Rarely does everyone in college football face a level playing field, but this offseason like no other has every team facing the same issue.
All 130 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision weight rooms are empty. Dining halls are closed. Players are mostly at home with limited equipment or none at all.
Training for the 12-game season is an all-year process, and mass cancellations have forced college teams to become creative in altering their highly regimented weight and nutrition programs during quarantines.
Everyone still is preparing as if the season will begin on time, albeit much differently than in previous years.
“There are lots of ways to skin the cat out there,” Bowling Green coach Scot Loeffler said. “Obviously, you wish you were lifting true weights to generate power, but you’ve got to adapt and adjust and do what you can with what you have.”
Luckily for BG, Loeffler and Falcons strength coach Kevin Tolbert are well-versed in weightless training. Having spent time at Michigan under former strength coach Mike Gittleson, Loeffler, a former Wolverines quarterback, said he and Tolbert saw the value in strenuous exercises that didn’t need weights.
Years later, Bowling Green is recommending many of the same activities to players in quarantine.
“There were so many things we did with Mike Gittleson’s training that required no weights whatsoever, and Kevin is really familiar with that type of training from being around Mike,” Loeffler said.
“Rather than using a neck machine, you have someone do manual neck (resistance) for you. There are all kinds of tricks of the trade to get the same things done.”
Like Bowling Green and many other programs, the teams at Ohio University use the Teamworks app to streamline communication with teams.
Dak Notestine, the director of strength and conditioning for the Bobcats, said the communication part has been easy enough. Once he has an idea of the resources available to an athlete, Notestine said they typically can make something work — even as some athletes come up with wild ideas for what constitutes workout equipment.
“Let’s just put it this way: Their creativity is beyond what my imagination would come up with,” Notestine said.
During normal times, meal plans and dining halls make nutrition goals relatively simple. With everyone at home, however, there is less consistency among diets.
Notestine said he likes visuals, so he’ll send pictures of plates of food to guide players on how to construct their meals, and often receives feedback on plates that have them feeling particularly proud.
“One of our D-linemen sent me a picture of what he deemed ‘chef-worthy,’ so that was hilarious.” Notestine said. “But, at the same time, it did look pretty good. I’m not saying it’s ready for the Food Network, but maybe a notch below.”
Ohio State has the best athletics facilities in the state by a wide margin, including a 15,000-square foot weight room but, like everyone else, is has limited resources with the campus closed.
Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said in a March conference call with reporters that OSU sent players home with resistance bands and videos of workouts. Day said “accountability is at an all-time high” for players making sure their conditioning stays at appropriate levels, even without access to campus facilities.
“But, like everyone says, character is shown when nobody is looking, and this is the ultimate test of that,” Day said.
Now that classes are exclusively online, there are no in-person practices, and meeting times have been cut down, each player has additional time during quarantine.
This period of training is different but nonetheless valuable, so teams are trying to make the most of unusual circumstances.
“The thing that we try to preach and sell to them each day is that you have an opportunity, make the most of it,” Notestine said.
“This is a time where you can really separate yourself, not only from where you were, but from where your opponents are. I think this time is really going to show what teams are made of.”