NCF Nation: Tech 09
Posed by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
1. BYU: The Cougars stunned the world with an upset of No. 3 Oklahoma on Saturday and while many will try to make excuses for the Sooners, BYU played better than Oklahoma in all facets of the game. The Cougars travel to Tulane this week for what should be an easy game before Florida State rolls into Provo next week.
2. Boise State: While Thursday’s win over No. 16 Oregon was overshadowed by the fist of LeGarrette Blount, the Broncos still managed to win their toughest game of the season and now have the easiest path to a potential BCS bowl berth. However, with BYU’s big win, the Broncos are going to need to help if they want to edge the Cougars.
3. Notre Dame: The Irish were impressive in the 35-0 beatdown of Nevada on Saturday. Notre Dame was strong on offense and defense and some are already referring to quarterback Jimmy Clausen as a potential Heisman contender. The Irish will get a stiff test this weekend against a Michigan team that also turned some heads.
4. TCU: The Horned Frogs watched both BYU and Boise State storm ahead in the race for a BCS berth while they sat at home with a bye. Virginia, TCU’s opening opponent, did the Horned Frogs no favors with a shocking loss to William & Mary this week. Traveling to Virginia was supposed to be a nice addition to TCU’s resume. Now a loss taints their season completely.
5. Utah: The Utes won their 15th consecutive game on Saturday, but it wasn’t as impressive as many thought it would be. New starting quarterback Terrance Cain did some nice things and put up some strong numbers, but the defense allowed 221 rushing yards and 17 points, which was a little out of character. Granted, 96 of those yards came on Robert Turbin’s touchdown run in the first quarter.
6. Navy: The Midshipmen nearly pulled off a glorious upset of No. 6 Ohio State on Saturday and even though they lost, they still opened many eyes to the versatility of quarterback Ricky Dobbs. Dobbs threw for more yards against the Buckeyes than Navy had thrown since Oct. 27, 2007. The Midshipmen have a tough schedule this year, but after this weekend’s performance, their chances for a bowl berth have improved.
7. East Carolina: Coach Skip Holtz called the Pirates almost giving up a 24-0 lead first game jitters, but it’s cause for concern, especially heading into a crucial game against West Virginia this weekend. The Mountaineers are looking for payback for last season’s loss and the Pirates are looking to keep pace with BCS-busting teams in the Mountain West and WAC.
8. Houston: The Cougars got off to a fast start with a big win over Northwestern State. Although the win came against an FCS team, it showed that the Cougars’ offense has not lost a step from last season and that it’s even added a couple new weapons. Whether the Cougars’ defense has made similar strides probably won’t be known until this weekend’s game against Oklahoma State.
9. Southern Miss: Even without star receiver DeAndre Brown, the Golden Eagles rolled to a season-opening 52-0 win against Alcorn State. And the challenge doesn’t get much more difficult this weekend against a Central Florida team that struggled against Samford. UAB is currently on top of C-USA and the Golden Eagles have a chance to join it.
10. Colorado State: This final spot could have gone to several teams, but the Rams earned it with a win over rival Colorado this weekend. Colorado State is a lot better than many thought and could actually make a little run in the Mountain West. At the very least, it could start the season 3-0 before it hits BYU.
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
The helmet cams didn't seem to work very well Thursday night at Boise State, but Oregon's use of them during preseason practices is one example of how college football teams are adopting innovative technology to advance their cause.
Oregon embraces all sorts of technology. Whether it's a locker room that features video game systems in each locker or film study with the XOS system or uniforms that are remarkable for their utility as well as their, well, oddness.
But the Ducks aren't alone.
UCLA and Arizona State are among the programs using two-way video conferencing (Skype).
The Bruins also use a virtual recruiting board, completely digitized recruiting film and phones equipped with video capability.
Oregon State isn't mailing out media guides anymore -- it's using a fancypants Web site to sell the program. Arizona State is also.
Of course, Pac-10 coaches are some of the best "Tweeters" -- see Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh and Steve Sarkisian.
Sarkisian has his own Web site. As does Carroll.
These are not things you could imagine Bear Bryant or Don James using.
But it's a different age, and those who do not embrace available new technologies might get left behind.
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Kentucky’s Rich Brooks, whose first college head coaching assignment goes back to the days of bell-bottom jeans, remembers when finding out about a prospect wasn’t so easy.
“You were waiting on a high school coach to send you the film,” Brooks recalls.
So making a decision on whether a quarterback fit your offense or if a safety could bulk up enough to play linebacker in your defense wasn’t as simple as dialing up tape of that player on the Internet.
“Now, there’s tape available of virtually every prospect we’re recruiting,” Brooks said.
It’s immediate, too.
Coaches have files of prospects’ tape on their laptops. They can watch it in their office, watch it while they’re traveling on a plane or while they’re eating lunch.
