GPS technology helping teams work more efficiently

Derek Mason certainly understands how to be efficient in practice. His Vanderbilt team needed just 74 minutes to complete practice on Monday.

That's because the Commodores are making use of GPS technology, worn by 30 key players, that track which practice periods require the greatest physical effort and how much work the players can complete and still recover properly.

Their findings, according to a story this week in The Tennessean, show that less is more.

"We want to keep tabs on where their work levels are, so they can have ample time to rest and recover and be able to handle the workload the next day," Vandy strength coach James Dobson told the Tennessean's Adam Sparks.

"There are days where you want to really push these guys. But there are other days you want to pull back to let them recover, especially when you get to the season. We sit down with the staff and get their subjective feedback, and this gives them objective data to evaluate that practice and plan the next one."

The GPS experiment, using a device called Catapult, is not new to college football. Dobson came to Vandy from Nebraska, which used Catapult last season. In fact, an Associated Press story last year reported that 30 college programs and 15 NFL teams were using GPS technology to "monitor the movements and physical output of players during conditioning, practices and games."

Alabama and Tennessee were among the programs that used the technology last year, with Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban lauding its ability to show which players were giving maximum effort and the Volunteers' Butch Jones saying the data could show which players needed a rest in order to keep them in peak condition.

Georgia coach Mark Richt said over the weekend that the Bulldogs are also using the GPS devices, although he admitted that it will take some time before the collected data can benefit his staff.

"We're using them for the first time. What it's doing is giving us an idea about the volume of running -- how much distance are these guys traveling and what speed are they traveling and how often do they hit at maximum speeds?" Richt said in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

"You learn a lot about the volume of work that they're doing. We're still learning how to use them and how to use the data to help us, because we really don't have anything to compare it to."

Over time, though, perhaps it will help the coaches at the various SEC schools using the technology to learn how to keep their players healthier -- and how to get things done quicker.

As Mason told the Tennessean, there is no need for a three-hour practice when so much of that time is spent standing around. Might as well exert great effort over a shorter period of time and get off the field.

"Looking at the data, our guys are putting up workloads like they're playing games in 74 minutes or in 83 minutes [the length of Saturday's practice]," Mason told the paper. "It's all about the work capacity."