State of the Hogs: Ben Herbert
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State of the Hogs: Ben Herbert

Most think the first things out of the mouth for the strength and conditioning coach would be lifting weights and running. For new UA coach Ben Herbert, it's what goes in the mouth -- nutrition and hydration.

Ben Herbert's first chance with the Arkansas media was impressive. Bret Bielema's new strength and conditioning coach was as advertised, a home run.

Herbert, who follows Bielema from Wisconsin, visited via teleconference Wednesday at lunch time. It was no coincidence that the first things out of his mouth had to do with what he wants Arkansas athletes to put in their mouths and how he'll teach it.

Don't be surprised if the first thing he does after arriving in the Ozarks following the Rose Bowl is to visit a home and garden center. He will want something for his trademark visual learning center that he'll set up in the UA weight room.

"I know the more you talk, the less they listen," Herbert said. "So I try to be as visual as I can."

One visual illustration he likes is the way a plant flourishes with the right nutrition. He will bring in plants and feed them the right nutrients -- in this case Miracle Gro -- and show them how well they'll grow as compared to one without the right nutrients. Plants do not fare so well with other fluids, perhaps alcohol. He said the players generally get it.

Wisconsin teams have done well in the fourth quarter and he said it starts with the way you finish in all things small.

"Across the country a lot of people talk about that you remember how a team finishes at the end of the year," Herbert said. "I think with Coach (Bret Bielema), it's the little things. It's how you finish plays. It's how you finish runs, tackles and reps in the weight room. That carries over to the fourth quarter.

"You put yourself in position by how you finish in the weight room, at the end of your workouts and then that carries over in close games. I think you reinforce all of that with the way you finish from a training standpoint."

Herbert said he'll be ready to start when the team reports to campus after the winter break on Jan. 14. He'll be with Wisconsin through the bowl.

"I'm very excited to be an Arkansas Razorback," he said. "I'll come down after the bowl game and we'll start on Jan. 14. I've been at Wisconsin for a long time and I'm excited to work with a new group."

As far as the plan he'll have for the Hogs, he said he always likes to assess needs and desires from the players before building a plan. He'll have something to get started, but he said understanding the players will help him as they go forward.

"It's hard to get a feel without interacting with the team and knowing the dynamics and what they think they need the most," he said. "So some of that is up in the air. How to plan is hard without knowing the guys. I'll gauge it when I get with them."

The key will be personal desire within each player.

"The biggest thing that defines success -- and it all starts with me, the individual athlete -- is the desire to be successful with the individual," he said. "How badly do they want it? If they want to be successful, that trait sets the table.

"Then it's about setting the body up to be successful to reap the rewards of the work. That part is very real. It's the type of foods and fluids and the amount of sleep they get. That sets the table for who they want to be."

Herbert seemed like he also understands that there is fun to college.

"I think you have to be realistic," he said. "There is always room for mental health. There are some things that are not best for the body, but it might be good for mental health. You want good mental health, too."

Herbert hasn't been to Fayetteville, but that didn't seem to be a factor. He said he had never been outside of the Pittsburgh, Pa., area growing up and found Madison, Wis., to be an "amazing place." He said he was ready for another move to an outstanding area. He said since his decision has been announced, several close friends relayed experiences from Fayetteville.

"I know a couple of people that have had experiences in Fayetteville," he said. "They've had nothing but positive things to say.

"From a personal standpoint, I was born and raised in Pittsburgh so it was a leap of faith to go to Wisconsin. It was an amazing experience. I'm at another cross roads and I'm excited and anxious to get started."

Bielema promoted Herbert from assistant to head strength coach at Wisconsin. He said they are very close.

"We are in constant communication," Herbert said. "He believes in what I do and how I prepare the team. There is trust there. That allows you to do your job.

"When I was promoted to head (strength) coach, I had another opportunity. I wanted to stay and work for him."

Herbert said he's begun to study the roster and knows that he's going to become close to his new players.

"I'm a passionate guy and the players mean a lot to me," he said. "These are now my guys. I appreciated the Wisconsin guys. I loved them to death. They gave their sweat to me and that means a lot. So I'm looking forward to working with my new guys."



Ben Herbert (back) with Bret Bielema.