The NCAA’s demolition of two-a-days caused every staff in college football to revaluate their training camp schedule, some more seriously than others. Most simply moved their start date up to accommodate a greater gap between practice times. That’s what Bob Davie did at New Mexico, but to a greater extreme than anyone else.
The Lobos opened practice July 27 but will not begin the season until Sept. 2. That’s a stretch of 38 days between New Mexico’s first practice and its opening game. By allotting himself such a large swath of time, Davie has done something most of his peers would never consider doing: he encouraged his players to go on vacation.
New Mexico broke camp on Wednesday and will not practice again until Monday, the first day of the fall semester. That stretch of four-and-a-half days — they’ll have to be back in Albuquerque in time for a Sunday night meeting — belongs completely to the players.
“I think it’s a great, great time (for the players),” Davie told the Albuquerque Journal. “We’ve invested a lot of work … and now they get a chance to clearly, clearly re-energize and refresh, because they’re not gonna have school and they’re not gonna have football.
“I’m excited about it. I think it’s kind of unique and something I’m anxious to see how it works out.”
The break serves three purposes.
First, it builds a rhythm into camp. Rather than, say, going off day-practice-off day, or building in breaks of two days at a time, Davie allowed his players and coaches to hunker down and practice almost every day before their halftime break. In fact, New Mexico practiced 18 times in the 21 days between July 27 and Aug. 16.
Second, it allows players to take a true mental and physical break from football, the last they’ll have until their bye week on Oct. 7. Players can take one last extended weekend trip home, rest up in their dorm rooms or simply take their time getting prepared for the fall semester.
Finally, the 4.5-day break gives coaches a chance to take a look at what’s working through the first half in camp and what needs extra work without the assembly line schedule of practice after practice after practice.
There are risks to this schedule, to be sure. The 18 practices-in-21 days schedule could burn the Lobos out before they even get to the break, and the 4.5-day break creates an extra window for trouble to find unoccupied players.
But if this schedule works, if New Mexico rips through September on its way to another successful season, the strategy of breaking one long training camp into two smaller ones will be adopted elsewhere in 2018.