Redshirt/Developmental Training

Every year swarms of freshmen join the ranks of the elite and become college football players but rarely do those freshmen become All-Americans.  Odds are, actually, they never see the field their first year and their coach Redshirts them.  Redshirting is like being on the team, you go to films, meetings, weight and practice but you don’t get to play in the game.  This allows you for one extra season to play college ball.  It is a great time for athletes to develop and learn the speed of the game at their own pace without losing out on their first season.  It also gives them a chance to understand what college is all about and hopefully be able to focus some time in the classroom to start off on the right foot academically.  The purpose of redshirting is to develop players for a season so they can be ready to perform the next year.  Hormones are raging and the all you can eat meal cards gives athletes access to fuel to power their workouts and put on loads of mass.

Most of the time redshirts and players who are not on the traveling roster don’t get much attention during practice to develop their skills once the season gets underway.  Coaches have to focus on the task at hand and that is winning games NOW.  DB coaches don’t have time to work on press coverage for his redshirt freshmen corner when their starting free safety still can’t even figure out what gap to blitz.  Once scout team days have started you don’t really even spend much time with your coach anymore.  You are shipped off to the other side of the field to become a puppet for the offense or defense.  Most of the time, due to injury, you aren’t even playing your position on scout team and are just placed where there is a void.  One week we had a punter playing Corner and I was playing defensive end my redshirt year. Since I lived the redshirt life I will talk about my experience as a DB and what I would’ve done if I did it all over again.

Like I said earlier, the only attention paid to the development of redshirts is getting a different workout than the traveling players; but you still have to follow the NCAA guidelines for time spent working with coaches.  Due to this fact we only got 3 days to lift per week and limited time for those workouts.  Every school’s lifting program is going to be different so I will just discuss what our coaches had us doing and what I would incorporate on my own as a supplement to that training.

Practices in college are designed for one thing and that is to win on Saturday and hopefully that does not leave you too beat up for the next Saturday as well.  This is how my practice schedule looked:

Sunday: am weights
easy pm practice plus conditioning

Monday: Off
Tuesday: am weights

Hardest practice of the week plus conditioning

Wednesday: am off

Lots of volume practice

Thursday: am weights

Mock game practice.  Going through all the plays and senarios.

Friday: am off

Walk through

Saturday: Gameday
Sit and watch someone live your dream


Below is a chart of how I would schedule a weekly workout regimn based on the outline practice schedule.


Am Practice Post Practie
Sunday Lift with team plus additional work. Spend time working on footwork drills on your own during down time. 1 hour positional drills/footwork at 75-80% speed. Tempos.
Monday Sprints, jumps and Medball throws Lower Body Lifting
Tuesday Lift with team plus additional work Get in some positional drills on your own. Tempos or off depending on conditioning with team.
Weds Supplementary workout Practice OFF
Thursday Lift with team Practice Sprints and Jumps
Friday OFF Practice OFF
Saturday Sprint, Jumps, MB throws, Lower body lift. GameDay. If it is an away game feel free to split up field work and lifting to the am and pm.


Below is roughly how a typical week I was accustomed to as a redshirt.  No need to spend much time on this but just some detail in case someone wanted to know.


Outline Intensity Duration
Sun A. Lift
B. Walk Thru
C. Positional Time
D. Scout D
E. Special Teams
F. Conditioning
A. Mod-IntenseB. Low
C. Low
D. Low-Mod
E. Mod
F. 20’s or half gassers
A. 60-80 mins
B. 20 Min
C. 20 Min
D.  40 Min
E. 15-20 Min
F. 10 min
Tues A. Lift
B. Walk Thru
C. Positional Time
D. 1 on 1’s
E. Scout D
F. Special Teams
G. Scout D
H. 1’s vs. 1’sI. Conditioning
A. Mod-IntenseB. LowC. Low- Mod
E. High
F. Mod-High
G. Mod-HighH. OFF
I. 20’s or half gassers
A. 60-80 mins
B. 10 min
C. 20 min
D.  10 min
E. 20 min
F. 20 min
G. 10 min
H. 10 Min
I. 10-15 min
Weds A. Walk Thru
B. Positional Time
C. 1 on 1’s
D. Scout D
E Special Teams
F. Scout D
G. 1’S VS. 1’S
A. Low
B. Mod
D. Mod
E. Mod-High
F. Mod
A. 10 min
B. 10 min
C. 10 min
D. 20 min
E. 20 min
F. 40 min
G. 10 min
Thurs A. Lift
B. Walk Thru
C. Mock Game
A. Mod-Intense
B. Low
C. Low
A. 60-80 min
B. 15 min
C. 40-50 min
Fri A. Walk ThruB. Mini Mock Game A. Low
A. 20 min
B. 20 min
Sat Game Day Game Day Game Day



