on Friday, and Richt said the team’s speed will be a point of emphasis.
Richt said he reviewed video of the most up-tempo offenses the Bulldogs played last season (Auburn, Clemson, Missouri) and logged how long the actual plays were being executed and how much time elapsed before the next play. They wanted to determine how long players were exerting maximum physical output versus how long they had to recover between plays.
As one might guess, there wasn’t much recovery time against the teams that go the fastest.
“Not many plays go to past eight seconds of exertion, most are about five or six seconds,” Richt said. “The teams that are going the fastest are snapping that ball within 20 to 25 seconds. So we wanted to make sure a lot of our training was that way.”
Richt said the time between plays used to be in the 30- to 40-second range. So during this summer’s supervised strength-and-conditioning workouts, the players were being directed to sprint full speed and to lift hard for approximately in eight- to 10-second spurts. Then they were given 20 seconds or less to recover.
“We’re giving them probably a shorter recovery time in training, so we’re able to handle the fastest of the teams that go,” Richt said.
The training is designed to benefit not only defensive players. Georgia is expected to play at a quicker pace on offense this season as well. It’s a response both the effectiveness of the philosophy nationally and the fact that it’s the preferred mode of operation of quarterback Hutson Mason, who is taking over as the Bulldogs’ starter this season.
“The game of football has grown into a spread, high-paced, high-tempo (sport),” Richt said. “So we wanted to make sure a lot of our training was that way.”
Picking up the tempo hasn’t been the only adjustment. Georgia has adopted specialized training in hopes of combating the rash of knee injuries that swept through the team last season. They incorporated into workouts a body-specific kind of exercising known as Fusionetics. It’s designed to identify the areas of players’ individual bodies most vulnerable to injury and assigns specific exercises to improve flexibility in those areas.
Georgia’s players insist they can tell a difference.
“Everybody’s in the best shape of their lives right now,” senior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson said. “Everybody’s dropping weight; everybody’s looking good.”
The Bulldogs’ training methods will be quickly put to the test. They open the season against Clemson and its high-tempo offense on Aug. 30 at Sanford Stadium.