While coaching JSU, Burgess won a Division II national championship in 1992, finished runner-up in 1989 and 1991 and compiled 84 victories in 12 seasons. Before speaking, he watched practice, and when somebody with his resume has his eyes focused on a football team, it’s only natural to want to hear what he has to say.
His most interesting comment: JSU practices fast. Clark has his team moving constantly. The NCAA has rules in place about how long you can practice, but there’s nothing that says you can’t run through as many drills as possible or go through as many plays as you can manage.
Repetition, repetition, repetition. It football-speak, it’s “reps,” and JSU goes through them at a race-car pace.
There’s time for a break. Early in Tuesday’s workout, JSU had one -- two minutes, to be precise.
Clark, a former high school head coach and defensive coordinator at South Alabama, has a reputation as a strong organizer, and that’s readily apparent when watching his team work out.
Everything is planned out, and the players and coaches are expected to execute that plan as fast as possible.
For example, during the passing drills, one quarterback tosses the ball to another quarterback like the shotgun snap from center. That quarterback fields the snap and quickly steps, turns and executes his pass. By the time the pass has hit a graduate assistant’s hands, the guy who tossed the ball originally has stepped into place for his turn. The quarterback behind him has stepped up to make the toss that gets everything started. It goes over and over until the buzzer to go to the next practice period.
All of this isn’t something unusual. Clark has said for months that practice at JSU would be quick and efficient.
Also, plenty of college teams are working to squeeze the most out of their workouts. The NCAA limits on how much an athlete can devote to his or her sport aren’t new. It’s 20 hours a week in season, with no more than four hours a day. Games count as three hours. Players are required to have at least one day off a week.
As Michigan found out while Rich Rodriguez was coach, the NCAA takes those limits seriously. If a player complains that his football coach is exceeding them, the NCAA will come knocking.
But even so, some teams are better than others at organizing and executing, and how much you can teach players depends in large part on how efficiently coaches can run practice.
JSU probably didn’t practice quite at the pace Clark would’ve liked Tuesday. It was the Gamecocks’ first day in pads, and the weather wasn’t good for anything that involved stepping one toe outside, much less going through football practice.
The practice began on a muggy day under cloudy skies, but the sun came out, and it made the heat nearly unbearable. According to weather.com, the team worked out in 84-degree temperatures with 77 percent humidity. It’s a good thing there is plenty of water for players to drink, but it’s understandable if they’re not running through drills quite as quickly as usual.
It seems certain that will improve, however. And if it does, JSU opponents should expect to play an awfully efficient Gamecocks team this year.
Contact Anniston Star Sports Editor Mark Edwards at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @MarkSportsStar.