Bulldogs going digital with playbook

ATHENS, Ga. -- The days of bulky three-ring binders and DVD cut-ups are over for Georgia’s football program.

This season the Bulldogs move to a brand-new digital playbook that will allow them to access play diagrams, video footage, scouting reports, notes and quizzes all from iPads the program will provide to each player for the season.

“I think they’re going to enjoy it,” Georgia video coordinator Brett Greene said. “Obviously if you give a player a DVD, the odds are they’re not going to pop it in the player and watch it. If you give it to them on their phone or their iPad, you’ve got a better chance. So I think that’s where we’re headed and hopefully it works out.”

Georgia was among the first football teams to jump onboard with the new program, the XOS ThunderCloud Playbook, joining teams like the University of Washington and the NFL’s New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars as clients when the secure application debuted.

The new program will be a wonder for visual learners. If a player has trouble picking up a playbook concept, he will have video examples of the properly-executed play and notes from his position coach at his fingertips that might simplify things.

“With your old three-ring binder, there was no way you could show someone a play and also say, ‘Here’s six examples of the play run correctly,’ ” XOS Digital’s executive vice president of product strategy/marketing Matt Marolda, told industry blog Sports Video Group in January. “Now, with ThunderCloud Playbook, coaches are able to associate video with a play diagram. It’s a pretty amazing teaching tool for players, and they can access it anytime, anywhere.”

Georgia’s coaches and players have had the ability to watch football video on their iPhones and iPads for the last two years, but the new technology will integrate all aspects of the playbook into the one app.

As for the program-provided iPads, the players will check them out at the beginning of the season and check them back in at the end. They’ll start the process over for spring practice.

“We’re excited about it,” said Greene, who came to Georgia in 2011 after spending nine seasons in the video department with the Jacksonville Jaguars. “It’s a huge transition for us to move to digital playbooks, but that’s what everybody’s going to be going to in the next two to three years. So we feel like we’ll be in good shape. There’s definitely a learning curve for our coaches and our players, but with everything now already on PowerPoint, it should be an easy transition to get it on the playbook.”

Of course Georgia’s coaching staff simply wants its players to learn their playbooks, regardless of the vehicle that delivers the information. Some players would have put in that work using the old-school playbook binders and some probably won’t even with everything now at their fingertips. But providing a chance to quickly review a concept on a mobile device while riding a campus bus or while sitting in a dining hall might help those between the two groups become more efficient in their preparation.

And it will certainly allow Georgia’s football staff become more efficient with its resources, cutting back on the mountains of photocopies necessary to fill 125 playbooks and the ink required to produce them.

Cost savings are simply an added benefit to the new digital playbooks, however. The idea behind the playbook and the Bulldogs’ new recruiting app, “The Georgia Way,” is to remain on the cutting edge of technology in order to give the football team the best opportunity to succeed.

“Teams are always looking to do better things and outwork other teams and I think now where we’re at with the app and the playbooks, I think we’re good for a few years,” Greene said. “Three or four years from now, we’ll have to figure out something else and go back to the drawing board.”