When Arizona State University's spring semester commenced on January 13th, so did the football team's strength and conditioning program which ran for eight consecutive weeks. Modified testing took place right before spring break, where just the weight room marks were recorded. Players received a take home workout schedule for their spring break to train before spring practice began.
Griswold said that the conditioning aspect as the team got closer to spring practice, was emphasized more than the than lifting weights.
"The way we run our up tempo offense and defense, our scoring drives are usually short," Griswold explained. "To execute that and to play well on special teams you have to be in great shape. We still train heavy during spring ball, having them here Monday, Wednesday and Friday because they practice Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. April 25th was our last day.
"With the online classes some kids finish in April, some finish on May 9th, so they have a take home program that has running and lifting for three weeks. But a lot of guys just stay here and do their workout here. This is considered by the NCAA discretionary time – you (coaches) can be in the building but cannot conduct it."
Griswold sated that the effectiveness of the take home program, even if it's conducted away from campus, has been at a high rate so far due to the large number of upperclassmen. Nonetheless, with 40 or so newcomers and second-year players it remains to be seen if the level of participation will be just as high.
"The longer you're in college, the less likely you are to go home or you don't go home for as long," Griswold noted. "Arizona State is home for them. But the May program is designed for all the players to get excited and do things on their own to get ready for the season. Obviously when you're doing it on your own there is less stress because you don't have a coach instructing and that's good because they need a break.
"I think the program has been good and I had a bunch of players who texted me and emailed me about their workouts. We are doing just fine."
For the local newcomers, the take home program can be conducted in Tempe, as NCAA rules permit first-year players who signed their National Letter of Intent but haven't enrolled in college yet, to train on campus. These players however cannot receive instruction from the strength and conditioning coaches and cannot work out with the team.
"We can give them a program to do and we can answer questions for safety purposes," Griswold remarked, "so it's different than when they get here in May and we can coach them. So it has its benefits. (Incoming freshman) Quinn Bailey has been here all the time and has done great. We had another player, Sam Jones (from Colorado) who spent his entire spring break training here. I've never seen that before but all these guys want to play early and that is really their only chance to train before they get here.
"I can't encourage those players to do this. They have to do it on their own."
A player's strength attributes are relative to one's age, and maximizing that potential is naturally harder for a senior than it would be for first-year player. Therefore, strength programs for each player do get adjusted accordingly.
"Jamil Douglas just power cleaned 385 lbs. His ceiling? We are right there at it," Griswold stated. "Taylor Kelly is a 335 lbs. power cleaner he did that weighing 197 lbs and now he's 211 lbs., so he's at a point where you can only go so high. So with guys like that we need to know how we manage them in the summer with rep schemes. So their progress in the summer may not be that big and they go through an advanced program if most of your career you were healthy.
"In the summer all our rookies go at 6AM. When you have mid-year transfers like D.J. Calhoun and Edmond Boateng, their eight week program from January-March was different than the rest of the team's. All newcomers arriving in the summer will be on a rookie program literally all throughout the entire regular season, and this is regardless of whether they are redshirting or not.
"They may be physically gifted enough to play, but they are also physically not that strong. Their body types are still immature. A guy like D.J. Foster this spring didn't put on so much weight but his whole body looks different. I tell all recruits that between the ages of 18-20 it's not that hard to make you look better because you are still growing into a man. It's about your junior and senior year and how we are still making you better and getting you NFL ready."
Speaking of the NFL, Griswold was pleased with the performance of all those who participated in the March event."For the most part of guys did well," Griswold said of ASU's Pro Day. "The guys that stayed here and trained with Josh (Storms-Griswold's assistant) did very well. Pro Day is the big stage and it's no different than showing up on a Saturday night. You peak for one day, one opportunity and hope that on that day you do your best."
It would be nearly impossible to find any article previewing the 2014 Sun Devils, without several mentions of a defensive group who could struggle this season returning just two starters. Griswold said that the challenges the defense may encounter on the field, could be displayed through the strength and conditioning aspect as well.
