Perhaps you remember a segment from about a year ago on ESPN’s College GameDay that highlighted Stanford’s use of virtual reality as a training tool. The company featured in that story, STRIVR, was started by a former Cardinal football player. Add in Stanford’s positioning in the academic and tech worlds, it made sense that the Cardinal were one of the first schools to jump on board.
College Gameday: Stanford Virtual Reality from Susan Ansman on Vimeo.
Plenty of other schools have joined Stanford on the virtual practice field in the last year. STRIVR now lists nearly 20 college and pro football teams as official partners, a number that is likely going to grow in the months to come.
Why? Because while the Stanford smart-guy stamp of approval was nice, STRIVR got an even bigger boost last month when Clemson won the national title. The Tigers are all-in on virtual reality.
From a story by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports detailing the rise of VR:
Clemson is one of the college football programs that has been on the front end of the virtual reality movement in sports. The Tigers’ staff estimates that [quarterback Deshaun] Watson devoted about 40 percent of his time in virtual reality immersed in blitz pick-up situations. Obviously, Watson’s own talent and vision was a key factor in his ability to burn the ‘Bama blitz, but his coach also gives credit to VR for helping the Tigers take their program to the next level.
“I didn’t know what to expect early on from (the VR), but it’s been great for us,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney told FOX Sports last month. “We’ve learned how to maximize the efficiency of it. Deshaun might go through yesterday’s blitz script. (Linebacker) Ben Boulware can go in and practice without having to practice. Sometimes a guy who is hurt can still get mental reps. There’s just so many uses for it. It’s been a great teaching tool.”
Former Temple coach Matt Rhule, now the head coach at Baylor, also tells Feldman that he’s a big believer in VR’s future in football.
It makes sense to get in early here. In an era when the traditional facilities arms race provides only minor and temporary advantages — Clemson basically has a mall/theme park now, laser tag included — bricks-and-mortar may not cut it any longer. Virtual, man, that’s the future and probably does a lot more towards helping a program win than a barber shop and there are recruiting implications, too. Swinney told Feldman Clemson has used the technology to replicate its famous run down the hill for recruits.
So when’s Nebraska getting on board? Judging from Twitter, it may already be testing the waters.
That’s VAR Football, a Texas-based company in the VR space. It features former Kentucky head coach and Air-Raid impresario Hal Mumme as its director of football, and the VAR site also includes testimonials from former SMU and Hawaii head coach June Jones, Texas A&M offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and Kansas head coach David Beaty.
And VAR has holograms.
If Nebraska were to jump on board it probably wouldn’t do much to quell the toughness/practice debate, but it seems like the smart money here is on the holograms.
The Grab Bag
- Bob Elliott is officially in as Nebraska’s new safeties coach. Here are three thoughts on the hire, as well as a good breakdown from Charlie McBride on yesterday’s radio show.
- Auburn is getting its new oak trees this week.
- Jerry Sandusky’s son, Jeffrey, was charged with child sexual abuse yesterday.
- Are Big 12 defenses underrated?
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.