RALEIGH — N.C. State's football players will be setting their alarms early during the week once classes start on Aug. 18.
Coach Tom O'Brien is implementing a new schedule for the team that will have them practicing in the morning, before classes, throughout the season.
Practice will start at about 8 a.m., allowing students to go back to campus and stay there for the rest of the day.
"It will help us better with our academics and class and everything else," O'Brien said. "By 11 o'clock, noontime, we'll be finished here. They'll go back to campus. They can go be students. They can get all their work done and then be finished with football for the day."
The majority of college programs practice in the afternoon during the season. But some coaches are trying morning practices and enjoying them.
O'Brien said Kentucky practiced in the morning when current N.C. State defensive coordinator Mike Archer worked there. Central Florida coach George O'Leary has discussed his team's morning practice schedule at length with O'Brien.
Duke began practicing in the morning in 2006 under former coach Ted Roof and has kept that schedule under David Cutcliffe.
Cutcliffe said that when teams practice in the afternoons, it's common for players to have academic conflicts early in practice. At the end of practice, some players have to leave for evening classes.
When practices are in the afternoon, Cutcliffe said, players leave the practice field in the evening worn out as they head off to study. He said morning practices create a time management gain.
"We've seen a significant improvement in their academic performance, and that's extremely important for us," Cutcliffe said. "... We think it's been really effective, and if I can help it, I'll never go back to practicing in the afternoons."
O'Brien said morning practices could provide a significant benefit for N.C. State's players in terms of being more rested on game day. When games are played Saturdays, coaches hold their final practices of the week on Thursdays.
By wrapping up Thursday's practice in the morning, O'Brien will get his players an extra seven hours or so of rest before the games. The morning practices also will give coaches who are heading out of town recruiting extra time Thursday to get to their destinations.
"So I thought it was worth the effort, so we'll see," O'Brien said. "We'll find out."
Many players are used to getting out of bed early anyway. They used to have morning classes, and many of them have offseason workouts early in the morning.
"It won't be that much of a change for us," defensive end Jeff Rieskamp said. "We're used to getting up and getting going early."
Staff writer Robbi Pickeral contributed to this article.
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