Between summer workouts and preseason training camp, college football players typically have about three months to prepare for a season.
Pac-12 coaches would be happy to get half of that time this year, given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three Pac-12 head football coaches, including Colorado’s Karl Dorrell, participated in a webinar with media on Tuesday. It was the second of four sessions this week with all the coaches. Joining Dorrell was Jimmy Lake of Washington and Kyle Whittingham of Utah.
While sports have been shut down for the past two months and there is no definitive timetable for the start of the season, the three coaches Tuesday said there has been a consensus about time needed to prepare players for games.
“We’ve talked as coaches in the conference,” Whittingham said. “I think the sentiment is pretty much six weeks would be a minimum. I think that’s something we could live with. If we’re presented with less than that, we’ll have to adjust accordingly.”
Dorrell said he would prefer an eight-week period – four weeks of strength and conditioning before a four-week camp – but understands that’s not likely.
“I don’t think we’re going to get anything close to that (eight weeks),” he said. “Given the circumstances of this season and what we’re dealing with, I think all of us coaches feel whatever time they give us, we’ll be appreciative of it and make the most of it.”
There has been discussion at the Pac-12 and national levels about playing conference-only schedules and eliminating non-conference play. Coaches in the Monday and Tuesday webinars said it’s too early to know what the season will look like, but Dorrell said, “We still want to play as many games as we can and I think we would do it with whatever time frame they give us to do it.”
A major hurdle to starting the season or starting preseason workouts is the stay-in-place orders around the country. Each state has different orders in places, so it’s possible that Colorado, for example, is opened up before Washington or California, but the coaches don’t want different start dates for preseason camps.
“It would be great if the whole NCAA would make a blanket rule for the whole nation of when we would start,” Lake said.
Summer workouts could be different, however.
Whittingham said there has been discussion about the state of Utah allowing workout facilities to open with small groups by June 1.
“That’s still a pretty fluid situation,” he said. “If we are all able to get back in the weight room June 1, even on a limited basis, that would be great, but that remains to be seen.”
For summer workouts, Whittingham and Dorrell both believe that not all states need to be in concert with their regulations regarding facilities.
“I don’t believe players that have the opportunity to train, that it should be withheld from them,” Whittingham said. “There’s imbalance and inequities all across the board in the NCAA. Nothing’s really equal. I would hate to see athletes just sitting around that you could be training and getting ready for the season just because other places aren’t quite yet to that point.”
Currently, coaches and staff are unable to supervise virtual workouts. Dorrell said that if some schools are able to conduct in-person workouts, the NCAA should alter its guidelines and allow coaches in other states to supervise virtual workouts, helping to level the playing field a bit.
Whenever the teams do come back, there could be situations where certain players don’t participate because of underlying health issues or travel restrictions. All three coaches were in agreement that they would put the health and safety of their players and staff as the top priority in those cases.
“If someone has an issue with an underlying condition or getting back here, we’re going to deal with that appropriately,” Lake said. “It’s safety first for all of our personnel here.”
Like CU, Washington and Utah have to replace their starting quarterbacks.
Former South Carolina starter Jake Bentley transferred to Utah, where he will compete with Texas transfer Cameron Rising and Drew Lisk for the job to replace Tyler Huntley.
“We got a glimpse of the three quarterbacks that are battling for the job,” said Whittingham, whose team had three spring practices before the COVID-19 shutdown. “Come fall camp, whenever that transpires, we’ve got to get that narrowed down to two right away. Ideally two weeks out from the opener, we’ll decide on a guy and go from there.”
Lake has to replace Jacob Eason. Sophomore Jacob Sirmon and freshmen Dylan Morris and Ethan Garbers will compete for the job. Combined, they have thrown three college passes – all by Sirmon.
“I think they’re all talented, they’re all hungry,” Lake said. “I think they’re all competitive young athletes. I know they’re excited to learn the offense and get out there and compete.”
Lake is the only coach in the Pac-12 with no previous head coaching experience, but he’s been on Washington’s staff for six years, including the last two as defensive coordinator. Lake believes that helps the transition from former coach Chris Petersen. “(The players) know me, they know my personality. In that regard, there’s a lot of positives there,” he said. … Utah led the Pac-12 with seven players taken in last month’s NFL Draft (nobody else had more than four). The Utes have had 39 players drafted since 2010. “That’s a big selling point to recruits,” Whittingham said. “Obviously recruits coming out of high school, they want an education and they want a chance to play in the NFL. We try to let them know there’s a great opportunity for that if they come to Utah.”