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Herm Edwards: Preparation time needed for season is likely 6 weeks

Head coach Herm Edwards of the Arizona State Sun Devils looks on during pregame warm ups prior to the start of an NCAA football game against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on September 27, 2019 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

UCLA head football coach Chip Kelly noted the unprecedented nature of the coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday while on a conference call with reporters and other Pac-12 football coaches.

“No one has gone through this, unless you were around for the pandemic of 1918,” said Kelly, who was joined by ASU’s Herm Edwards and Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith. “Herm, you weren’t around for the pandemic in 1918, were you?”

“No, no, no, I wasn’t around for that one,” Edwards responded. “Sorry.”

Edwards, a football lifer who was born decades after the Spanish Flu pandemic in the early 20th century, is dealing with something he never has before. In some ways, though, there’s a benefit to the coronavirus pandemic shutting things down: He’s getting more time to meet with players.

“I think the unique thing about all of this is that players, they’re dialed in right now because they know that, as Coach Kelly said, this is going to come to an end,” Edwards said. “And we don’t know what the date is, but you better be ready.

“Mentally, they’re learning ball. It’s just the physical part now that when this thing comes back, we’ve got to get them ready that way. The mental part, I think we’ve gotten more time with them now in the classroom than probably we would have. You think about May, we’d be out recruiting and doing all of that stuff.”

Edwards said former ASU football players who went on to play in the NFL have joined in on meetings with current Sun Devils, walking through plays and the thought process that goes into some on-field decisions. Kelly said that his Bruins aren’t even using all of the eight hours per week that the NCAA gives teams to meet during this time.

As you might imagine, players have more time on their hands than normal.

“I challenge guys with that,” Edwards said. “I said, ‘You know what, this is a time that you need to look, reflect on you. What does your schedule look like every day? And does that schedule allow you to become a better version of yourself? You have time to do that now.'”

Smith said his team even had a Madden tournament.

Meanwhile, fans and players alike are probably wondering when college sports will get back on the field. ASU had its spring football season abruptly halted because of the pandemic, and now the season itself is being called into question. And how much time would players need to get back into shape if a return were imminent?

“I think the least amount of time is probably six weeks,” Edwards said. “That’s what we kind of talked about. Six weeks is probably right there. You’d be stretching it a little bit … These players have to be in condition to play football. And as much as we think they’re working out on their own, they’re not in football shape. The one thing you don’t want to do is put players in a position where they’re going to be hurt.”

Smith echoed that, saying six weeks is probably a minimum but doable.

“I think it could be done earlier if our strength and conditioning coaches could get their hands on them earlier,” Kelly said. “So if your strength and conditioning coaches had them for a couple of weeks before we got them, then I think you could do it in four weeks. That’s what they do at the other divisions.”

Still, getting the college football season underway will be particularly complicated, because academics and conferences are involved. At the city and state level, municipalities have differing laws and orders about what their citizens can and can’t do.

At the conference level, governing bodies could have unequal rules that muddy the waters of nonconference scheduling.

And at the NCAA level, president Mark Emmert said recently said in an interview posted to the NCAA’s Twitter account that college sports won’t return if schools aren’t back in session.

“If you don’t have students on campus, you don’t have student-athletes on campus,” Emmert said. “That doesn’t mean it has to be up and running in the full normal model, but you’ve got to treat the health and well-being of the athletes at least as much as the regular students.”

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