While you are redshirting; the true freshmen, redshirt freshmen, sophomores and juniors are all getting valuable game experience and hands on specific coaching for the offense or defense.  You will not be learning plays for your team; you only get to learn the other teams plays for that week.  My school didn’t make it mandatory for redshirts to watch game-day film or practice film for the week so film study was lost as well being part of the redshirt life.  This is all part of the process that you are missing out on.  There is no way you can truly gain the experience they are getting and if you play defense you probably wont even get to tackle anyone full speed all year long once games start.


The only way to make up ground on the physical side of things.  The traveling guys, the guys you will be competing for a job with the next season, are only lifting two days per week, aren’t following any sort of speed program, are losing or maintaining weight, injured or sore from games and losing their aerobic capacity base.


Fast forward to when I was a starter; I never got out of breath Sunday, Monday, Thursday or Friday.  It was like I was only doing stuff three days per week and that is why I did other stuff while I played to stay in shape after practice when I was a starter.  So if you want to become a starting redshirt freshman this is a great time to make up ground on all the players who are just maintaining and getting through the season.  Physical qualities is what you need to spend your time on because that will put you ahead of the curve come time to start training with the team again in the winter.  Coaches might notice what you are doing during the season but they won’t be able to look away once they see you kicking everyone’s butt the first week of training in the winter.







Am Practice/PM Post Practie
Sunday Lift with team plus Additional Work:
1. Quadruped rows 4×10 each arm.2. Reverse hypers 3×103. Upper back jack super set band shoulders 3×10.
4. 300-600 abs
5. Glute activation drills plus mobility work(ideally do this before the team lift).
Spend time working on footwork drills on your own during down time. 1 hour positional drills/footwork at 75-80% speed. Tempos.
Monday Sprints, jumps and Medball throws.1. Dynamic Warm-up.
2. MB Warm-up.
3. MB Throws 1×6-10 reps- OHB, Dive, Shot.
4. Hill or Sled Sprints 3-7 sets 3-5 reps@20-30 yards.
5. Triple jumps uphill x5
  1. Hip mobility
  2. Front squats 5×5
  3. Reverse Lunges 3×5-10
  4. Weighted planks 4×10^3
  5. DB Side Bends 3×15
Tuesday Lift with team plus additional work.
1.Cable rows 3×15 superset BPA’s.
2.Pull-ups 1xAMAP
3.AB wheel 3×10-15
4. Dead bug series5. Endurance abs 300-600 reps
Get in some positional drills on your own during down time in practice. Tempos or off depending on conditioning with team.2×6-10@100yds for skill players
Weds Supplementary workout.Body building type of lift.  Just have fun and get your swole on.  Focus on areas you need to work on that are lacking or exercises that will help to correct an imbalance. Practice OFF
Thursday Lift with team. Practice Sprints, jumps and Medball throws.1. Dynamic Warm-up.
2. Hill or Sled Sprints 3-7 sets 3-5 reps@20-30 yards.
3. Triple jumps uphill x5
Friday OFF Practice OFF
Saturday Sprints, jumps and Medball throws.1. Dynamic Warm-up.
2. MB Warm-up.
3. MB Throws 1×6-10 reps- OHB, Dive, Shot.
4. Hill or Sled Sprints 3-7 sets 3-5 reps@20-30 yards.
5. Triple jumps uphill x5
1. Front Squats 5×5
2.RDL’s 3×10-12
3. Ab Wheel 3×10-15
4. BB Twists 3×10
GameDay. If it is an away game feel free to split up field work and lifting to the am and pm. OFF


