The next day was very tough because it is never a good time after a defeat but more so when the season is not going anywhere near planned. It places pressure on the coaches because this is their job and the school wants to win games. In the end, it is still a business and any company will want their business to be at its best. I learned how to communicate and be comfortable in the office while being productive and helping anyone who needs assisance. Silence at times can be the best method but productive silence can bring comfort to the office. There were many meetings and film time but there is also preparation for the following week. Once a game is complete, preparation for the next games always begin immediately. Film brought me more on the defense this week in learning the different secondary coverages in depth but also recognizing more how teams try to disguise them. Many teams try to shift out of zone coverages by sending a blitz or playing to a certain weakness of the opponents or the weak side of the field. Typically the Safety and the middle linebacker can give clues to either running a cover 0,1,2,3,4 or 6. I learned how to view feet and hips more because in college, the players are not as gifted in hiding what direction they will be going in as they are in the professional level. Many coordinators use a variety of disguises to confuse the offense. The first process is evaluating the previous game of the opponents, which was a defeat against Florida International. UTEP enters the game next week with a record of 2-4 and currently in 5th place in the West Division of Conference USA. The team will depart on Friday and the game is on Saturday at 7pm.
Game day has arrived and we first set up the recruiting room and the staff begins to talk general football until we have to begin checking in high school coaches and recruits. I had very intriguing conversations with some recruits as they entered but the most memorable, were with the coaches. Many of the coaches were very inspiring and supportive. I did meet a coach who is from my area and he began to talk to me about some of the student athletes he has which really shows how many coaches do really care to help their athletes. I stayed till half-time assisting with compliance on checking in our guests and I had a great conversation about how he attained the position in compliance and if he enjoyed his position. I like to communicate with other people who are in similar fields to learn more because there are endless opportunities for someone to attain a position in a University. Next, I assisted in setting up our recruiting room for the student athletes on the FAU roster who do not dress with half time snacks and drinks. We also set up the players lockers with hydration supplements for after the game is over. It is very important to hydrate after any activity especially in Florida. I got to finish watching the game in the second half and the game did not go well for the Owls. Marshall was playing well and doing all the things needed to leave Florida victorious. The final score was 33-17 in favor of Marshall. This brought FAU’s record to 1-5 and in 6th place in the East Division of Conference USA. There was a feeling of disappointment from the coaches and the players but there was still plenty of games left to play. The most important mental aspect I have learned by listening to the coaches on the sideline and after the games is to erase what happened and focus on the next play or game. It sounds easy but it does require a strong psychological mind to easily move on.
The Marshall Thundering Herd comes to town and it is also just past mid-season for high schools. This time frame is perfect to check mid-season statistics and film for commits and for student athletes who are on the border of being offered. Hudl is one of the most important tools in being able to follow high school prospects and it is mind boggling how some prospects do not update their profiles. This point in the season is also great to check social media and checking for potential character flaws with frustration from prospects. I also got to experience more with compliance as I was there for one of the meetings to understand even more of what is allowed on game days in the recruiting room and what is not to make sure there is no confusion or penalties. I also got to learn more about the concussion protocol and how serious the school and NCAA are about the protocol. I have read about it before but the specific details were very enlightening, especially with the importance all levels are placing on the subject. After the meetings, I began to prepare lanyards and organize the all the check-in sheets. I got to enjoy dinner with the team this game which feels like I am making more progression but I decided not to stay with the team. I am learning quite a bit from every aspect of the game on the field and in preparation and this is the last game I will be preparing for. The team has another home game left against FIU but it did fall on Halloween and I have a promise to keep to my children. I have been working hard and this year in my eyes, this will be the final year I will have the opportunity to be with my children on Halloween because I plan to have a full time job next season where my dedication to the program is above everything.
