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  • Writer's pictureTerry O'Neil

Michigan Plays Spring Game in Thud

The University of Michigan three weeks ago became the latest Division 1 team to play its spring game in "thud" format, i.e., no tackling to the ground.  

Coach Jim Harbaugh mandated the standard "thud" rules of engagement -- full pads, full speed, contact above the waist only, no bull-rushing, no lowering of the head to strike, no cut blocking, everybody stays on his feet, each player is responsible to ensure that a teammate whom he engages is not knocked off his feet.  As a result, the Wolverinesemerged from Michigan Stadium without a single injury.

Thud tempo at the high school level is restricted because 24 of the 50 state governing bodies define thud as full contact.  The claim by some administrators is that thud produces game-like collision among linemen.  In those states, thud practice/scrimmage counts against a team's allotment of full-contact minutes.  

"Please watch the video of this Michigan scrimmage," replies PLP founder Terry O'Neil. "Among linemen on both sides of the ball, the first point of contact is the hands.  There is no clashing of heads.  There is some incidental facemask-to-facemask contact, but not much.  There is no cut blocking, nobody on the ground.  This is not full contact.  We should be encouraging thud tempo for high school practice, not restricting it." 

To screen video highlights of the Michigan spring game, click here.

Dartmouth, Too

In Hanover, NH, Saturday, Dartmouth played its Green and White spring game in thud format for the eighth consecutive year, longest streak in the country.

Coach Buddy Teevens is the only man in football whose squad never tackles live in practice at any time of year -- not in spring, not in pre-season, not in regular season.  Ivy League coaches agreed in  March, 2016, to eliminate full contact in regular-season practice, but only Dartmouth extends that ban to spring and pre-season.

What are the benefits?  According to scientific research provided by the Ivy League office, during the past six seasons, Dartmouth has suffered one-third the practice-field concussions compared to the average of the other seven Ivy teams.  One-third!

And what are the benefits on the field?  The Big Green is 41-12 in its last 53 games, covering five-plus seasons.

Teevens' quote after Saturday's scrimmage:  "The biggest thing was the guys came away healthy."  

PLP Featured by WTOP

PLP was featured Friday in a story by WTOP reporter Noah Frank, who covered the April 18 Derek Sheely Conference at George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

To read the WTOP story, click here.

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