GV Football focuses on fundamentals, eyes on competition next semester


Zack Goodrow, Sports Editor

The fall 2020 football season at Grand Valley State University has been nothing but normal. After all sports competitions were cancelled in mid-March this year, teams have only had the opportunity to practice with one another. For the football team, this will be the end of their fourth week in pads. 

“It’s awesome,” said head coach Matt Mitchell. “To come back out here after five weeks of strength and conditioning, it’s just awesome. We did some redzone stuff today and the kids just have so much energy out there. Without competition for so long, we’ve been really spirited the past few weeks.” 

As the end of November approaches, not many teams still practice in full pads this late in the year. Mitchell sees it as getting his team used to playing with each other and building cohesion. 

“It’s a team sport,” Mitchell said. “If we get an opportunity to come onto the field and improve our craft, we should take advantage of it. Whether you’re a senior linebacker or quarterback, you can always improve.” 

It’s almost the perfect opportunity for this team to be practicing. They have a completely new offense staff, led by new offensive coordinator Matt Vitzthum. That means the Lakers will be installing a new scheme, formations, terminology, motions and shifts on offense. It’s a valuable time for the team to learn their new offense. 

The Lakers are also using this time to evaluate their roster. After last year, they lost three senior corners and have a new look secondary. While they may not have played any games this fall, this extraordinary amount of time practicing together before next year should pay dividends.   

“I think we’re going to be really tight when we play games again,” Mitchell said. “We have a really nice locker room. We’ve been together now for so long. We’re not going to practice gameplans. Right now, we’re just working on our base scheme and fundamentals.” 

After Thanksgiving break at GVSU, all fall sports will stop practicing as a team when classes resume. Mitchell is encouraging his players to go home and stay healthy given the COVID-19 pandemic. In the winter, the team will come back together again.

“We’re going to be given every player individual strength and conditioning plans for after break,” Mitchell said. “We’ll do exit interviews. When the winter semester gets going, we’ll meet up again. We’ll do strength and conditioning and work back to being in pads again.” 

During the spring, Mitchell and his staff will try to find three competitions to play in March and April. Going against each other for a year and half gets old, so fresh competition will be good for the team.

These competitions will be important for development too. Mitchell and his staff want to see guys lower on the depth chart to go out there and get some experience before games. Every time the Lakers are on the field, they want to win games, and these competitions should help satiate that drive. 

While the cancellation of the fall 2020 season was extremely disappointing, Mitchell and the Lakers football team have taken advantage of any opportunity they have to improve. It may have been a blow to their spirits to not play games, but Mitchel feels like the decision was the right one to make. His players have stayed safe and healthy, unlike some other teams in college football. 

“It was definitely the right decision,” Mitchell said. “You look at what happens in the SEC alone this week with COVID cases. Maryland cancels their game with Ohio State. Big Ten teams who have huge budgets and constantly test aren’t even pulling it off. Trevor Lawrence, arguably the best player in college football, tested positive. When Lawrence gets it and you look at the money Clemson put into their college program, it would be really difficult for us and our guys to have a quality experience this year.”