Mike Casazza: WVU takes advantage of new summer rules

MORGANTOWN — Much has been made of the way the NCAA eased up a little bit in December and gave football programs what they wanted. Teams across the country are now allowed to make eight hours of workouts a week for eight weeks in the summer mandatory, and the coaches are allowed to participate.

In the past, workouts were voluntary and coaches couldn’t have any contact with the players. Starting June 1, though, the rules changed and the peculiar roadblocks that once stood senselessly in the way of offseason progress were removed.

What’s perhaps more interesting, at least for the purpose of this conversation in this pocket of the country, is another change the NCAA made. A dead period in the recruiting cycle, a window when a coach can have no person-to-person contact with a prospective student-athlete, was added for June 30-July 13.

“They put it in there,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said, “so coaches would go on vacation.”

There are times we wonder if the NCAA has a brain, but more and more it looks like the governing body has a heart. It’s made headlines this summer by suggesting and approving reform to take better care of student-athletes during and after their playing days. There’s been a concern for a while about the hours coaches put in and what an individual’s willingness means to competition and to the human condition.

“What was happening was all these high school kids would tour everywhere in the summer and a coach would get a call on July 3 or July 5 saying, ‘I’m popping into town. I need someone to show me around,’” Holgorsen said. “We had no choice but to show them around and coaches weren’t getting any downtime, weren’t getting a vacation.”

The dead period was intended to lift that burden. The eight weeks in the summer return that weight to the conscience of all college coaches.

There are nine weeks between the start of the new eight-week window and the start of preseason camp at your favorite school. If a head coach uses all eight, he leaves just one week for leisure.

“We kicked it around as a staff: ‘OK, recruiting is dead those two weeks, but being here with the kids is kind of important. Do we need to be here the four weeks in July, too?’” Holgorsen said. “In the end, what we didn’t want was for Aug. 1 to roll around and the coaches didn’t have any vacation time and we’ve all been around the players too much and everyone is sick of each other.”

So the Mountaineers had workouts last week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday were for strength and conditioning. Tuesday and Thursday were for team activities, individual instruction — “Nothing with a ball,” Holgorsen said, in accordance with the rules — and watching film.

The schedule is the same this week, a week that includes nine scholarship freshmen who enrolled for the new summer session that started Monday: Amanii Brown, Yodny Cajuste, William Crest, Jaleel Fields, Drayvon Henry, Tyree Owens, Lamar Parker, Xavier Preston and Walter Rauterkus.

That schedule will be the same the next two weeks.

WVU will then break for the two weeks covered by the dead period and do two more weeks at the end of July before having the ninth and final week open before camp starts.

“We could do all eight if we wanted to, but I want guys to take vacation so by the time Aug. 1 rolls around they’re fresh and energized and ready to go,” Holgorsen said. “We’re going to be with them so much in August that I just want them to take a little down time in July.

“But if we wanted to, we could have been here those two weeks in July and do the things we’ll do these four weeks in June. I just don’t think that’s necessary. I think that break is going to be important.”

Six weeks is still a long time. It’s still a valuable commodity for a team that has 55 players who have played in a Big 12 game, which is 22 more than it had a season ago, and for a team that has a situation at quarterback.

Clint Trickett hasn’t been cleared to do football stuff, but he can still do a lot mentally and tighten up the slack he played with last season when he was on campus for the summer and couldn’t have any contact with the coaches.

Junior college transfer Skyler Howard made healthy strides during spring football. The six weeks make sure the edges receive the attention they need and won’t go dull. Crest is going to get a shot when camp begins in August and he can use the eight weeks to make up a lot of ground that for now stands between him and Paul Millard, Trickett and Howard.

“It’s mental reps and just watching it and learning it and understanding signals and understanding terminology,” Holgorsen said.

“You can have your video playbook and look at it by yourself, but it’s just not the same unless it’s coming from a coach.”

Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mikec@dailymailwv.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.charlestondailymail.com/wvu. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecasazza.

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