“You’re always fighting for more practice time,” Kiffin said. “Now you get it. It’s great.”
But it hasn’t exactly been great.
And it hasn’t been much more – not yet anyway.
Friday marked the first true practice since Dec. 1, the day before FAU defeated North Texas to clam in the Conference USA title.
It’s not that the Owls don’t want to practice. They needed to make a choice, weighing the short term benefits of the best possible preparation for the Dec. 19 Boca Raton Bowl match-up versus Akron against the longer term health of the program.
For the moment, the Owls are playing the long game.
With the NCAA adopting a football early signing period this year, there’s a greater emphasis on December recruiting than ever before. Most of FAU’s assistants spent this week on the road in advance of the Dec. 20 early signing day.
“I think it’s obviously a new obstacle that were just tying to figure out the first year,” Kiffin said. “This is my first time really being in a bowl that hasn’t been Dec. 31 or first week of January.”
With final exams disrupting the players’ normal academic schedules, the Owls are also experiencing difficulties finding times when the entire team can get together.
As a result, FAU held limited practices this week that focused more on conditioning than game planning.
“We haven’t done a whole lot of football stuff,” Kiffin said. “Our guys have been out recruiting.”
Howell said players continue to use their free time to watch video of the Zips.
“They don’t want to run us into the ground,” running back Buddy Howell said. “They want to keep us in the game, keep our minds fresh, keep our bodies fresh, so that we can still know the game plan and not let it wear off. It’s such a long break. You kind of forget some stuff. Just keeping us in the rotation, keeping us fresh.”
On Saturday the weather provided another disruption, prompting the Owls to cancel their workout altogether.
FAU originally weren’t planning to practice on Sunday, but will now to make up for Saturday’s lost practice. The Owls will also practice on Monday before taking Tuesday and Wednesday off. The Owls will turn their focus to Akron beginning Thursday.
By that point the Owls will have completed their exams but will encounter other distractions, namely the promotional events surrounding the Boca Raton Bowl.
“What’s really strange is we’re coming to this bowl in a live period of recruiting,” Kiffin said. “I’ve never dealt with that. I don’t know whether you send your coaches on the road after the events at night. We’ve got to figure that part out, too.”