LOGAN — Six to eight weeks.
The general consensus is that it will take six to eight weeks for student-athletes playing football to be in the best possible condition to compete.
Utah State coach Gary Andersen is onboard with that idea. In fact, he has been arguably among the more vocal about the amount of time he believes is necessary for players to be back on campus and training before the start of the college football season.
“We just hope we get the opportunity to play. We would be ecstatic to play tomorrow.” — Utah state wide receiver Taylor Compton
“Football is a game of speed. While everyone is up against the same thing, you worry about being able to maintain strength and then moving your body at a fast level when you get back,” Andersen said in a May 5 interview with Scott Garrard for Utah State Athletics. “... We are going to need some time. Everyone is going to need some time. Jumping back and playing football in four weeks is obscene to me. For me, four weeks is not an option. If it is truly just six weeks, that is tough too. I like eight weeks, which is six weeks, plus two more going into camp. That is an eight-week schedule and that is the one (proposal) I’ve seen the most.”
Concern for the health and welfare of the athletes is at the forefront for Andersen, which should be no surprise to those who’ve followed him on his football odyssey.
“Injuries become a big concern,” he said.
Also important, though, is the quality of football the Aggies would put on the field.
“We want to make the product as good of a product as we can,” said Andersen.
Amid all the discussion about when college football teams should get into action, a notable set of voices have been missing, though — those of the athletes themselves.
Over the last couple of months, the Deseret News spoke with four Aggies — wide receivers Jordan Nathan and Taylor Compton, defensive back Andre Grayson and linebacker Kevin Meitzenheimer — to get their opinions on the subject.
Their thoughts were as varied as their current locales. Nathan and Grayson are back home in California — Nathan in Monrovia and Grayson in Rancho Cucamonga — while Compton is home with family in Logan, and Meitzenheimer in his own Cache Valley apartment.
For Compton, the pandemic has actually not been too bad. He has been able to spend time with loved ones that otherwise would not have happened, all while keeping up with his training.
“I have access to weights and a football field that I can work on,” he said. “I’ve been able to work on my technique and craft, my conditioning and speed and I have all the time in the world to do that. Obviously, depending on your situation, some people might come back and not be where they want to be.
“Because of circumstances they haven’t been in a Division I weight room or had all those amenities and things that go with it. But for the most part, if you are doing what you should, guys should come back fine and in shape.”
With that in mind, Compton believes himself ready to play football today, although he understands the importance of a training camp of some sort for team chemistry and the like.
“It is hard because when you go into a normal season you work out together from January until August,” he said. “The nucleus of our team is there, the chemistry is there, but we have new guys who need to come in. Building chemistry with them, that could take days, that could take weeks or that could take months.
“Some teams don’t ever develop it. We will get new guys in this summer, guys from junior college, and they are expected to come in and be productive. To have time to develop those relationships would be ideal, but every team is going to have to deal with it. You need practices. You need to get back and acclimated to playing in heat and in pads, but personally, I’ll put on the pads tomorrow if I can.”
Meanwhile, Meitzenheimer’s pandemic experience has been almost the polar opposite. The senior linebacker has been limited to training with a 45-pound plate, “doing some curls, sit-ups, pretty much anything I can do around the house.”
His experience has been closer to what Andersen described “is much like when a young man comes back from off his mission.” Because of that, Meitzenheimer is much less sure as to how much time is needed in camp before kicking off the season.
“I really don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what can happen in the next couple months. I don’t know what people are truly thinking. I have no clue.”
Nathan has spent the spring rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery, but if he’d had his way, the Aggies would have had more than eight weeks of preparation before the start of the season.
“I wanted to shoot for May 1,” he said.
It all comes down to a much-desired Mountain West championship as far as Nathan is concerned. That and a potential professional career, all of which would be in doubt if the team doesn’t get back on the practice field soon.
“I want to get back on the field as soon as possible. June 1 would be great,” said Nathan. “It is my senior year and I want to get everything out of it.”
As for Grayson, the junior is the most optimistic of the bunch. In his mind, he could play in a competitive Division I football game today.
“I’m ready now,” he said. “I’ve stayed ready. I would like to get back into Logan and get comfortable for at least a week, but I’m ready to play now.”
Of course, all four and the rest of their Aggie teammates just want to play football. And they will do so with whatever time is allotted to them.
“We just hope we get the opportunity to play,” said Compton. “We would be ecstatic to play tomorrow.”