"Even though this is year three for me, it's not year three for the defense because you lost all those guys," Griswold remarked. "Some guys here are (year three) and some are not. That was some of the struggles you saw in the spring, taking a lot of guys who were in gold jerseys last fall and now playing them.
"The biggest thing with those guys is getting them in shape. Durability is very important. We're trying to have the defense play under 70 snaps and we have been able to do that a lot because of turnovers. But we were also blessed with players that could play a lot of snaps. Will Sutton could play 80 snaps and you don't see that in other leagues, Guys in the SEC play 20-30 snaps and they are rolling all new defensive lines in there. That's just more typical with what teams do with defenses. We just fortunate that we have guys that want to play and can play a lot of snaps."
The physical factor of the workouts is obviously not ignored, but does take longer to manifest its results.
"You obviously want to gain strength but it takes time," Griswold said. "You can get in decent shape in 4-6 weeks. But it's not ideal and you can get in a lot better shape the longer you go. You can't make a judgment on someone's progress in the first week to ten days, because they are such good athletes and their bodies will adapt fast.
"But we'll get there, and you have some guys who have issues with injuries and stuff like that. So this all takes time. That's what the summer time is all about getting ready."
The physicality aspect of the ASU team was a popular topic of discussion when analyzing the two losses it had against Stanford, as well as the loss to Notre Dame. Griswold said that improving that factor will certainly be a point emphasis this year.
"Stanford is big and physical, and you look at some of their guys and they have a bigger girth and they recruit a different type of athlete," Griswold explained. "It was also a very veteran type team. So here we have a guy like Salamo Fiso who has changed his body and is now 237 lbs. So he looks like he is supposed to look. So over time your body changes and that is part of it. You obviously have to practice like it, and you have to recruit kids who like the physicality of it.
"A lot of people think we have a ‘fun n' gun' type of offense, but we know we have to run the ball in order to win. They are some things we need to do to get better and being more physical is part of it. You have to put a hat on a hat, you have to block not only up front but on the perimeter to be successful in the run game."
Straight line speed is certainly a trait that many current and newcomer ASU players possess, and while it undoubtedly is a benefit, it has to be measured in other aspects as well to determine its effectiveness.
"How fast can he run a route? How fast can he get from point A to point B? It doesn't matter how fast you are if you don't play fast," Griswold explained. "Then it comes to making an adjustment (given by the coaches) and still playing fast and not having that adjustment slow you down. That can be a limitation. You can only go so fast as long as you can process the information fast."
The football team begins its summer school session on May 18th, but their workouts are still discretionary until May 27th when the organized summer program starts, just ten weeks away from fall camp.
"We'll workout Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, Two hours a day," Griswold said. "We do it specific by position, so position wise our workouts try to mimic what it's like on game day. At 8AM linebackers and defensive backs go, the skill positions go next, and special teams get included in that group. Some tight ends will be in the skilled position group while others will be in the offensive and defensive lineman group."
In the constant arms race that consumes college football facilities, Arizona State's weight room which was named just 11 or so years ago as the best in the country by Sports Illustrated, is one that is likely to see some changes as part of the overall renovations to Sun Devil Stadium.
That's not to say that recent changes to the weight room have not enhanced it. In recent weeks equipment was added which have one stop-shop features and maximizes the eight hours a week that the players spend working out.
"There is so much I need to do to get prepared before I hand off these players to the coaches in August," Griswold said, "and with this set up the workouts are more efficient. We also have a new hydration area and in our climate we try to be on the cutting edge of this. The new NCAA rules about nutrition (i.e. allowing unlimited snacks, etc.) will sure help. We have a huge contract with Muscle Milk, and we can use a lot of protein bars and other foods like hydration popsicles that are NCAA compliant."
Griswold said that the team's strength and conditioning workouts that were quite demanding in 2013, will increase this year in order to enhance the overall state of the program from a strength and conditioning standpoint.
"We ran more in this January and February than we ever have since I got here," Griswold said. "Our mat drills were really good. On defense for the most part we are OK, we just have a few guys that need to get into shape and some of them have been hampered by injury, but it's our job to get them back and rehabilitate them in shape.
"If they (the entire team) can do what they did last summer they will be in shape, no question."