The Cougars’ coach views digital technology with a certain amount of skepticism, and maybe their quarterback does too.
Nonetheless, Washington State has purchased software that allows football players, particularly quarterbacks, to augment their training through virtual reality.
The program they use, Virtual Augmented Reality (VAR), is one of several things the Cougars have in common with their opponent this week, Nevada. It’s no coincidence. A co-owner of VAR is Hal Mumme, who created the Air Raid offense in collaboration with now-Cougars coach Mike Leach, and whose son, Matt Mumme, is the new offensive coordinator at Nevada.
The No. 18 Cougars (3-0) play host to the Wolf Pack (0-3) at Martin Stadium on Saturday (3 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
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With programs like VAR, a player enters a room, dons a pair of goggles and watches, from his own perspective on the field, plays recorded earlier with a 360-degree camera during team practices. Last year the Cougars experimented on a trial basis with a more elaborate system associated with Stanford, but this year they settled on Mumme’s far less expensive program. Nevada paid $5,000 for its version, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal.
In several ways, Leach sticks to basics when it comes to training and preparation. In meetings with quarterbacks, he prefers standard video footage because it provides a broader view of the dynamics of a play. But he finds VAR useful for quarterbacks studying on their own.
“I like the point of view on the film,” the coach said. “It’s like the deal that guy at Stanford is making, except I think it’s more practical and I like it better. It addresses where a quarterback’s eyes are on a play. So I think that’s beneficial.
“It’s also got a feature that some people really like. It’s not one that I'll use. You can put little X’s and O’s on people out there and you can push a button and make them wiggle around the direction you want to. That’s too video-game for me.”
Cougars quarterback Luke Falk still prefers conventional video study, to which he’s long been fully committed.
“I'll use it from time to time,” he said this week of VAR. “I think I like regular film better, but it’s fun to put on the goggles and see it from the perspective that you’re kind of seeing from the field. You can see the angles a little better, instead of just the sideline view.”
Among the schools that use VAR, in addition to Washington State and Nevada, are Nebraska, Texas A&M and Oregon State, company CEO Austin James Smith recently told SportTechie.com.
First-year Nevada coach Jay Norvell, who hired Matt Mumme to convert the Wolf Pack to a version of the Air Raid, likes the virtual-reality program because it multiplies the number of mental reps a quarterback gets, pointing out that the NCAA allows only 20 hours of coach-supervised practice per week. According to the Gazette-Journal, Norvall subscribes to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that a person must go through 10,000 hours of deliberate practice before becoming world-class in any discipline.