With spring around the corner, college football fans have already been deprived of their favorite sport for almost two months. Luckily, college football teams around the nation are getting ready to hold their annual spring practices in the coming months.
The NCAA has enacted strict rules dictating spring practice, including allowing teams a maximum of 15 official sessions (some contact, some non-contact) which are usually concluded with the Spring football game. These 15 practices must be held within a 34-day timespan not counting spring break and final exams, so the practices can technically span a month and a half to two months if coaches plan them accordingly. Teams are only allowed to have full 11-on-11 scrimmages three times within this practice window, the final of which is the aforementioned game.
Spring football games are much different than a competitive game. A team’s offense scrimmages its own defense in what is mostly a media and school spirit event. Scoring is completely different, allowing the defense to earn points based on turnovers, stops on third down and similar factors. Quarterbacks typically wear non-contact jerseys, and additionally, most players are cautious when tackling because they do not want to injure their own teammates. Furthermore, coaches are conservative with showing too much of their playbook and scheming to avoid upcoming opponents in the fall being able to study the tape of the game and draw meaningful conclusions. In essence, any new concepts will be masked.
Tech’s game is scheduled for April 20 at 7 p.m. in Bobby Dodd Stadium, and admission will be free to all fans. So why should you go to a game that has no bearing on our upcoming season? After fans witnessed a season of poor defensive play calling and coaching, their complaints were finally gratified with the firing of previous defensive coordinator Ted Roof. One of the most exciting aspects of the game will be the debut of newly-hired defensive coordinator Nate Woody. Whether significant improvements or changes have already been implemented remains uncertain, but if you are a fan who was tired of watching us give up big play after big play in the fourth quarter last season, chances are you are eager to find out.
Another important reason to attend the game is to support our team. After a rather disappointing 5-6 season, showing our team support would go a long way in maintaining a positive morale. Top football programs boast a high attendance at their Spring football games (Ohio State’s game drew in a 100,000 person audience in 2016) that propel the team into the rest of the offseason with confidence and positivity. With the sheer amount of talent the Jackets’ squad has on both sides of the ball, confidence can go a long way in deciding the outcome of next season.
After all, that is our role as fans: to fill the stands and cheer the team on. A sellout is too much to hope for, but decent attendance at a game where fans will begin to see position battles play out and overarching narratives for the fall take shape seems reasonable.
Unfortunately, despite fans’ excitement over one of Tech’s best recruitment classes in the last decade, incoming freshmen will not be taking part in this game as they are still in high school and can therefore not practice with the team. After these freshmen do join the team this upcoming summer, expect some changes to the lineup that will debut on April 20, especially on the defensive side of the ball in which this year’s incoming class is rich.
All in all, the spring football game is the last taste of college football fans will get for the next few months. Similar to preseason games in the NFL, the outcome of the game will have no direct impact on Tech’s season, but fans showing their support may have an indirect one. With the exciting offseason that the Jackets have had with coaching changes, the spring football game is bound to be exciting, even if the schemes are vanilla, the hits are not quite as hard as usual and we will have to wait for nearly five months before the hard work translates into wins and losses on the football field.