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Penguins can benefit from proposed move

New coach OK with more practice

The NCAA recently released a proposal that would give football teams an extra two weeks to hold walk-throughs and conditioning, and no one could use it more than Youngstown State.

The proposal is to be voted on this week and is expected to pass. That’s good news to first-year YSU coach Doug Phillips, who was hired in February and only had a few weeks of in-person time with the Penguins.

“If this proposal goes through and gets voted, it just means we get an extra two weeks to get together and kind of use it as our spring ball,” said Phillips, who added that there won’t be any hitting or scrimmage-like situations. “We can at least introduce the offense on the field in walk-throughs, because that’s what it would be, walk-throughs and meetings.”

The pandemic eliminated spring practices as well as the allotted summer time that coaches can spend with players, so the proposal will help make up for some of the lost time. Since it has not yet been voted upon, there is not a schedule for when the “practices” will take place, but coaches would have a total of six hours of unpadded walk-throughs and meetings per week.

Phillips said he anticipates the extra time to come two weeks prior to training camp, which begins Aug. 7 for the Penguins.

“It’s more mental than anything else,” said Phillips of what he hopes to gain from the practices. “You’re only allowed to be on the field for an hour. It’s not full-go, it’s not even a run, it’s just more mental (preparation) and meetings. (They’ve been without practice for) four months, so I think they’ll be itching to get out on the field, whether it’s a walk-through, meetings and learning live what we’ve been doing via Zoom the last couple of months.”

Phillips and the coaching staff have done their best to stay engaged during the quarantine.

They have been using different technological platforms to hold meetings with players. That has allowed them to decipher some of the new terminology. They’ve also explained different formations and how they would adjust to varying looks of the opponent.

More recently, they’ve added simulations to the virtual meetings, where the coaches show plays or formations and then ask the players what their roles and responsibilities are in those situations. Some of the players were able to get back on campus at the beginning of June and take part in voluntary workouts, where only trainers and strength coaches are allowed to instruct.

The walk-throughs, Phillips hopes, will be another step forward in what has been an odd offseason.

“The proposal we got is you’re allowed an hour meeting a day and an hour walk-through a day,” Phillips explained. “You can’t exceed six hours of walk-throughs or six hours of meetings in a week, then you throw that on top of their strength and conditioning.

“So, your focus would probably be more on their strength and conditioning, but you can at least have a piece where you can start working on football. That will be beneficial for us, especially not having spring football to be able to go out on the field and line them up and walk through your defense and offense.”

The biggest goal, Phillips said, isn’t necessarily about football.

There has to be a certain chemistry within the team to allow for success. While they’ve spent plenty of time talking and learning on computers and cell phones, the team cohesion is best built in person.

“You’ve got six weeks to really build a team,” said Phillips, referring to the extra two weeks and then preseason camp. “That’s more important than anything else — that brotherhood you build in the locker room with your student-athletes, who you haven’t been around since March. How quickly can you build that love for each other? How quickly can you build that selflessness for each other?

“Outside of the team, too,” he added, “is how do you build how you handle success or adversity? You didn’t go through a spring ball where you see when something bad happens how you react to it.”

Camp is a bit shorter this year for Phillips, he said.

It’s usually a little more than two weeks long, but school starts on Aug. 17 (camp begins Aug. 7), so the camp will only consist of about eight days of practices. The Penguins open the season Sept. 5 at Akron.

Phillips said he can’t concern himself with what’s out of his control. He and his staff have stayed focused on the present.

“We covered our preseason practice schedules, and we’re continuing having meetings with our players and trying to do as many simulations with them as we possibly can,” he said. “I’m interested to see, these simulations that we’ve done on Zoom, how does that translate to on the field? We’re going to continue doing that for the next couple of weeks and into July until we get them back on campus.”

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