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Football takes on fresh faces in joint practice sessions

The+Ithaca+College+football+team+visited+Lycoming+College+and+hosted+Susquehanna+University+for+two+joint+preseason+practices+in+preparation+for+the+2023+season.
Nolan Saunders
The Ithaca College football team visited Lycoming College and hosted Susquehanna University for two joint preseason practices in preparation for the 2023 season.

Ithaca College welcomed Lycoming College and Susquehanna University to South Hill this summer, not for a game but for a joint practice. It is an uncommon concept in college, but it is an idea that has gained traction with the National Football League in recent years. Now, the Bombers are helping bring the trend to college football.

Joint practices have been on the rise in the NFL in recent years. During the 2023 NFL training camp cycle, 25 NFL teams participated in a joint practice, two more compared to 2022. Of those 25 teams, 10 participated in joint practices against multiple organizations.

The idea of joint practices is a concept that has been introduced previously by the Bombers. Graduate student Anthony D’Addetta, who plays wide receiver for the Bombers, said the team has been hosting these practices since he first joined the team in 2019. 

“It’s a cool experience,” D’Addetta said. “Going up against our defense every day, seeing the same type of coverages in the same type of corners, you kind of understand and know how they play to an extent. The aspect of being able to practice with a different team helps us in a way that it’s kind of unique because it’s the first time we’re kind of going up against somebody else and being able to see different coverages.”

Unlike the NFL, joint practices have been slow in gaining traction in college football, with only Division lll programs currently being able to conduct two joint practices a season and Division ll programs set to gain the right in 2024. It was only back in February 2022 that the FBS level Mid-American Conference proposed the idea of having joint-style practices during fall camp to the NCAA.

Sophomore tight end/long snapper Will Richardson said via email that while nothing will compare to the energy of a Saturday game in the fall, the team cannot help but feel the heightened emotion in a joint practice.

“The energy is definitely different from a normal practice because you’re normally going out with only your teammates, but now you finally get to hit someone else in a different jersey after a week or two of only practicing amongst us all fall preseason,” Richardson said.

Head coach Michael Toerper said the team has had a long-standing relationship with Lycoming and has benefited both teams greatly. 

“It gives our guys an opportunity to go out there and work on being in the moment, being on the same page, and running our offense and running our defense,” Toerper said. “And we get to see, as coaches, who can go out there and [have] an idea of what the other team is going to run and be ready to play.”

While joint practices provide a chance to get a team ready for game action, these practices also give younger players on the roster a chance to make an impression on their coaches and stand out for future opportunities.

“For joint practices, the starters and older guys will rarely play the majority of the time because you don’t want to risk injury,” Richardson said via email. “This creates a lot of opportunities for people who may not get to play a lot in games and for the young players to prove what they’re capable of and try to earn their way onto the bus and being able to play on Saturdays.”

Toerper said he does not want to put too much pressure on the players during these environments but acknowledged the opportunity it brings to younger players.

“Just let it rip,” Toerper said. “You wanna tell your guys this is a resume builder here. This is a chance to make a significant impact on the coaches by showing us how much you know, be competitive and be resilient when things don’t go your way. That’s something we’re always looking for as coaches but specifically when we are playing against an opponent.”

With the energy from putting on the pads and hitting someone, fights can often break out at these joint practices at the professional level. In 2023, there were four fights across the NFL in joint practices, with 11 more reported intrasquad fights. Most recently, the Philadelphia Eagles and Indianapolis Colts got into a scuffle in late August after shoving commenced caused by a hard hit on an Eagles player. The practice ended early because of the fight. 

D’Addetta said Toerper addressed that issue with players to ensure they avoided that outcome.

“Coach [Toerper] lets us know we have a standard,” D’Addetta said. “How we act, how we carry ourselves in the field. Taking your brothers away in certain situations, getting guys out of tough situations. You never want to cause a scene on the field like that.”

The joint practices against the Warriors and the River Hawks gave the Bombers a chance to figure out what they had going into the season, as they prepared to chase another Liberty League title.

“We learned a lot about ourselves, good and bad from both the joint practice and the scrimmage,” D’Addetta said. “But I think the main thing we learned is we love playing with each other. You saw some of the big plays that guys made and the energy on the sideline was just unbelievable.”

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Daniel King, Senior Writer
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