At the helm of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference’s reigning football champion, Shawn Lutz has become accustomed to pulling all-nighters doing his job. When the head coach does get a chance to sleep, however, he does so soundly, knowing that his program is not the only one not on campus for spring practice.
Right now, Lutz’ team should be carrying out their 15 spring practices, a good deal of which are in pads, and installing any new facets of the offense or defense. Typically, three scrimmages take place, including the Green and White game. Spring, Lutz says, is when starting jobs are won.
He feels that these practices are instrumental in helping develop redshirts from last season.
“If you’re not in the two-deep, you usually are going to help in other ways [throughout the season],” Lutz said about young players who play scout team. “That was going to be their chance in the spring to show us that they could play at a high level. They didn’t get that.”
Now, Lutz thinks that the incoming freshmen and the players who redshirted in their first year are on the same page in learning the system.
The Rock does not dwell on the fact that, rather than one-on-one tackling drills, players and coaches are peering at one another though laptop screens. Of course, the team wanted spring football, Lutz said. But he does not want it to sound as if he is complaining.
“I feel worse, honestly, for some of my coaching friends in the spring sports that didn’t get to have a season,” Lutz said. “We at least got to have our season. They didn’t. I couldn’t even imagine putting so much time, effort, sweat, and tears into it [and not getting to finish out]. It’s just sad. But we all understand why we’re at this point.”
Moving forward through this crisis, Lutz wants accountability in the classroom and players to stay in shape for their report to Slippery Rock for camp, which the head coach says is scheduled for Aug. 10.
For now, the team’s staff and players are taking part in Zoom meetings. The coaching staff has meetings on Mondays and Fridays. Every position coach reaches out to their players throughout the week for updates on grades and fall registration.
“We’re really staying busy throughout the day, just taking care of our guys and making sure any needs or concerns that they have, that they’re going to be okay,” Lutz said.
Still, these meetings can not do the job in properly teaching players the ins and outs of a playbook.
“Some people learn better practically, when it’s face-to-face and you get to see the person and ask questions and acquire the information,” Lutz said.
The coaches have also implemented a system of “leaders by position” that identifies an accountable player at each position to lead group texts. Although workouts are voluntary as of now, Scott Morrison, the team’s athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach, holds voluntary Zoom meetings each week.
The hardest thing for Lutz, he said, is the absence of real-time athletic competition. To fill the void, he has been watching Netflix, namely the second season of the CW’s All-American.
“When you’re home, there’s not even any sports on TV to watch,” he said. “I’d watch anything right now. I’d watch golf, NASCAR, bowling, and there’s nothing on. Re-runs of sports events are getting kind of old because you know all the outcomes.”
Lutz is optimistic that, rather than watch streaming services, he, his staff, and his players will have football this fall.
“Whatever the new normal is,” he said, “we’ve got to be ready to go.”