They can pop it into their computers and compare one player to the next: Who breaks on the ball better? Who separates from the defender better? Who has the best footwork?
Brooks said the enhanced technology has made it easier to make decisions on players and to differentiate who’s on the A list and who’s on the B list.
“There’s usually more information out there than you need,” he said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Jedd Fisch's cell phone blows up at all hours of the night, but the Minnesota offensive coordinator doesn't mind.
Golden Gophers starting quarterback Adam Weber is studying the game, and that's the way Fisch likes it.
"I gets calls from Adam at all times," Fisch said, "asking, 'Hey, I just got done watching practice. Was I supposed to check to this protection or that one?' I tell him and all of our players that if there's ever a time they want to watch their practice tape on their own, it's now available to them. And call me."
Minnesota's film review doesn't end when Fisch or one of the other coaches switches off a TV or a laptop in a team meeting room. It doesn't end when players walk out of the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex.
Thanks to Hudl Pro, Gophers players and coaches are just a few mouse clicks away from all the essential information they need to prepare for the football season. Hudl Pro allows teams to keep practice tapes, coaches' notes, scouting reports, news feeds, PowerPoint presentations (a Fisch favorite) and much more in an online library that all team personnel can access through their PCs.
So even after players retreat to their dorm rooms or apartments, they can stay very much in the game. Same with the coaches, in those rare occasions where they actually leave the office.
"It allows you as a player to put in that extra time," Minnesota running back Duane Bennett said. "Maybe you’re not able to stay at the complex for extended hours, but being able to come home and see practice after you just got done, being able to make corrections on the fly and then being able to come in to the next day with a sense of what you need to correct and what your opponent’s going to be doing, it’s a great addition for us.
"The program really helps."
Minnesota is one of only three FBS programs that uses the Hudl software, joining Tulsa and Nebraska, where the idea was conceived and developed by three students several years ago. Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan brought the program to the New York Jets, where he now serves as assistant head coach and offensive line coach. The Cleveland Browns also use the Hudl programs.
Fisch, an NFL assistant before joining Minnesota's staff in January, visited several of his former colleagues with the Jets this spring and learned about Hudl.
"As I was watching it, I was infatuated with the things it could do," Fisch said. "Mark Sanchez is there, and they're teaching the quarterbacks [how to use it]. It's a tremendous learning tool."
Fisch had no trouble selling Gophers head coach Tim Brewster on adding the Hudl programs at Minnesota. Both expect to discuss the new programs with recruits, especially quarterbacks.
"It's been great for the quarterback to learn from," Brewster said.
Minnesota's practice tapes go online five minutes after they're complete. Fisch can log on and see his scheme installation from the first day of training camp until today. Bennett uses Hudl every day during the preseason and expects to do so three or four times a week after classes start up.
Almost every team makes DVDs of practice, which usually are distributed at the end of the work week. With Hudl Pro, Minnesota players and coaches no longer have to wait.
"As it's been publicized recently, you're only with your players about 45 minutes a day [for film] in college football," Fisch said. "This is an ability [for players] on their own time, at their own leisure, to be able to flip on their computer and instead of surf the Web for 45 minutes, they can watch themselves compete."
September, 4, 2009
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
As an exercise and sports science major, North Carolina defensive end E.J. Wilson is well aware of the experimentation needed to advance science in sports, and his appreciation for it led him to be among the first to volunteer to try the Tar Heels’ latest cutting-edge technology.
Well, technically, he had to swallow it.
The bigger-than-an-Advil CorTemp pills are ingestible thermometers that helped the UNC coaches and athletic trainers monitor the players’ core body temperature this summer, and in turn schedule breaks accordingly. The experiment was designed to help the players avoid serious heat-related illnesses and help the staff distinguish the difference between heat problems and concussions.
Here’s how it works: Each athlete swallows one pill about four to five hours before practice or a game, and the pill makes its way through the small intestine and the digestive tract. (No worries, it’s like ma’s meatloaf, it only stays in your system for a day.) Eighteen players were monitored this summer, and almost every position and body type was tested.
Two trainers walked around with handheld monitors (Wilson described them as “big graphing calculators,” and every few minutes put it up to the players’ abdomens or backs and it reads their core body temperature. During the breaks the players were monitored every minute. The study was done twice during training camp and they’ll do it a few more times during the regular season.
“It was fascinating,” Wilson said. “As a little kid I watched "The Magic School Bus" a lot, and it was kind of like having a little Magic School Bus floating around in there. What they told me was I was hydrating well, but during practice I was drinking more water than Gatorade. As I was going through practice, it seemed like I was hydrated, but my muscles were getting dehydrated, so I had to drink a lot more Gatorade. It actually really helped. It made me feel a lot better during practice. It was actually a very successful experiment in my opinion.”