Program Notes and Progressions

I did not list any % for lifts because so many variables come into play during a season even if you are just redshirting.  You have to be smart as an athlete and listen to your body.  Front squats 5×5 does not mean 5 sets done at near your 5RM.  Start light and each week try to increase the weight you are using.  Never miss a rep with the front squats, or any lifts you are doing for that matter, during the season.  Sprints are done on a hill or with a lightly weighted sled to reduce sprinting velocities and give the athletes a viable means to work on running mechanics.  Form over all else should be the focus here.  Most S&C coaches don’t work on running form during the off-season so this is the time to do so.  Stay relaxed, proper arm action, leg drive and be smooth.  No reason to get all tight and tense because you are only racing yourself at this point.  Full rest periods are critical for speed development so make sure you are taking 20-30 seconds rest for every ten yards sprinted between sets.  3-5 minutes should be taken between sets as well.  This is something most athletes have never done before because sprinting is traditionally synonymous with conditioning work.  Have fun and enjoy getting faster.

Work To Rest Ratio for Sprints

Distance Recovery
10 yards 20-30 sec
20 yards 40-60 sec
30 yards 60-90 sec
40 yards 80-120 sec


I would highly suggest putting in some flying sprints to develop top speed towards the end of the season, as this is something that is not getting developed during practice whatsoever.  A lot of S&C coaches programs never include top speed work so this is a valuable time for you to be doing so on your own. 3×6, 4×4 or 5×3 @10-20 yards would be a good three-week progression in-season.


Feel free to mix up jumps every few weeks but make sure you keep the volume low.


Additional work is focused on back movements, shoulder prehab, glute work and ab work because that was what was lacking in the program my strength coach had us doing.  We did hang cleans, hang snatch, squats, RDL’s, benching, db pressing, a couple sets of rows and arm work in differing capacities each day of the week.  Some days we focused on upper body and only did some Bulgarian split squats and other days were more lower body dominant.  As an athlete who is trying to fit in a couple extra workouts in per week you need to adjust to this.  Higher volume supplementary work will help bring up lagging body areas and help to put on mass.
Neck work is often highly neglected in the training field so make sure you are doing some neck work as well if your coach does not include it into your training.


Tempo runs need to be done with the intent of developing smooth and polished running mechanics.  Make sure your form is dialed in and you are staying smooth throughout the run. Tempo runs are only supposed to be done at 60-75% speed interspaced with calisthenics and walking.  Make sure your heart rate isn’t getting too high with these and have a purpose while running them.


Endurance ab work:  If you have neglected your abs, like most athletes do, you need to spend time working on them with 300-600 reps. I’d suggest starting at around 300 and adding in 50 reps each week until you are at around 600.

Must read book for anyone trying to improve mobility


Mobility/Pre-hab:  This is a great time of the year to focus on mobility that you have been meaning to get after since you were a sophomore in high school.  Try and watch film on your lifts and check out an assessment protocol to see where you are lacking.  There are tons of greatly mobility tips on Kelly Starrett’s YouTube page that will give you killer exercises to help with mobility issues.  Generally, most athletes have weak glutes, weak abs, weak scapular retractors and weak external shoulder rotators, so make sure work is done for these areas in your training.  If you are upper trap dominant make sure you are doing some massage work (via lacrosse ball) to work out those upper traps and pecs, in addition hammer home scapular depression and scapular retraction exercises while keeping the upper traps out of the movement.


General Redshirt tips:  Have fun first and foremost.  Realize that this is just part of the process and your time is coming but you need to capitalize on this time and not waste it.  Coaches stop holding your hand during this time and let you have free range with your technique during practice so make sure you are the guy who is doing things correctly and busting their butt during practice.  Coaches notice stuff like that. We could’ve had a couple guys starting for my team if they had just a little more talent just because they busted their butts all the time.  Hustle and hard work seem to be a rare commodity these days and coaches love when a kid has the talent and work ethic to go along with it, even when no one else is watching.


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