FNF Coaches Talk — American Heritage’s Non-Contact Practices, Dabo’s Pregame Routine, Friday Night Football in Texas

Good afternoon, Coaches. We’ve got three stories for you.

1. American Heritage football’s limited-contact practices have led to championships (Aspen Institute)

American Heritage is a football powerhouse in Florida, and the coaching staff might be on to something with its effort to take hitting out of practices.

Most of the Patriots’ drills have a predetermined outcome. The American Heritage running backs take handoffs, make a cut and dash untouched into the end zone as defenders let them go. The offensive linemen largely work on assignments and hand placements while engaged in some limited contact. The linebackers hit sleds and run no-contact drills designed to leverage the ball-carrier.

American Heritage, with six former NFL players on its coaching staff, practices like the pros. These days, NFL teams are allowed only 14 full-contact practices during their 17-week regular season. Patriots head coach Pat Surtain, a three-time Pro Bowl cornerback, estimates American Heritage tackles at practice four times all year – twice in the spring and twice in summer scrimmages.

All of American Heritage’s coaches must take courses in concussion management, handling heat illness and sudden cardiac arrest. Stearns said all coaches practice their venue-specific emergency action plan at least once a year and receive reminders from the athletic trainer during the season.

There’s a plastic ice tub ready on the field or right outside the locker room every day in case of a heat stroke. It’s a minimal cost – ice tubs like this can be purchased for no more than $150 – given that nationally three football players a year on average have died of heat stroke since 1995, most of them high schoolers. Dr. Douglas Casa, executive director of the Korey Stringer Institute, told HBO Real Sports that ice tubs have saved athletes from heat stroke every single time in more than 2,000 cases he has tracked.

What steps have you taken to keep your players feeling healthy and fresh in-season?

2. Forget About Wins: Dabo Swinney’s Value Lies In His Inspiration (Forbes)

Dabo Swinney is three months shy of his 50th birthday. Even so, he spends moments before every kickoff around Clemson, South Carolina sending the already wired crowd of around 80,000 orange-clad screamers into more of a frenzy by outrunning his decades younger Tigers for 30, 40 and 50 yards.

“I mean, (Swinney) runs down that hill really fast, and it’s kind of shocking, but it’s also kind of funny,” Johnson told me Thursday night after his Tigers opened their season at home in defense of their national championship by smashing Georgia Tech 52-14. “It fires us up a lot, because he’s got that same, exact energy every time he does down it, so it gets us going.”

With the band continuing its eternal rounds of Tiger Rag, Swinney moves swiftly down the hill in a controlled run before anybody else, and then he runs like crazy at the bottom along the way to midfield.

From there, the coach greets every one of his players with a high-five as the greatest cheerleader among his peers.

“(Swinney) just makes you believe in things, and it just makes us want to run through a brick wall at times,” Travis Etienne told me after he rushed for 205 yards and three touchdowns against Georgia Tech. “He’s always talking about his faith, which is good for the team. But what really resonates with me is when he says don’t confuse activity with accomplishment.”

What do you do before each game to inspire your players?

3. Mike Leach: Friday is for high school football in Texas (Houston Chronicle)

Friday nights in the fall are sacred for Texas high school football, and Mike Leach tends to agree.

But with television serving as an influencer for kickoff dates and times, it has been commonplace for college games to be played Thursday, Friday, Saturday and even Sunday.

Houston will play at least one game on each of those days this season, including Friday’s AdvoCare Texas Kickoff against No. 20 Washington State at NRG Stadium.

“I’m sort of with Texas on this, Texas has always kind of reserved Friday night games because they think it impinges on high school games,” said Leach, the head coach at Washington State who spent nearly a decade at Texas Tech. “Their thought is, ‘College, you have Saturdays, so why are you playing on Fridays, and high schools deserve Fridays.’ They have a point there that I respect to a certain degree.”

How would you arrange the college football schedule to prevent conflicts for fans who also want to attend high school games?