Troy football head coach Chip Lindsey is still going to staff meetings, still evaluating tape and still trying to motivate his players to do the right things on and off the field.
The hard part is not being able to do that in person.
“It’s been a crazy six weeks for sure, maybe even seven now,” Lindsey said during a Zoom press conference on Thursday afternoon, before adding a joke: “Working from home with four teenagers in the house and being here with them every single day gives me a new respect for getting up and going to work every day, for sure.”
Turns out, this is a big week for Troy football. Players are taking final exams as perhaps the most bizarre spring semester ever wraps up remotely from home. Lindsey said this is the only week coaches haven’t done football meetings with them. That doesn’t mean there still isn’t contact.
“Our (position) coaches have a plan laid out. They’re going to make contact with every one of their players every day,” Lindsey said.
The organizational checklists have been challenging.
“We want to make sure they all do well in school and stay eligible,” Lindsey said. “They’re all back at home. Some have great situations at home, some don’t. Do they have the Internet?
“Do they have the ability to work out with weights or do we need to make sure they do the program that doesn’t involve weights? Our strength coach, Rusty Whitt, he developed both.
“It’s made us really stress communication, being on top of them every single day. … It has made us sit down and lay things out because it’s so different than what we’re used to. I think the key message for our team has been we don’t know when, so you’d better be ready.”
Lindsey said he feels very good about his team and can’t wait to get them back. He noted Troy has added seven new defensive backs from last season. A couple of transfer linebackers — Richard Jibunor from Auburn (edge) and Jayden McDonald of Iowa (outside) can have an impact.
Offensively, there is a ton of skill talent returning at every position but quarterback. Lindsey said Gunnar Watson, Jacob Free and Parker McNeil separated themselves in Troy’s five spring practices from others in the battle to follow Kaleb Barker.
“That’s some big shoes to fill,” Lindsey said, adding that Barker had one of the best seasons in Troy history at the position. “Being on Zoom meetings with those guys and watching them work, it’s fun when you have competition because you see who is really motivated to do extra things. All three are working their tails off trying to get better and improve as much as we can.”
The coach said finding creative ways to motivate his players is constantly on his mind. He has a few friends to help him with that. Last week in a quarterbacks Zoom meeting, Troy QBs got to hear from San Francisco 49ers backup Nick Mullens. That got their attention.
“He talked to our quarterbacks about preparing,” Lindsey said. “In the NFL, when those guys go home for three or four months, they have to train on their own and find ways to improve and watch film on their own and throw and do all those things — similar to what our guys are really doing right now.
“I got him on last week. I’ll get Jarrett Stidham on this week. Just really finding creative ways to motivate our guys and make sure they’re prepared and ready to get back.”
No one knows when that will be — Lindsey said he didn’t know, either. He understands the temptations facing college athletes when they are not motivated.
“If they say we’re not coming back until August, they’re kids,” the coach said. “They have a really good ability to sit around and not do a whole lot. For us, it’s trying to motivate those guys. What that entails is communicating with them every day, updating them on the things we’re hearing and finding ways to motivate them.”
Lindsey said when players do get back to campus, he’s hopeful for some on-field practice time that ordinarily is outlawed by the NCAA. He said Sun Belt coaches have recommended to the conference that six weeks would be needed before a season could begin.
“Obviously, those are ideas we threw out there. We don’t get the make the decision,” Lindsey said. “It all depends when our country opens up and becomes safe again. … I think the NCAA will make some adjustments for the summer to allow us to get back our team.
“We don’t get a lot of time with them from a football standpoint other than a couple hours a week of meetings and being on the field without a football. I think some of those things will be relaxed — that’s my hope. Those are the things I’m hearing. Again, nothing official has come out yet. As coaches, we’re hoping to get some more time with those guys, for sure.”