Long before a lot of us ever touched a pigskin, Willie Fritz was coaching football. His coaching career began in 1982 as a student assistant at Pittsburg State, and that led to a number of high school and college positions before he landed his first head coaching job in 1993.
The college football landscape was much different back then, long before where the game sits today after the Ivy League became the first conference to ban full contact practices during the season. Fritz, in his first season at Tulane after a few years at Georgia Southern, noted at his spring game presser yesterday that he used to be a full-contact, “blood and guts” type of coach years ago, but he had evolved away from tha, noting that much of their tackling drills at Tulane during spring ball will be done with dummies and pop-ups.
Fritz is a believer that you can create a tough, physical football team without tackling during practice. One of Fritz’s goals for his first spring ball at Tulane is to get as many guys out of spring practices as healthy as possible.
“We’re a lot like the Saints and everybody in that we have so many good players, but if you get five or six guys hurt or injured in the same position in particular, you’ve got some issues and some problems.”
“There’s an art to getting your guys as physical as you want them to be, as tough as you want them to be, but also try to keep them out of harms way.”
“That’s something that I’ve changed over the years. I was a blood-and-guts practice guy 20 years ago too when it wasn’t a good practice if you weren’t tackling in the practice. These guys are bigger, faster, stronger now and you want to make sure that they can play for you on Saturday.”
Fritz’s comments come about a week after Stanford’s David Shaw passionately explained why it is impossible to build tough teams without tough, physical practices. Well according to Fritz, it can be done, but you’ve got to be an artist of sorts to do it.