The day after brings more meetings and film breakdown of not only the Rice game but Marshall. The film work is highly important because it helps recognize where the weaknesses are on the team and also where the let downs in the second half and fourth quarter are coming from. I begin to wonder if it is play calling or players just running out of energy at the end of the game. Fatigue is a common problem with most athletes in Florida but it takes proper conditioning and discipline for athletes to weather the humidity and heat. That also plays into an advantage when schools or teams from other states, especially northern states visit Florida. The biggest challenge is keeping everyone focused and while I was listening to the staff communicates with the players; I learned how important the tone was and the focus on correcting mistakes. Some coach’s admitted to their mistakes and others pointed out where the players were making the mistakes. They also noted how some practice changes needed to occur and energy level needed to be increased. I always learned you play a game like you practice. Defeat is never easy to deal with but in football there is a bond of trust and brotherhood that can help any team grow from a defeat. If the bond or brotherhood is not present, it can damage the locker room. The coaches are working together and placing their strategy in place for the following week against Marshall. I got to learn more about the offensive line this week in film. I learned about their base, feet, elbows and hands, shoulder placement, head and neck extension and playing physical but smart is vital. Depending on the play, there are different gap assignments and double teaming but workings up the field to the second and third level during running block schemes. Maintaining positional leverage is important for an offensive lineman. Another long day in the books and I feel like I am gaining some trust around the office. I did come with experience at the high school level and professional arena level but college is different. These long days reassure me how much I want to be involved in college football and one day win a National Championship.
Florida Atlantic is favored over Rice and playing at home also gives FAU an edge. Both teams share the same mascot, Owl, so it draws the attention as the Owls game. The check in process for the recruits and high school coaches runs smoothly and I do get to talk to some recruits as they enter. A list is always given of the highest prospects but I recall many of the names just by doing prep work and watching game film to evaluate high school players. This game is not drawing as much of a crowd but that happens from time to time. That does not take any focus away from the players or the staff in making sure the game is played to the best of their abilities. I was able to sit in the pre-game speech this week and learned some new strategies on how to motivate players and keep them focused on this game only and not the past of future games. There weren’t any new recruits that attended this game but I did start to recognize more of them as they approached me for check in. I did have the opportunity to meet a scout for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at this game because he was not sure where to go for check in. I assisted him but he also learned more about his schedule and the demand the team has of him. It was reassuring to me that I would prefer college because I do enjoy being able to see my children more but I also want to be able to impact the lives of our younger generation. The game is going very well and Florida Atlantic goes into half time tied 14-14 but gains a large lead with 13minutes left in the 4th quarter, 26-14. There is a long rain delay which stops the game for almost two hours and the team finally returns to complete the game. During the rain delay, I just sat in the recruiting room helping the players who did not dress to play with snacks and just sat around talking. The coaches were in the locker room coaching and reviewing items with the team but we were not allowed to join them. The final quarter did not go well and Rice pulled a victory of 27-26 by scoring the go ahead touchdown with just over two minutes left in the game. It is a tough loss for many reasons but the next week brings another conference game against Marshall. The team still has 6 conference games to play and has a great chance to play for a conference title.
A victory over Charlotte and a bye week brings us to the next game against Rice. The day before the game have similar preparations and organizing all the events for game day to ensure everything pans out smoothly. The greatest challenge is yet to come and that happens on game day. The team was very focused and rested following the bye week and it also gave the team an extra week to prepare. The game against Rice is important because it is a conference game. The best way to salvage a season is to win the conference because it places you into a Bowl game. Though a National Championship is always the goal, Bowl games are exciting for the fans and a great experience for the staff and athletes. Bowl games also draw extra revenue to the program which can help build practice facilities or upgrade any equipment or any need for the school or program. I helped in all the usual preparations but I did have some more hands on help which included me running some errands for the coaches and operations manager. I am always willing to help but I did learn more about the team’s credit card. I never knew how the expenses worked because that was not in my department but I learned some on how the card is managed and how the school is able to manage the use of the card. All the expenses have to be recorded and all receipts are required. The team continued their usual days in the hotel the night before but I did learn the coaches are not allowed to use the team card for personal expenses and are required to place a personal credit card for their own expenses in the rooms. This leaves no room for error or misuse which I find very intelligent.