It was while walking off the Finley Stadium turf, before he even had processed the just-completed Blue/Gold spring game two weeks ago, that University of Tennessee at Chattanooga football coach Russ Huesman began grousing.
Having just completed the allowed 15 days of spring practice, Huesman already was dreading the dead period of his staff having limited contact with their players.
"This is the time we talk about every year that I HATE!" Huesman said, his voice rising to punctuate his point. "I can't enjoy summers. I haven't had a good summer in the last five years."
But Huesman's dislike for the next fews months should lessen this year because of a new rule the NCAA passed last October that allows coaches to be present for eight hours of strength and conditioning work per week, over an eight-week period. Coaches also now are allowed to sit in on video review sessions with players for up to two of the allotted hours.
That means that for up to eight hours each week, coaches can now be in the weight room during summer workouts and watch video with players. Previously, from the time spring practice ended until preseason camp began, coaches were not allowed to do either.
"It's big," Huesman said this week. "College football coaches have been talking about this for a long time. Basketball has had it for a while, but for football not to have the ability to be around their guys after the spring, in my mind, has been totally uncalled for.
"In the past, kids could walk in our office and say, 'Hey, Coach, let's watch some film together,' and we couldn't do it. We literally couldn't be in the room while they're watching film, and our strength coach couldn't even report back to us about who was lifting or who he hadn't seen in a week or so. That always made me anxious and nervous during the summer. Now if somebody isn't there, the position coach will know what's going on and why, so I don't think I'll be as bad."
The new rule not only should make players more accountable for offseason workouts but, Huesman believes, also will give coaches more chance to serve as positive influences and reinforcement to prevent off-the-field issues that can come up with 18-22-year-olds at any program.
"Just the fact of having the ability to walk in the weight room and be around our kids is huge," Huesman said. "You know when they're lifting, so we know to be there to talk with them and see how they're doing. We're not going to make it so overbearing for the players. If a kid comes in and tells us their parents are going out of town on vacation, we understand that, and the same goes for our staff. But I'm always going to have at least two [coaches] in the office like we always have to be around to check in on the kids."
The first four weeks of summer workouts will begin in late May before the second summer school semester begins, but the second half of the workouts will take place while most of the team already would be on campus for classes.
The Mocs will report for preseason camp on July 29. Six of their heralded incoming freshmen will be on campus a week before camp begins.
Once the team's mandatory summer workouts end, team leaders such as junior quarterback Jacob Huesman will be in charge of organizing pass-catching workouts as well as seven-on-seven drills. One rule that remains is that coaches cannot be present any time players work out with a football during the summer.
"That's the part of offseason stuff that is still voluntary and we can't be around for that, but you hope the guys are dedicated to that, and I believe they will be," Coach Huesman said. "I just like the fact we can be around them and they'll see us in the weight room and around the film room some this summer. I think it's a real positive for college football."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.
Stephen has covered local sports in the tri-state area for more than 24 years, having been with the Times Free Press since its inception, and has been an assistant sports editor since 2005. Stephen is among the most decorated writers in the TFP’s newsroom, winning numerous state, regional and national writing awards, including seven in 2013 and a combined 12 in the last two years. He was named one of the top 10 sports writers ...