Rutgers adds crowd noise to practice to prepare for raucous crowd at Husky Stadium
The Rutgers football team continued its preparation for its season opener against No. 14 Washington Tuesday with the second practice of the week, which featured a special guest appearance — the 70,000 fans that will pack Husky Stadium on Saturday.
Or at least the noise they’ll bring with them.
The Scarlet Knights have added crowd noise to the ambiance of practice this week to create as close to a game atmosphere as they can, having included it in Monday’s practice as well.
The artificial crowd noise in training sessions is common practice in football and while it isn’t an exact replica of the conditions the team will face, it surely is helpful.
“It helps. It does help,” said fifth-year senior center Derrick Nelson. “We did that last year and I always felt like that helps but nothing really gets you ready for how a game is gonna be.”
Playing in the same city as the Seattle Seahawks, the Huskies likely have some of the same fans that held the Guiness World Record for loudest outdoor crowd roar until the Kansas City Chiefs stole the title in 2014.
Head coach Chris Ash is aware of the challenges the fans could present to his team, so he compounded the audio in practice with some visuals during a team meeting.
"I actually went through a video with the players about that (Monday) night just so they are aware of the surroundings and the elements that we are going to be facing and the challenges we are going to be facing on gameday,” he told reporters during the first weekly Big Ten football media teleconference of the season.
Nelson, one of four team captains announced last week, is one of the players the noisy fans hope to throw off their game by interrupting communication between him, his fellow lineman and the quarterback, who is the key to the rest of the offense.
“It can be a problem if we’re not all on the same page so we all need to … anticipate for the plays,” he said. “If it’s a specific play that we run, we check for a blitz and we know that there are certain looks that we have that we need to communicate along the line to run a play successfully.”
Playing under the newly installed spread offense and working exclusively from the shotgun for the first time in a game is the biggest hurdle the Knights’ offense will face in Seattle and the noise only adds to the degree of difficulty.
But offensive line coach A.J. Blazek isn’t getting too worked up over the noise coming from the stands. In all likelihood, the fiery former Iowa center will be making plenty of noise himself from the sideline.
Add in the experience the offensive line presents — three of its five starters are fifth-year seniors — and the ruckus will be the least of his unit’s worries.
“(Derrick is) a senior, he’s been here long enough, he’s been a guard. As a center, I never worried about noise,” Blazek said. “You hear the cadence, you hear the claps, you see the signals, all the different stuff you do for cadence, he knows it all and it’s all kind of soundproof … believe it or not unless you’ve been out there, it’s a calm quiet. You can’t hear anything but you’re keyed in on noises and sounds and words that are important to you and it’s like a calm out there.”
J.J. Denman is one of the three fifth-year players starting on the offensive line Saturday, earning the spot in the final week of camp after a heated competition with sophomore Zack Heeman.
Heeman was moved behind classmate Tariq Cole on the left-tackle depth chart, but could see time on either side, according to Blazek.
“It’s still neck-and-neck,” Blazek said of the competition. “J.J. probably just on experience right now but that’s the biggest difference. You’re going to see both of them play and we’re gonna find out from there because I think a game really tells you the most.”
The experience Denman possesses includes playing in venues such as 100,000 seat capacity stadiums The Big House and Beaver Stadium, as well as Camp Randall, where the fans make the press box shake during their rendition of House of Pain’s ‘Jump Around.’
That makes 70,000 seem a little less intimidating in comparison.
“We have ways to handle the environment and stuff,” Denman said. “We’ve played in places like that before, so nothing new.”