BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — Mitch Trubisky’s highly visible problems receiving snaps over the weekend aren’t the toughest hurdle he’ll have to clear in his transition from the ACC to the NFL. Instead, the real issue is less clear to the thousands of fans who will make the trek to Olivet Nazarene University during training camp.
Trubisky still has plenty of work to do with his pre-snap responsibilities, which are far greater and tougher than he ever had at North Carolina. And it’s a challenge for quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone to get the Bears’ quarterback of the future a large quantity of reps (Trubisky dropping those snaps, though, didn’t help with that) while also working to get the team’s quarterback of the present ready, too.
But a virtual reality headset is helping mitigate the issues of limited practice reps for this year’s No. 2 overall pick, and is helping Ragone work with Trubisky on his pre-snap reads/adjustments and mental checklist.
Ragone can see what Trubisky does and where he’s looking on the Oculus strapped to his head. So when Trubisky is at the virtual line of scrimmage, if he’s looking at the wrong player, Ragone can identify it and coach him on what he should’ve been doing. The viewpoint of VR is ideal, given it’s easy to tell where Trubisky is looking, instead of an all-22 view where his eyes could be in the wrong place.
“They learn differently — some obviously are better with the board stuff, better on the film with the All-22 players, and some really take to the walk-throughs or the VR,” Ragone said. “And as a teacher, you’re trying to find the best method to teach one of the guys. And each guy uses the VR. It’s just some guys obviously you can tell gravitate toward it a little better than other. You can just feel that.
“… We always say: Take it from the classroom and carry it to the field. Being able to do that — same eye, in terms of your reads and progressions, you take it on the field and see if it matches.”
Trubisky was forced to learn how to take mental reps his first three years at North Carolina, when coaches there decided to roll with Marquise Williams (who never stuck in the NFL) over him. But Trubisky explained using VR as something that’s closer to being a physical rep than a mental rep.
“I’m really surprised what that technology has allowed us to do,” Trubisky said. “Instead of just watching film, you're actually getting reps without your body having to go through it. Using the VR has been a lot for me. Especially calling plays in the huddle. I call the play, go out and practice it and coach can see on the screen where my eyes are going so it’s helped me with progression and timing without actually going onto the field and having to do it. I can do it in the film room with the VR.”
Virtual reality isn’t perfect, and can’t replace the intensity of a practice rep (which, in front of sizable crowds in Bourbonnais, have been fairly intense). Ragone stressed that it’s one of many tools at his disposal for coaching up the Bears’ quarterbacks.
But the Bears’ investment in it could pay off if it helps Trubisky be ready to command an NFL offense sooner than he would’ve without it.
“That’s been a tremendous help for all the quarterbacks,” Ragone said. “It’s been a great tool for coach (Dowell) Loggains and myself to use as a coaching tool. Just the way we’re able to use it essentially another way to view practice. The quarterbacks have gravitated towards it. It allows us to really give them a different angle. And just basically allowed them to see the field as if they’re the ones taking the reps.”