It was only the latest advance in a long grant-funded concussion study at UNC. For the past decade, UNC has been doing research on concussions and mild-traumatic brain injuries. About 60 players have accelerometers in their helmets, little gadgets that measure G-forces and impact. Every hit is measured and recorded by a computer in a trunk on the sideline. The sensors also have the ability to measure body temperature, but they were looking for some confirmation that those devices were accurate, so they decided to try the CorTemp pills.
“We’re always looking at the practice schedule in terms of the different periods we have during practice, how to structure practice, when to do certain periods, and probably most importantly, when to take breaks,” said Scott Trulock, the head athletic trainer for football. “We’ve always had to guess what’s the ideal time period to take a break? This was a way we could put some science to that.”
Each pill cost about $40, but the project is funded through the grant that became possible because of Kevin Guskiewicz, chair of UNC’s department of exercise and sports science.
Normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees. Trulock said a dangerous core body temperature would be around 104. An ideal body temperature from a competing standpoint would be 100 to 101 -- breaking a sweat but not exhausted and laboring. When the Tar Heels were done with their “flex and stretch” part of practice, the players were at their ideal temperature. As practice went on, they’d hover around 102 and 103, and that’s when they’d take a break. About seven or eight minutes into the break was when they got back down to the ideal temperature.
“It was an interesting study to see exactly how quickly core temperature went up, and how quickly it did go down,” said UNC coach Butch Davis. “We talked a little bit about did we need more breaks, did the breaks need to be longer? It was interesting to see that typically we would take a five-minute break and everyone would be able to take their helmets off, get in front of the fans, get out of the sun.
"If we were practicing in the afternoon, and it was 97 degrees was a five-minute break maybe as good as a three-minute break, or did instantly in three minutes the core temperature drop significantly enough a kid could’ve potentially gone back into practice or a game? So there’s still things they’re still studying on it, but I thought it was very interesting and I hope people do recognize our sports medicine program is on the cutting edge of things like that.”
Trulock said the experiment is likely to continue this fall.
“It’s like anything else with science, when you answer one question, you raise two more,” he said. “We got some valuable information to help us get an idea of what we’re looking for. It’s definitely a program we’re very proud of. Our goal is to make the game safer, and science is helpful in terms of helping us understand how [concussions] occur, when they occur, how to prevent them, and this tool has really helped us gather a lot of information and make us better able to make decisions on returning athletes and identifying [concussions] when they happen.”
September, 4, 2009
Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson
During Bill Cubit’s coaching tenure, quarterbacks he’s worked with have been lauded for their release time, which doesn’t allow opposing defenses enough time to get sacks.
Last season, Western Michigan ranked 11th in the country for sacks allowed.
Cubit’s secret? A stopwatch and a whistle.
“We had a stopwatch and a guy and as soon as he saw [time was up], he blew the whistle,” Cubit said. “But we were always about a step behind.”
While Cubit has used the stopwatch and whistle for the past 10 years, he acknowledges that it's not very technologically savvy. So, this spring, Cubit and his staff set out to find a device that automatically sounded a buzzer when the 2.2 seconds were up, but that was also customizable for the kicking game. It wasn’t until one of his assistants visited Penn State that Cubit found what he was looking for.
The Lafayette Sportimer, according to its Web site, creates “precisely timed practice drills and sporting events, allowing you to coach while it times your drills.” The mechanism uses a piercing buzzer to signal when time has expired. Cubit likened the buzzer to an air horn. Penn State was using the device for its quarterbacks and suggested that Western Michigan give it a try.
The Broncos have used the Sportimer through its fall camp and Cubit has been amazed by the results. While he acknowledges that 2.2 seconds is a fast release, his quarterbacks are getting the ball out in 2.5 seconds or less.
“That machine really helps us out getting rid of the ball,” Cubit said. “Sometimes, we’ve got seven-on-seven and receivers think they’ve got all day. Because there’s no pass rush the quarterback thinks he’s got all day, but when that buzzer sounds, that ball has got to be out of there.”
Cubit said the machine also has helped the wide receivers know when they need to start looking for the ball and the defensive line to know how much time they have to get to the quarterback. Western Michigan also has used the timer to shore up their kicking and punting get-off times.
Cubit said in just four weeks he’s noticed a difference in his quarterbacks’ release and he knows it will provide tangible results on the field.
“It’s almost gotten to a point now where it’s like second nature,” Cubit said of his quarterbacks’ reaction to the timer. “You’ll even ask some quarterbacks, ‘Did you hear the buzzer?’ And they’ll just go. ‘No.’ They’re so used to it now and being in rhythm. It’s been great for us.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
While struggling through searing conditions the last few weeks, member of the Texas Longhorns’ training staff were looking for an edge to help them team persevere through the constant heat.
