Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Bye-bye bye week
By Ryan Schulz - When members of Vanderbilt’s football team suit up for the their season opener on Sept. 5 against Western Carolina, they will be embarking on a grueling stretch in which they will be playing the first of 12 games in 12 consecutive weeks.
The Commodores are the only team in the SEC that will play 12 straight games and one of just 15 programs in the country without a single bye week between games. Nine of the team’s without a bye week hail from the Big Ten, which has traditionally concluded its conference schedule the weekend before Thanksgiving.
Not having a break in the midst of a difficult schedule was certainly not done by choice of the football staff.
“I’m not real happy about it,” Bobby Johnson said. “I don’t think there’s anything anybody could do to avoid it. We certainly would have if we could have. In fact, we tried to fix it a little bit last year when we found out it would work out that way, but we just couldn’t get it done.”
The staff would definitely covet a week off, but not having a bye week will be nothing new to Vanderbilt’s coaching staff. Just three years ago, Vanderbilt didn’t have the luxury of a bye week in 2006 when the team finished 4-8 overall. No other SEC school has gone without a bye week since 2006.
Before the 2006 season, Vanderbilt had at least one bye week in every season dating back to 1955 when the Commodores defeated Auburn in the Gator Bowl. It wasn’t until after the 1955 season that bye weeks became a normal occurrence in college football.
Without a bye week, finding the extra time to recover from injuries and the typical dings and bruises that accompany a season will be one of the biggest challenges facing Vanderbilt in 2009. “We do have to be careful with how we work guys during the week and watch their legs,” Johnson said. “We have to make sure we don’t work guys too hard.”
To make it through the season, Vanderbilt will rely heavily on the conditioning work that took place this summer under the watch of speed, strength and conditioning director John Sisk.
“During the summer we lift five days a week,” speed, strength and conditioning director John Sisk said. “The NCAA gives us eight hours a week to work with them and we take advantage of every hour we get. It was a very productive summer with a lot of energy.”
Johnson hopes that the success experienced in summer conditioning will help limit the amount of conditioning work needed during the preseason and regular season.
“The great thing nowadays with everybody being able to go to summer school, especially your freshmen, is that they get in shape during the summer,” Johnson said. “Then we teach them the playbook and the game plan in preseason practice, so it's not that emphasis of getting them in shape that happens in the preseason practices any more. They're in shape. Then during the season, you’ve got to be smart about any kind of contact that you have during the week and the length of your practices.”