Mike Schmidt is an emotional guy. He’d be the first one to admit it.
Usually those emotions are more on the side of being excited and upbeat, but sitting in his revamped office just days away from his second training camp as the coach of the UW-La Crosse football team, Schmidt admitted he was antsy.
He was restless and wanted to get camp underway to start laying the foundation for what he believes can be a championship season for the Eagles.
“You always want to make sure you’re organized and have everything taken care of, so that fall camp goes without any distractions,” Schmidt said. “But I’m pretty anxious right now … getting everybody ready to go.”
The 129 players making up the Eagles’ training camp roster report to campus today. Their first practice is scheduled for Friday.
Training camp will be different for UW-L this season as it comes off a 5-5 record in Schmidt’s first year as coach of his alma mater. For starters, the Eagles will practice on Roger Harring Field in the morning, going from 9:15-11:30 a.m. nearly each day for the next two weeks. Schmidt said fans are welcome to come watch the Eagles train.
Shifting practice to the morning gives the team three key advantages, Schmidt said. First, players are freshest in the mornings, and with the NCAA eliminating two-a-day practices, utilizing every minute on the field is more crucial than ever.
“We want their best practice. We want their best energy and effort at practice,” Schmidt said. “If you go in the afternoons, you’ve got meetings and lunch before, and you see guys take naps a lot. We don’t want them to be taking a nap right before they come out to practice.”
Earlier practices also allow coaches to be more efficient in their afternoon and evening film sessions.
“I think so many times in fall camp, you have practice in the afternoon, then dinner and you go right in (to film sessions). Half the time you’re flying blind with your film,” he said. “You’re either watching stuff you don’t need to watch, or you’re not seeing all the things you need to be seeing. For us, we get three hours to prepare the film and get a good, afternoon film session with the guys, and then move on for the next day and next install at night.”
The shift also allows for more flexibility should there be inclement weather.
UW-L has a 105-player roster limit, so there will only need to be 24 cuts before rosters are due to the WIAC and NCAA. That allows Schmidt and his staff to not have particular cut days scheduled during camp.
“We look at it as we don’t have a ton of guys to cut. We’re going to let things play themselves out,” Schmidt said. “With that low a number, if you cut some guys early and get some injuries, you’re painting yourself into a corner that you don’t really have to (be in).”
The Eagles will participate in a joint practice at University of Dubuque at 1 p.m. on Aug. 19, and have a full-team scrimmage on campus against Loras College at 1 p.m. on Aug. 26. The joint practice cannot have live-hitting game situations like the scrimmage can, but will be a good opportunity to get players in one-on-one and group scenarios against an opponent, Schmidt said.