Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard explained the change. "We're running two days a week--Tuesdays and Thursdays," he said. "We lift the other three (days). The players get together (on Tuesdays and Thursdays) at either 6:30 am or 12:30 pm."
It's not that the Tide has decreased its recent emphasis on gaining strength. Rather it's a matter of adding a priority. "We're running twice as much as before," Pollard noted.
A few times during the recently completed spring drills, new Tide Head Coach Mike Price mentioned that the players weren't used to the amount of running required by his new offense.
Coach Price didn't complain to Coach Pollard. He didn't have to. The veteran Strength and Conditioning coach had predicted the problem going in.
"We were in the worst (running) shape we've been in since I got here," Pollard said of spring practice. "It was a combination of December and then starting a month early."
As Pollard pointed out, the NCAA sanctions continue to pull the Tide down. Missing a bowl game last season did more than keep Bama out of well-deserved post-season play. It also meant that the players were essentially on their own conditioning-wise from the end of fall term until classes started over in January.
It's not that no one worked out, because many did. But even the most dedicated athlete cannot duplicate the same level of intensity and effort with a trip by himself to the local gym.
The other factor was one of scheduling. In years past Alabama arranged it so that spring break exactly cut spring football practice in half. That strategy had some good points. For example the off week gave athletes a chance to heal up from the inevitable bumps and bruises. But the players also complained about how difficult it was to stay focused and in peak condition (the previous staff had advised the athletes to work out over spring break, even if it meant running on the beach in Florida).
For several reasons, the decision was made this year to move the schedule up, meaning that Coach Pollard and the players "lost" almost three weeks of preparation time.
"I'm not going to let that happen again," was Pollard's determined comment.
At this point the winter/spring school term is winding down. Students have one more week of regular classes, giving the football team the rest of this week for its normal workout schedule. Beginning Monday "Dead Week" will commence, which will also cancel the mandatory weight room schedule.
Anticipating what's to come, Pollard has worked the players hard. "I'm really over-training them a bit right now," he said. "But that's okay. We'll be back in the groove again when summer term starts, and we'll be able to make real progress."
In between spring and summer semesters, The University schedules an Interim term, lasting two weeks. Those classes are specialized, and the great majority of students do not attend. However, those football athletes on campus (probably 20-30) will continue to work out.
Normally the great majority of the team will either enroll for both summer terms or spend those months in Tuscaloosa, providing a chance for the players to participate in voluntary workouts in preparation for the 2003 season.
No "decrees" (similar to what happened with the previous coaching staff) have been issued from Coach Price's office, but Pollard expects a virtual full house anyway.