Austin has sweltered through its hottest summer since the 1850s with 67 days with 100 degree or more high temperatures. In the middle of that, the Longhorns have conducted their training camp to prepare for the upcoming season that begins Saturday night against Louisiana-Monroe.
“It’s definitely hotter than I can remember it,” Texas athletic trainer Kenny Boyd said. “I don’t know if we haven’t seen hotter days, but just a lot more of them. And when that happens, you get concerned about the cumulative effect it has for players who are depleting themselves through the week and maybe setting themselves up for a muscle pull or a heat ailment.
"Then, you throw the consistent heat into the mix and it just makes it that much harder.”
Among other pieces of modern technology, the Longhorns are using a high-tech measuring device to help combat heat-related circumstances through a tiny ingestible pill.
The Longhorns measure the heat of between 12 and 24 Longhorns deemed by the training staff to be considered high-risk at every practice.
This chosen group take a pill that allows Boyd and the other Texas trainers to check their core body temperatures by pressing a button. The Longhorns trainers are then able to monitor the players' temperatures using hand-held devices. The trainers hold the device about six inches from the player and soon learn the player's core temperature because of the ingestible theromemeter.
Boyd said the silicone-coated CorTemp capsule – which is about the size of a vitamin and contains thermometers, a radio transmitter and a battery – is swallowed about five hours before practice begins.
During the time after the ingestion, the pill eventually is transported to the player’s intestines. While there, it provides a constant reading of the player’s temperature before the pill is passed naturally. Cost of the pill is about $35 apiece.
It’s not exactly a new invention and other NFL and college teams over the years have used it. It’s become more and more prevalent as teams try to avoid the heat-related incidents that led to the death of former Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Korey Stringer, who died in 2001 of complications brought on by heat stroke.
Any time a player’s core temperature reaches 103 degrees, he is immediately pulled from the practice for rest.
“I don’t necessarily think we would know if they had reached that level without the capsule,” Boyd said. “Because in many cases it’s just something they push themselves through in a normal workout. Basically, what this does is gives us an early warning system that allows them to cool down before we send them back out.”
When a player’s temperature reaches 104 degrees, Boyd said they are removed from practice for the day. They typically are sent to an ice bath for immediate cooling after that diagnosis.
The Longhorns used air-cooled training shirts that are popular among players and have practiced inside in the school’s air-conditioned bubble more than in previous summers. The cumulative result has helped them avoid any heat-related incidents this summer.
Earlier, technology brought about cooling tents and cool capes. Those inventions were seen as natural evolutions from items like iced towels, electrolyte-laced sports beverages and squirt drinking bottles.
“We are in an age now where technology and sports medicine now work together to benefit athletes,” Boyd said. “These things are now more of a preventive tool than anything else. And it’s helping. But all of the tools and technology still can’t replace what an athletic trainer can do for a student-athlete once they get on the field.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
As they wait around in their hotel rooms Sunday night before the Labor Day showdown at Rutgers, Cincinnati's players will be fiddling around with video games.
But coach Brian Kelly can't accuse them of wasting time. In this instance, the Bearcats will actually be preparing for the next day's assignment.
Cincinnati is one of six schools in the country -- LSU, Oregon, Tennessee, Colorado and Arizona are the others -- to use the Thunder PlayAction Simulator from XOS Technologies. The program takes the EA Sports gameplay familiar to anyone who has spent time on the Madden or NCAA Football games and uses it to incorporate teaching methods. Coaches will draw the team's actual plays and opponents' coverages on the game, and the players can then simulate the action on the field.
Cincinnati bought the software over the summer and put it into full use this week, said John Sells, the team's video coordinator. Players are expected to use it this weekend in the team hotel.
"It's pretty cool," quarterback Tony Pike said. "You can program a blitz into the gaming system and make a read off it. And after you make a throw, it tells you if you made the right read or not."
Sells said all the team's passing routes and other plays are drawn into the system. While the program initially focused on quarterback play, it has been expanded into other positions on the field as well.
"You can have the tight end on it and ask him questions like, 'Who's your assignment?' or 'Who do you have to block on this play?'" Sells said.
Because the Bearcats are one of the few schools using the system, Sells said they can request updates and changes to it. One they've already asked for is the ability to simulate special teams plays like kickoff coverage from an individual player's perspective.
"The biggest value comes from being able to quiz the players on their assignment," Sells said. "You can find out what they've missed and then you know what they need to work on. It's also helpful for those down-the-line guys who maybe don't get a lot of reps in practice. It would be real useful for the third quarterback, for example."
And if the players have to study this stuff anyway, at least they can do it on a video game.
"The games are so realistic these days, and after you play quarterback they're easier to play," Pike said. "We're definitely moving up in the technology world."