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Big 12 gets tougher than NCAA on full-contact practice limit

DALLAS (AP) — TCU defensive end James McFarland says defensive-minded coach Gary Patterson doesn’t need players hammering each other in pads every day to keep up the intensity in practice.

“Matter of fact, he’s had more of his intense moments when people had nothing but shorts and helmets on because he feels like since we’re not hitting, you should do everything right,” said the senior returning sacks leader for the Horned Frogs. “He doesn’t have a different way of doing things if we have pads on or we don’t have pads on.”

McFarland mirrored what his coach said at media day Monday after the Big 12 announced that it was taking an NCAA rule limiting contact in practice a step further by allowing two tackling sessions per week, including a game.

The national rule allows for a total of three full-contact sessions, game included. The Big 12 will allow two practices for players held out of games. Two full-contact workouts for the team are permissible in bye weeks.

Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the change came from a discussion with athletic directors, who talked to their coaches before approving the more stringent rule.

Patterson said the tighter restrictions won’t change the Frogs’ approach because they’ve had just one practice during game weeks for years.

“There’s a false sense of we just try to bang our kids around,” said Patterson, whose physical coaching style has helped TCU lead the nation in defense five times since 2000. “I think all of us, we like keeping our jobs, and we want to keep our kids healthy. Fresh shoulders, fresh legs, means more physical players.”

Patterson said most teams get the heavier work done in the spring before turning the focus more to preservation during the regular season. And Bowlsby said that’s what administrators found as they considered the change, which was approved in the spring.

“I don’t think that we’re going to find that this is a disadvantage,” Bowlsby said. “In fact, I think you may find that you have a healthier team in the second half of the season.”

The NCAA defines full-contact workouts as taking players to the ground or full-speed blocking. Drills involving players wrapping up but not tackling are considered non-contact.

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said he hasn’t conducted consecutive full-pad workouts in “quite some time,” and hasn’t had two-a-day workouts in four years.

Clint Trickett, Holgorsen’s quarterback last year, retired after revealing he had sustained five concussions over 14 months. He didn’t play again after getting knocked out of a 26-20 loss to Kansas State on Nov. 20.

“The way the model is right now is something that I’ve supported and something that we’ve done at West Virginia since I got there,” Holgorsen said.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who brought the Wildcats into national prominence with a no-nonsense approach that emphasized defense, also said the tighter guidelines won’t alter his program’s approach. He said the change “is identical to what our needs are.”

“I like the way we do our practices,” Snyder said. “We’ve been doing them the same way for a long time. So it plays out to favor what we do, I think.”

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