IOWA CITY, Iowa – My first reaction was skepticism after learning that the Iowa football team would switch its practice time from the traditional late afternoon time slot to the morning.
I thought, why bother?
Why change a routine that is so deeply engrained into the Hawkeye football environment?
Why make your players wake up each day at 6 a.m. to practice and then use whatever energy they have left to attend classes?
It just didn’t make sense to me.
It seemed like an over-reaction to adversity, another way, along with the switch at quarterback, to show disgruntled fans that changes were being made as part of the fallout from last season.
After a while, though, I realized that few shared my opinion. Whether it my colleagues, fans or the Iowa players, everybody seemed to think that switching to morning practice once school started was a wise decision.
I figured that many people couldn’t be wrong, so it must be me. I dreaded waking up for anything during college besides lunch, so perhaps my judgment is flawed in this case.
“Obviously, it’s early, but getting up is getting up anyway,” said starting quarterback C.J. Beathard. “But once you’re up, you’re up and ready to go.”
I’m not exactly sure what Beathard meant by that statement, but he’s onboard with the new practice time, which was implemented last week when classes started.
“I like it,” he said. “This is our first week doing this and so far it’s gone well. You get practice done in the morning. You have the day to go to class and you have more meetings at night.
“It gives you more time to watch film on your own. So I like it.”
Now that answer made sense.
If you don’t mind waking up with the birds, the new practice time should be an easy adjustment. The players already wake up early for 11 a.m. kickoffs and it’s not as if they were sleeping in until noon under the old schedule.
The players who don’t like practicing in the morning, assuming there are some, probably are too wise or too programmed to say anything to the media because what would that accomplish?
One of the prevailing themes heading into this season, which starts on Saturday against Illinois State at Kinnick Stadium, is a sense of unification. Since the spring, we’ve heard from the players that the 2015 squad is closer than the 2014 team and has a stronger sense of urgency.
For a player to complain about having to practice in the morning would contradict that.
Perhaps the biggest challenge facing the players is having the daily discipline to get the required eight hours of sleep. In order to do that, it has to be lights out at 10 p.m. because that 6 a.m. wake-up call or the alarm sounding off comes in a hurry.
“I think that’s the big key right now is guys need to go to bed early to get up and perform at practice and get a good day of preparation in,” said senior center Austin Blythe. “We’re getting used to it. It’s going to take some getting used to.
“But last week was good for us; no game and in school. Getting the game-week routine down was big for us.”
Blythe is using his influence as a 290-pound senior, and as one of the best players on the team to get the message across about the importance of getting enough sleep.
“Yeah, kind of,” he said. “But the coaches do a good job of that, too, which is make sure you get your eight hours of sleep. You can stay up until 10 and still get your eight hours.
“And that’s late enough in my opinion. That’s not too early. You can get your sleep. And it’s important for these morning workouts.”
That’s sort of another way of saying that you’ll do it and you’ll like it because the people in charge say you’ll like it.
But that’s okay because following orders and making sacrifices is part of being a college football player.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz also probably will rest easier at night knowing that his players are resting at night under the new schedule.
In the big scheme of things, Iowa’s practice time isn’t a huge deal. There is no way to judge whether it will be effective other than by using the results on the field.
If Iowa defeats Iowa State and wins at least nine games this season, the new practice time would be praised for helping to make it happen.
But if Iowa struggles, the new practice time would be viewed as an unnecessary change for a program that’s beyond repair under Ferentz.
Both perceptions could be wrong, but it wouldn’t matter.
KING OF RETURNS: I usually agree with using the best players whenever and wherever possible, but the decision to make Desmond King Iowa’s top punt and kick returner, to me, seems too risky.
It shows how determined Ferentz is to right the ship in a hurry because he’s taking a huge chance by exposing his star cornerback to vicious hits on special teams.
It also shows that Iowa is lacking when it comes to skill players, as if that’s breaking news.
There is a good chance King will stay healthy and make a huge impact as a return specialist because he is loaded with talent.
You just hope that his talent includes being durable.