Aug. 11, 2005
SEATTLE - One of the features of the Washington football team's fall camp this season is that, at least during some days, the Huskies' roster will be split into two equal parts and hold two different practice sessions.
A few years ago, the NCAA implemented several new rules regarding preseason football practices. First, they eliminated freshman-only practices that used to be held for a few days prior to the veterans reporting. The NCAA also mandated that teams could not hold two-a-day practices on consecutive days.
So, in an effort to get as many players as possible as many practice repetitions as possible, Coach Tyrone Willingham and his staff have split the team in two for many of the one-a-day practice sessions, including Thursday, the third full day of the fall camp.
In other words, half the team begins early in the afternoon and practices for about an hour and a half. Then, the other half comes out and the two halves are combined for a half-hour before the first squad leaves and the second unit puts in its hour and a half. The players that comprise the two units may change from day to day and, most days, they flip-flop going early or late, but each player is likely to get more coaching as he practices in a smaller group.
"I think it's a real luxury for everybody," Willingham says. "I wish my coaches had done this when I was a player, because it gives everyone a chance to do what they want to do, and that's get repetitions."
"I think every player would say, `Coach, I want to play. Let me have some reps. Give me a chance,'" Willingham continues. "There's no question about it -- this [format] does that. When they look behind them, no one's there. They have to get the work done. "
One player that sees this practice method as beneficial is junior wide receiver Corey Williams. Williams got his career started with a bang as a freshman in 2003, most notably making the game-winning catch in the Apple Cup. He was off to a good start last year before breaking a bone in his hand and dislocating his wrist in the Notre Dame game. He says he's happy to get as many practice repetitions as he can, and the split format definitely helps.
"There are so many receivers, so it's good that we split the practices," Williams explains. "We have something like 14 receivers, but at each practice, there are only six or seven out there. You get more balls. You see more defenses. You get more reps. You get a chance to practice a lot more than if there were 14 receivers sharing the reps. It also helps a little getting you in game shape."
Williams, who participated in spring practice, but was held out of some of the action due to his injury, says he's essentially back in game form.
"Basically, I feel great," Williams says. "In the spring, I was a little light. I was playing about at about 180 pounds. Now, I'm up to 189. I feel stronger and faster."
With so many experienced receivers, there are any number of players that could end up as starters or as regular contributors.
"There's a lot of competition at receiver," Williams notes. "We have a lot of receivers that can play and contribute and make big plays. It's up to each of us to emerge from the pack. We're all good receivers. All of us can play."