Kelly knows he must adjust practice for pros

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Kelly knows he must adjust practice for pros
January 25, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Credit coach Chip Kelly for this: The new Eagles coach has no illusions that every facet of his operation at Oregon can be duplicated in his new line of work.

At Oregon, Kelly’s frenetic practices were famous for blaring music, players sprinting from one drill to another, and first- and second-string units running on and off the field for reps against scout teams composed of walk-ons and underclassmen.

Because of NCAA practice-time restrictions, coaches interacted with players mostly in the form of whistles, horns, gestures or one-word utterances and saved lectures for the classroom.

You can pull that off with 85 scholarships players and more walk-ons. With an NFL maximum of 53 on the roster and an eight-man practice squad, adaptations for Kelly are necessary and imminent.

“It really depends on how many guys you have, and obviously everybody [in the NFL] is the same,” Kelly said recently after a Senior Bowl practice in Mobile, Ala. “Training camp is going to be different because you’ve got more guys there and then when you get in during the season you’ve got 61 guys, counting your practice squad, but not everyone is healthy. A lot of times that becomes a daily adjustment. We can’t practice ... on Tuesday like we did on Wednesday because we’ve got two or three guys short.”

Kelly will try to continue the recent trend of college coaches transitioning smoothly to the professional level.

Jim Harbaugh left Stanford two years to coach the 49ers and has taken his team to the Super Bowl this year after being bounced out of the NFC Championship game last year.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano won seven games this year in his first season after leaving Rutgers, a three-game improvement from 2011. The Bucs scored 102 more points this season than the year before and allowed exactly 100 fewer.

Kelly on Monday spent some time chatting with his coaching pal Nick Saban, who had paraded around the area where the South Team conducted its first official practice for the Senior Bowl. Clad in his crimson-colored blazer and alligator-skin loafers, the Alabama coaching icon paused from kissing babies and curing lepers to conduct a press conference on the sideline.

Asked about Kelly’s decision to turn pro, the former failed Dolphins coach suggested that Kelly would succeed in his most recent stop.

"I am excited for Chip," Saban said. "He has done a fantastic job, been a real innovator in college football with some of the things he's done. We have a tremendous amount of respect for the great job he did at Oregon and the success he had there. He'll do just fine in the NFL."

By the same token, Saban admitted that Kelly faces the adjustments that he struggled with in 2005 and 2006, when he combined to go 15-17 as the Dolphins’ head coach after leaving LSU, where he had won his first national championship.

Saban’s rigid, often abrasive style of coaching created friction with some veterans and his NFL coaching career lasted all of two seasons before he jumped at the chance to coach Alabama, where he has since added three more national title trophies to his mantle.

"How you bring players to your team is different,” Saban said. “How you manage your squad is a little different than the way you motivate younger players, and to be able to make those transitions is a real key to being successful.”

Since accepting the job last Wednesday, Kelly has frequently acknowledged that his blueprint won’t be a carbon copy of the one he designed at Oregon.

“That’s the fun part, in essence, too,” he said. “How do you plan? And how do you make it efficient, so that when you play on Sunday you’re the freshest team on Sunday. That’s kind of the key. But I know this, no matter what: The team that prepares the best each week has got the best chance.”

If that means altering his practice routine, so be it.

“I think you have to adjust to the numbers,” he said. “We obviously had more numbers in college, so the Philadelphia Eagles are a football team, not a cross country team. If you go with the pace that we practiced at at Oregon then we’d have a real good cross country team.

“But we’re not playing in Valley Forge Park. We’re playing in the Linc. It’s gotta be an adjustment. I’m aware of it, I’ve studied it and [I’m] really trying to formulate that whole idea of how we’re going to do it.”

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