The sky is still dark with color. The sun has yet to rise. And yet, the football team is preparing for their daily morning practice.
Ever since the University started moving more classes to the afternoons and evenings last year, the football team made the switch to holding practices in the mornings. And it’s no easy feat. Players beat the sunrise to practice, sometimes after only about five to six hours of sleep following long days of classes and schoolwork.
The early morning practice is no easy feat — especially when it comes to proving high levels of intensity before most of your peers are even awake for class.
“I’m a football player, so I’m always excited to come play football. But the challenge is getting everybody else ready,” senior running back Trey Flowers said regarding the energy levels of morning practices. “As a captain, you got to bring everyone else with you. You got to motivate others.”
For the coaches, though, preparation for practice starts the night before. The coaching staff draws up their plans and choreographs plays. The training staff gives injury updates on all the players, noting each players’ limitations so the coaches are aware if they need to modify practice for specific players.
The training room is a player’s first stop. There, players meet the athletic trainers, including head athletic trainer Anthony Erz. They go through their treatments, stretches, and foam rolls, and some get taped based on their personal preference.
In addition to their morning prep, players also fit in time to eat breakfast.
It’s time for meetings — essentially the team’s equivalent to that infamous 8:30 a.m. class. The players go through several meetings in the first two hours of their practice. They go from a teamwide meeting, to their special teams meeting, and then 50 minutes of position meetings.
Within those sessions, they also review film from prior practices.
“It’s very important. You got to correct the mistakes from the day before,” Flowers said. “If you want to be a leader, you cannot make the same mistake twice. You got to watch yourself on film, watch what you’re doing the day before, and come out the next day and execute.”
The coaching staff agrees. The group films each practice and gives players access to their practice film for review on their own time.
But it’s not just their own film that they’re reviewing. They’re also watching film of their opponents to prepare for coming matchups.
“Seeing what their tendencies are, how they play, different formations and personnel [and] being able to predict what they’re gonna do before they do it is really important to the game,” sophomore quarterback Aidan Sayin said.
Once their meetings and film reviews are over, it’s time for the Quakers to hit the turf of Franklin Field for two hours.
For each practice, the coaching staff prepares priorities and goals that they want to accomplish based on their prior performance and upcoming matchups. Some practices, the team will focus on weight training. Others, they will focus more on running through drills and practices on the field.
“Every practice is unique in itself. [Every practice] is a goal that you’re trying to get done as you’re in your preparation,” coach Ray Priore said.
This week, with the season opener on the horizon, the team’s goal has been to replicate the intensity and pace of their first game. And this is thanks to the scout teams, who supplied the squad with the requisite knowledge on how best to prepare for the Colgate Raiders on Saturday, Sept. 17.
The Quakers use a combination of drills to fine-tune the skills of each specific position group. In one drill, the running backs go up against the most dangerous opponent: trash cans. The coaching staff sets up trash cans and has the running backs run through them. While they run through, the coaches knock down the trash cans, forcing the running backs to have to cut through them.
“It gets you primed, gets you ready to make plays,” Flowers said.
Meanwhile, positions like the quarterback focus on the more mental aspect of the game. They work through their fundamentals like going through reads, timing, and steps.
Some drills, it’s simulating the intensity by having players go head-to-head against each other in a drill called two minute.
“You put the ones against the ones,” Sayin said, referring to the first-string starters as the ones. “You got less than two minutes on the clock, and you [have] to go quick. Everyone’s on the sideline yelling, screaming, cheering.”
The drill invokes the type of high energy and excitement no one would expect to see on a college campus on a Wednesday morning. But it’s the same type of energy that the Quakers will use to carry with them long after the practices are over.
The Quakers are only on the field for two hours. They wrap up before noon to give the players time to get dressed, grab lunch, and head off for their afternoon classes.
The players take time to go through their post-practice treatment for about an hour. As position groups, they all get together to do their foam rolls while their coaches give them a run down. And once they get back into the training room, they have a myriad of options: ice baths, contrast baths, recovery bikes, and recovery boots. The array of options ensures that the players can stay on the field throughout the whole season and at their best performance.
And then, after an afternoon of classes and schoolwork, the coaches and players get ready each night to do it all again the next morning.