August 29, 2003

Football Begins Practice

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More than 100 Cornell gridders and the Red coaching staff, led by third-year head coach Tim Pendergast, held their first official practice on Aug. 20 on Schoellkopf Field in hopes of bettering their record (4-6, 3-4 Ivy) from a season ago. While other collegiate football programs from across the country have either played or will play this coming weekend, Cornell is still in the first stages of camp and has almost a full month before its season opener against Bucknell on Sept. 20.

“We’re still in what we refer to as installation,” Pendergast said. “We’re still installing. This coming week will sort of be the final week of installation, then we’ll scrimmage Ithaca College on Sept. 6, and right after the Ithaca College Scrimmage we’ll focus in on Bucknell.”

This year’s practices are slightly different than those of recent seasons, as new NCAA regulations have placed limits on collegiate squads. As a result of the rules, Cornell was limited to just one three-hour practice session per day and players practiced without pads for the first week of camp. While the players and staff might be spending less time on the field, however, they’re using that time much more efficiently.

“Once you get on the field, you can’t waste any time, and I think they do a good job. Everything is detailed to the last minute. We’ve got to get out and get a lot of work done because we don’t have the luxury of having another practice everyday,” co-captain senior defensive lineman Kevin Rooney said. “If you get on the field and you waste that chance, you’re not getting better. Everyday is a win or a loss and our coaches are doing their best to make sure we win.”

“He’s obviously pushing us,” co-captain senior quarterback Mick Razzano said. “There’s no rest for the weary, there’s no time to spare, so all of us have been working hard across the ball.”

To comply with the new regulations, Pendergast and staff have implemented a new practice format. Under the new plan, the 100-man roster is split into two groups, with each half taking approximately 85 minutes on the practice field. After the first 85-minute session, the entire roster competes in special teams drills before the second session begins. According to Pendergast, this new process has given many of his players a chance to shine and an opportunity for the coaches to evaluate new talent.

“I think it was particularly beneficial to the freshmen and newcomers. They couldn’t hide behind the returnees anymore. These guys had an opportunity to get a lot of reps. They weren’t waiting in line,” Pendergast said. “Therefore it allowed us to get a really good look at the newcomers, earlier than we ever have before.

“I think the benefits far outweigh the other side of the scale because of what we were able to achieve,” he said.

Long before the Red took a step on Schoellkopf Field, however, many of the players had already put in long hours of work. With more players participating in voluntary summer workouts than ever before, the gridders entered camp ready.

“A lot of the guys are excited because we had a great summer,” Rooney said. “Everybody is in the best shape of their lives.”

“When you have 35 guys here for the majority of the summer and about 45 to 50 of them here for at least a couple of weeks, the competition is much more intense,” Pendergast said. “I think it stands to reason that there are more players who report to camp in tip-top-shape. When you say that we’ve had more players here than every before, who have gone through those three stages, we have a better core nucleus to start with.”

Archived article by Alex Ip