Falcons get first taste of Babers’ offense

Lightning-quick tempo is philosophy of Bowling Green’s new coach


BOWLING GREEN — The Bowling Green State University football team held a high-speed first spring practice early Thursday morning.

The practice was run at such a quick tempo that tongues were hanging and bodies were dragging as new coach Dino Babers called the team together at Perry Field House … and delivered a jaw-dropper.

“We will never be this slow again,” Babers said.

“That was an eye-opener,” quarterback Matt Johnson admitted. “Most of us thought we were moving, and we weren’t.”

The first of BG’s 15 spring practices began at 6:30 on Thursday morning, and around 7:40 the coaches called a break to let players catch their breath. For the final half-hour of practice the offense would run a play, a whistle would blow to stop action, and a boatload of substitutes would move into place — and the ball would be snapped quickly.

“The offense was trying to make substitutions, and the defense was trying to make substitutions,” Johnson said. “Sometimes there were 30 guys on the field at one time.

“The coaches were trying to teach us, ‘Tempo, tempo, tempo.’ It didn’t matter if the defense was set, we were snapping the ball.”

The Falcons return 15 starters — seven on offense, five on defense, and three on special teams — from last year’s 10-4 team that won the Mid-American Conference championship.

But a new coach brings a new system, and Babers said he thought his new team handled its first practice well.

“They had a good attitude, and they came ready to practice,” he said. “There was a lot of learning and a lot of listening going on, and that was good.”

When one observer called the pace of play-calling, “lightning,” Babers was quick to reply, “That’s not lightning.

“They are thinking about what they are doing right now. Imagine them not thinking about what they’re doing and just moving and reacting.

“When they reach that point, we’ll really have something.”

The Falcons will have four more early morning practices before spring break. After break there will be seven more practices and two scrimmages leading up to the program’s spring game, which will be played on Saturday, April 5, starting at noon at Doyt Perry Stadium.

“They’ll get a chance to digest everything and let it simmer [during spring break],” Babers said. “Then in the weeks after spring break I think we’ll settle into a pace that will be acceptable for the coaches.”

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.