BELOIT - This summer, the Turner Trojans are getting a little extra help in their blocking and tackling drills.
No, the Trojans didn't wrangle a world-renowned tackle expert in. Nor did they uncover a revolutionary technique to put them ahead of the competition. What they did was spend some of their hard-earned, fund-raised cash on something called the Mobile Virtual Player. Think tackling dummy on wheels. Fast wheels.
The MVP can move at about a 5.0 second 40-yard dash clip on a turf field. On grass, it isn't quite as swift, but the instrument still works as advertised: It allows players to tackle, just not each other.
Turner coach Derek Diehl said the Trojans are the only high school team in the state to have the MVP.
"With the state changing rules and everything that is going into safety, we're trying to eliminate player-to-player contact from Monday through Thursday," Diehl said. "We do something called the Dartmouth Way, which is a non-contact tackle circuit that teaches technique in tackling, not hitting. This is something that they came out with a few years ago, and they researched this at Dartmouth. What they've found was that player injuries during the practice week were drastically reduced because they weren't tackling as much."
The WIAA has released several guidelines regarding what can and can't be done at practices over the years. After bristling at the regulations early on, Diehl says he's now on board with the changes.
"The WIAA has really been on top of this issue," Diehl said. "At first, I wasn't a fan of it. But I started to see the results. The number of concussions state-wide last year were down a ton. It made me a believer that the game is now changing, and we have to change with it. That's why we got these things."
Senior linebacker Kenny Draeving said the MVP has been a big hit with the players in came.
"These things are great," Draeving said. "One time they tackled one of our coaches, which was fun. But they are really nice because it's actual real movement. The thing just turns, and we have no idea what to expect. That's just like a running back, who isn't just going to stop and wait for you to tackle them. I think it's going to help us a lot."
Diehl said the realism of the MVP was beyond compare.
"I can line this thing up for ankle tackles, change the angles, really do anything I want with a remote control," Diehl said. "It presents real-world simulation, and you don't have heads banging together."
• DEMENT JOINS STAFF: Former Beloit Memorial assistant coach Brad Dement has joined the Trojans as the offensive coordinator.
Diehl believes that the addition of Dement will play a big role in the team's improvement.
"We started building our relationship a few years ago out of pure love of the game and interest in offense," Diehl said. "He's a great guy and has great values. And he has a passion for offense. We have very similar philosophies. We believe in multiple styles, multiple formations. He's a quarterback by nature, and we haven't had that here as a coach. He's a huge asset to our team."