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Fall practices split up after rule change

Joe Hettler | Thursday, August 19, 2004

After a mandatory five-day breaking in period, teams were restricted on how many two-a-days they can have and may not allow any practice of three hours or more. With that in mind, Notre Dame coach Tyrone Willingham split his team into two groups when fall practice started for practices that lasted an hour and a half.”I think has been advantageous to us because it has allowed almost every player on the squad repetition and that’s the one thing you need to get better,” Willingham said. During the first split squad practice Aug. 10, the team was divided into two groups. The first consisted of mostly first stringers and the second group was comprised of reserves and freshman. Both groups met for 30 minutes for special team work near the end of practice. When a group was not on the field, they did a variety of activities such as lifting or riding the exercise bike.Willingham said he and the other coaches are hoping the new format helps the team, although he has never run practices this way in the past.”You don’t know,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve done this. You’re learning as you go in terms of what effectiveness it has, what impact it has on your team. We’ll know once we get into the season exactly how it’s impacted our team. With the other schedule, you knew after doing it for years and years you knew exactly where things were going to fall. You knew exactly where your team would be and how to respond to it.”After implementing the new format for more than a week, Willingham has been pleased with the results.”We’ve got a lot of work done,” Willingham said. “When we started one of the main focuses of the team was to get everyone a lot for repetition. I think we’ve achieved that so from that standpoint it’s been a good week we’ve made progress.”But the third-year coach also said there are some shortcomings to any practice that can be worrisome.”What coaches always strive for and what you probably never get until they actually get to the game and really get the productivity in a game is execution,” he said. “As you know from listening to me before, we struggle because as coaches if one side does well then one side isn’t doing well because you’re working against yourself and that makes our practices very competitive.”