Squad conditions for spring

For fans wondering about the specifics of what's going on every day at the Alabama Football Complex, senior guard Danny Martz offered an explanation. <br><br>"I've never been this sore this long ever," Martz said. "There are muscles that I never knew could hurt that are hurting."

BamaMag.com got a chance to talk with Martz recently just before his Friday afternoon workout, and the big man talked about the sessions. "It's Friday now, and I'm still sore from Tuesday's workout. It feels good, though."

Strength will always be important. But Head Coach Mike Shula and his hand-picked Strength Coach Kent Johnston are determined to build Bama into the best-conditioned squad possible.

"I've seen guys ready to fall out just during warm-ups," Martz related. "(Coach Johnston) is working our butts off, which is what we needed. Everyone is so tired afterwards. I come to workouts now excited. You know you're going to work hard, and you're going to be tired. But you know it's the best thing for us.

"It's what we're going to need in the long run."

At the same time that Martz and the rest of Alabama's team is getting used to their new strength coach, the Tide has also moved into the impressive new weight room. Measuring more than 22,000 square feet, the new facility immediately pushes Bama to the forefront nationally in terms of facilities.

"What Coach Johnston is doing right now is great," Martz said. "We're real excited about getting the new weight room open."

Danny Martz has been impressed by the new construction.

With the weight room now finished, workers turn their attention to the old part of the building. Before they're done Alabama's athletes will also enjoy completely renovated locker room and training facilities--again, state of the art.

Martz commented, "I wish I wasn't a senior, so I could have more time to enjoy it. It's beautiful. The weight room and the upstairs... You wish you were a freshman so you could enjoy it all your career. They were talking about doing this my freshman year; it just took awhile to get it done. I'll get to enjoy it for one year.

"As an athlete it's great to know The University is making that commitment. Recruits see that and want to come here."

Coach Shula determined months ago that he was going to make conditioning a priority this off season, and the arrival of a new strength coach made it easy to draw a figurative line in the sand with the team. No offense to anyone or anything that came before, but Shula mandated that from January forward things would be different.

"I'd say the tone of our workouts have changed," Martz said. "They're more disciplined. It's almost like a military style. You've got to do things right. If one person messes up, then you're starting over. Everyone has got to be on target, doing everything the same way. It's a lot more disciplined."

But for all the sweat and hard work, Martz wouldn't have it any other way.

He explained, "The workouts builds ‘team.' When you're involved in these workouts your mind is telling you to quit. Your body doesn't want to take it, but that's when your heart takes over and fights through it. Nobody wants to quit. When you think you can't do it, that's when your teammates come up and pull you through.

"Fight through it. Let your heart take over."

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Kent Johnston is directing Bama's off-season workouts.

Shula's goal is frankly a return to the way things used to be at Alabama. As he put it, Bama's athletes haven't always been the biggest or strongest, but under Paul Bryant and then Ray Perkins, nobody ever beat Bama mentally.

Martz believes demanding winter workouts now will lead to mutual trust on Saturdays next fall.

He explained, "You're going to be out there on the field together. You look at your teammates' eyes in the huddle and say ‘Come on, we've got one more play. Let's get it done.' You look at your teammates' eyes now, and you know that you can trust them on the field."

That principle applies to the team in general, but Martz particularly hopes that his coaches will come to trust him next season. Working mainly as a back-up in 2003, Martz saw action in nine of Alabama's 13 games. But injuries later in the year increased his role, giving him starts versus both Mississippi State and LSU.

"The Tennessee game was my first chance to play a lot," Martz said, "especially all the overtime. I then started the next two games after that. That put me in good position for this year. I've finally made it, so I can't let anyone down. Just one more year left. My time has come."

It took Martz a few years to build himself into an SEC-caliber offensive lineman. Then last year he backed up at guard behind All-American Justin Smiley and senior Dennis Alexander.

"Sometimes you get type cast," Martz explained. "It's like with Marico (Portis). When I first got here the coaches didn't pay him much attention, but those two years when he started he was unbelievable.

"I've been waiting for my chance. That's the way it works sometimes in college football. I've been waiting for my chance, and it's finally come. I can't let it pass by."

Martz hopes to hold onto the starting right guard slot this fall.

But the fifth-year athlete knows that before he worries about who'll start next year, he and his fellow seniors must provide leadership in the off-season.

"That's exactly it; you expect leadership from your seniors," Martz pointed out. "You can see it from the offensive linemen now. We've got three seniors, and we need to show leadership. It falls to us. The coaches can't be out there with our workouts right now. That's the seniors' main job."

"It's not a matter of yelling or screaming," Martz continued. "You help (the younger players) out. If they can't do it, then you show them the right way. Push them along. If someone is slacking, sometimes you have to get in their face. That's part of being on a team."

Martz knows that he and his fellow seniors must set the tone.

"We can't show any weakness," he said. "You've got to lead the whole time. Your teammates are always watching."

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