In football, two-a-days come with a few different purposes. One, it allows you to cram a lot of practice into just one day. And two, it shows you during your second practice which players can step up when they are completely beat and tired.
There are some diminishing returns when it comes to two-a-days, however, because the practices may not be as crisp as they need to be. Players are too tired to give the coaches what they want. So how much are you really getting out of that one day?
There are also safety concerns, which is why this spring the NCAA Division I Council eliminated multiple contact practices in a single day during the preseason.
With two-a-days taken out of the equation, those practices needed to be spread across a longer stretch of days, which is why the Buckeyes and every other team began their fall practices earlier than previous years. In fact, thanks to a Thursday night season opener this season, Ohio State had to begin their preseason camp 11 days earlier than their 2016 camp.
And because of that opener at Indiana, Urban Meyer had to change the way he approached at least a portion of camp.
“I just saw the other day there was a proposal going across 25 practices and we’ve had 29,” he said at the outset of camp. “Rarely do you use all 29. So that’s the biggest thing that we’ve spent a lot of time this summer. It’s different when you play a couple preseason games. We are not playing preseason games. We are in the Big Ten Conference, game one. So sometimes I’ll count those games as a chance to get guys ready. We don’t have that luxury this year. This year, you’re in it. So I’d like to think that we’ve always had 27 or 28 practices. So I’m trying to get as close as I can to our routine. We know you need that many practices to get ready.”
The Buckeyes have 28 practices scheduled. What do those days look like? Well, according to the new NCAA rules, they look like this.
“A single day may include a single, three-hour, on-field practice session and a walk-through. During walk-throughs, protective equipment such as helmets and pads can’t be worn, and contact is prohibited. Walk-throughs also can’t include conditioning activities and, in the Football Championship Subdivision, are limited to two hours in length. Three continuous hours of recovery are required between on-field practice and a walk-through. Activities such as meetings, film review, medical treatment and meals are allowed during recovery time.”
While players and coaches weren’t thrilled with the idea of having such a long camp — Meyer didn’t even have the Buckeyes move into the team hotel until after the first few practices — the net benefits are already being seen.
“It’s a completely different schedule,” said cornerbacks coach Kerry Coombs. “It’s the NFL schedule. Our kids, I think the routine is positive. They know what to expect every day. It’s morning meetings, morning practice, rest time, meetings, walk-through. I think our evening walk-throughs have been phenomenal. I think they’re a difference maker for us. So I think we’re actually getting more out of camp than we did when we have two-a-days.”
Players and coaches now actually have more time for meetings each day, which allows for a more rounded teaching approach. And while the purpose was to benefit player safety, player preparation has also been a plus as well.
“It’s just tough,” Coombs said of two-a-days. “Physically it’s harder to recover the next day. And you cut meeting time out and you lose some other things that we’re not losing right now. So right now I think it’s a huge positive.”