Although successful seasons can -- and often are -- forged in spring football, there is no set routine to the way spring camps transpire. Unlike the college football season -- when the game each Saturday dictates, to a great degree, how coaches structure their preparation week -- spring camp allows coaches to get creative with how they work out their teams.
Each program gets 15 practices in the spring. Usually, programs try to schedule two or three practices per week, and there's typically a spring break to negotiate in there, as well. Years ago -- and it's still somewhat true today -- programs just waited for spring break to end before they started their camps, working four weeks non-stop. But that approach can eat into important recruiting and evaluation periods.
So many schools will start spring practice in late February or early March and work around the spring break. Some will practice for a couple weeks, let the players go on break, and then return to practice after coaches have evaluated a few weeks' worth of film. Some programs choose to practice during spring break -- like Michigan, which moved its operation to South Florida for a week, allowing players to enjoy the beach when they weren't practicing.
Many programs -- although not all -- turn the 15th practice into a game with officials, a game clock and sometimes a big crowd. Ohio State, Alabama, Nebraska, Michigan and Auburn are among those programs that draw the biggest crowds, and those schools tend to turn those spring games into recruiting events that attract prospects to campus. And Kansas State chose to take its 2015 spring to a soccer stadium outside Kansas City. Other schools -- generally smaller -- prefer something more scaled down for a final practice.
What programs choose to work on during those 15 spring practices can also vary. Some, like Ohio State, like to have a firm depth chart by the end of spring camp, so the environment -- and the meaning of the spring game -- is pretty significant. Other programs ditch all concerns of depth charts and just have players focus on improving their skills day to day. That generally means competition is moved to the first part of fall camp.
When it comes to deciding how much or how little a coach should install of his offense or defense, you'll find differences, as well. Some programs prefer to focus on what they do well already -- their identity, if you will -- while others underline where they struggled the previous season and focus first on that. Strength vs. weakness is perhaps one of the biggest differences in approach.
No one method is better or worse, necessarily, so long as coaches and players communicate well and know the expectations.