Early morning practice a good fit for BC

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
3:14
PM ET
CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- In different conferences on opposite coasts, Boston College and No. 2 Oregon don’t have much in common.

One’s a high-flying, fast-paced offensive machine full of skill players and led by a Heisman candidate at quarterback. The other is a physical, blue-collar team led by a stout offensive line and a workhorse running back whose numbers are among the best in the country but who could probably walk unnoticed through a crowd of college football fans.

But they do have one thing in common: they both do their work early.

For the first time in school history, according to unofficial BC team historian Reid Oslin, the Eagles are practicing in the morning regularly this season. It’s a practice Steve Addazio picked up from a visit with current Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly, back when Addazio was at Temple and Kelly was at Oregon.

“I love the whole concept,” Addazio said after a recent practice. “You get the kids up in the morning, they’re fresh. Then they’re up and ready to go to class when [practice] is over. They know they have to get up early, so they’re not up late the night before. So I think you get all that done. And then the recovery factor is unbelievable.”

With meetings first thing, some starting as early as 7 a.m., and practice after, Addazio said, players get more time for schoolwork and to recover from the final on-field sessions before games. With their last physical sessions of a typical game week on Wednesday morning, the Eagles have a good three days to recover before a Saturday afternoon kickoff.

“I think it’s a total success formula for that,” Addazio said. “There’s no doubt in my mind about it. As opposed to dragging in here at 3:30 in the afternoon, the whole nine yards. This is the way to go, beyond a doubt.”

It was a hard sell for some Eagles initially.

“I wasn’t really too fond of it at first, because I’m not necessarily a morning person,” senior running back Andre Williams said. “But I realize that it’s definitely a benefit for us just because sometimes you play at 12. And even at 12, some games last year I would feel like it was taking me a while to warm up and thinking about it, maybe that was because we were practicing in the evening.

“Now that we have morning practices, when the game’s at 12 I’m already warm, definitely warm by noontime. I like it.”

Though there were some logistical challenges associated with shifting practice from the mid-afternoon -- typically starting at 3:30 and going ‘til 5:30 or so in previous seasons -- to mid-morning, Addazio said there was nothing that couldn’t be ironed out with the help of the athletic department staff.

“We had to have a joint, hand-in-hand deal and make sure we could get that done,” he said. “There’s challenges with that, but it’s worked out.”

Williams said the change in practice schedule was actually a good thing for him, as most of the classes he needed to take for his major are held in the afternoon.

“So if we had practices in the afternoon, I don’t even know what I’d do,” Williams, an applied psychology and human development major, said.

Addazio understands that his players are college students, and that they may not always be getting to bed as early as he’d like them to. But he said it hasn’t really been an issue.

“In camp we had a wake-up call, but now you just have to be on it,” Williams said of the early starts. “Know to set your alarm, go to bed early and just get your rest so you can get up and go to work.”

Sean Sylvia has had at least a few late nights before practice the next day, as the Dartmouth, Mass., native has been staying up to watch the Red Sox in the postseason like the rest of the team’s fan base. But the 6-foot, 208-pound safety said he hasn’t had any problem getting going in the mornings.

“No, I mean if you love to do this you wake up for it and do it,” he said. “We’re all adjusted to the morning practices. If you’re not ready at this age to go at any time on five or six hours of sleep, there’s something wrong with you. This has gotta be the best time of your day.

“It’s different than waking up for class. It’s a totally different thing.”

The Eagles (3-3, 1-2 ACC) have their second bye week of the season this week, using the time to recover from a hard-fought loss at No. 3 Clemson and to prepare for their next matchup, at North Carolina on Oct. 26 (3:30 p.m. ET).

When they get back to work in earnest next week, they’ll be on the field early again.

“They say the early bird gets the worm and I’m up at 6,” Williams said with a laugh. “I just gotta get up and go for it.”

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and a frequent contributor to ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey.

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