Tide squad goes immediately back to work

Wednesday marks the first day of classes at The University. Thousands of students will be hurrying about, finding classrooms and getting organized. But Tide Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard won't have any trouble finding his athletes. <br><br>"There's no day off for me or the players," he said. "That's not how Coach Fran works.

"We'll be doing something every day. The athletes have had their off time. I don't think they need any more than what they have had."

Happy New Year, guys. Congratulations on the bowl win. Welcome back to Tuscaloosa. And, oh yeah…

Get back to work!

Defensive tackle Kenny King lifts during last spring's Night of Champions.

"We saw the success the SEC had in the later bowl games," Pollard explained. "We know what's ahead of us. We get to play LSU and Tennessee--and hopefully Florida next year. I think it should be a challenge to them to get back to that level. New Years Day bowl or later. But it's going to take some work."

Last year's Tide weight-room turnaround was well documented. In his first meeting with the Alabama players, Head Coach Dennis Franchione made clear that things had changed. Commitment and accountability became watchwords for everyone. And that renewed dedication began in the weight room.

To a man the athletes responded to their head coach's challenge. But human biology limits what can be accomplished in the space of a single year, and Pollard expects just as much progress in 2002. "It'll be a higher expectation," he said. "Not so much in terms of numbers, but a higher expectation in terms of commitment. I just expect these guys to be better than they were a year ago. More focused.

"There's no doubt that if we want to get to where we want to be, it takes work right now."

A nationally recognized strength coach, Pollard is always looking for ways to improve. But things won't look that different to the athletes. He explained; "Structure-wise the program won't change. It'll be the same program. We'll be lifting four days a week. Some days we'll be doing agility work, but five days a week we'll be working. We'll do the Night of Champions at the end of spring, and we'll have the same four-by-four goals."

Coach Pollard supervises stretching at the start of practice.

Last winter marked the first time that many Bama players had worked in a continuous and intense weight-lifting program. So not surprisingly, a large proportion of them achieved the four-by-four award.

But everyone's baseline has been raised, making across-the-board progress more difficult. "The (four-by-four) award is still a five or ten pound increase per lift, depending on what your strength level is," Pollard said. "It's still doable. But I don't think we'll see 98 percent of guys achieve it like we did last year. It's going to be tougher, but it should be more challenging."

As the name implies, strength and conditioning coaches work toward twin goals with their athletes. But in taking over his new team last winter, Pollard frankly admitted that he was more concerned with adding strength than the other half of the equation.

However, his second winter in Tuscaloosa will be different. "Without trying to scare them, we'll be conditioning more than we did last spring," Pollard explained. "Because then we were really focusing on strength levels. I'm not saying we won't be getting stronger. We're still going to be working at our strength levels, but we'll do a little more conditioning than a year ago at this time."

As his colleague Terry Jones Sr. is fond of saying, football is played from the ground up. And that precept forms the basis of Pollard's other goal this winter. "I really want us to focus on leg strength," he said. "I think we need to be a team that squats better. Not just in terms of number and pounds, but in our technique. I think that will help us in the end."

Wideout Sam Collins works out last spring.

The adage still holds true, speed kills--especially on the football field. Pollard explained; "If we're a little leaner and leg stronger, then I think we'll have a little bit better speed. Most football fans saw in the bowl games how evident the difference in speed is with the better teams. We want to make sure we are improving our team speed."

Last winter a losing season and an entirely new coaching staff made motivation easy. But Pollard isn't worried about duplicating that intensity in 2002. "I would hope that the success we had this season--just seeing where they are (will help)," he said. "We were close--so close to winning nine games.

"And I think some leaders have emerged. Hopefully we're dealing with a more mature group, so I expect more. I expect the rules to be even tighter. We'll have a higher expectation, and the penalty will be greater for not meeting that expectation.

"There will be differences in that we've got a group now that knows what's going on. And our expectations will increase.

"That's just the way it should be."


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