Jason Veltkamp was all smiles as Arkansas football players headed out of town last week for spring break. He can't wait for Tuesday and the start of spring drills for a chance to see what their winter work did for their ability to make plays on the field.
Veltkamp, the strength and conditioning coach for the Hogs, thinks he'll see major improvement on the field.
The football team went through a highly successful testing period just ahead of spring break, the best Veltkamp can remember.
The Hogs are bigger, in many cases by over 20 pounds. And, at the same time, they are faster.
"Sometimes you get weight gains of five pounds and you can get faster, but it isn't often that you have many that gain 20 pounds and are also faster," Veltkamp said. "We did that. We had a great winter."
Veltkamp attributes several factors. First, this is a young team. There was a lot of potential for development because of the number of freshmen and sophomores on the squad. Second, the team is only 14-16 months deep in his program.
But the biggest factor might be the intelligence of the team. He said the players started the Monday -- on their own, a week ahead of schedule -- after the victory over LSU and continued to attack the program through the testing period last week. The early part of the winter included one-on-one meetings with Veltkamp where individual goal setting was the top priority.
Everyone knows the Hogs have one of the best weight lifting facilities in the nation. The work done recently to expand Walker Pavilion on the north side is spectacular. But Veltkamp said his staff added a secret weapon last year that paid big dividends this winter.
"We've got a video system for our weight room that is state of the art," he said. "Only a handful of teams have it. It's a portable system on six carts. We can take it to the track to video the way they run, or we can take it to the lifting areas.
"What we are able to do is video technique, then play it back immediately and show them what we are talking about. Our players are visual learners. That's how they learn on the field, by watching their technique and their movements in practices and games. We found they are the same way in the weight room."
Sometimes the gains can be spectacular and quick.
"You can correct mistakes so quickly and help them get the movements down that are going to specifically lead to the right strengths in the right areas," Veltkamp said. "We can correct running flaws and lifting flaws."
Veltkamp wouldn't mention the name, but he told the story of a young defensive back who was timed at 4.95 in the 40-yard dash at the start of the period.
"That kind of speed won't cut it in the SEC," he said. "But we were able to show him on video several flaws in his running technique. We attacked those problems and corrected them in a short time. The athlete was committed to coming in on his off days to work on some lifts designed to shore up those problem areas and fix technique in his running style. In five to six weeks time, he was running 4.64. I don't know if I've ever seen a kid drop three tenths in one year. The video was the key.
"I think what it shows is that we can bring along kids so must faster with this equipment. Players like watching film of themselves. You can get an immediate response and correct mistakes. It cuts out so much time in our teaching.
"I'm telling you, we are set up for success here with the tools our administration has gotten us in all areas. The administration has been supportive of our program and this is a great example."
The Hogs were scheduled to work four days a week this winter, but Veltkamp found that players were so passionate that it stretched to five and six days.
"We had players coming in on their two off days routinely," he said. "Our three quarterbacks (Ryan Mallett, Tyler Wilson and Jim Youngblood) were up here on all of their off days. They all three made great strides."
Mallett lost weight and gained speed and flexibility. Wilson and Youngblood gained weight, strength and speed.
"Those three are very competitive," Veltkamp said. "Competition is a great thing. When you have two or three fighting at each spot, your team will get better. We talk about iron sharpening iron in the weight room, but it goes for the field, too."
This team will look better in its uniforms this spring. The freshmen who played so many snaps last year as undersized 18-year-olds have grown up.
"You look at our two young backs, Dennis Johnson and De'Anthony Curtis, this spring and they look a lot different," Veltkamp said. "They are both up 10 to 12 pounds and they are two of our fastest guys. Jerico Nelson, one of our safeties, is up at least 10 pounds and he ran an outstanding 40 time. He dipped into the 4.4s.
"Bottom line, college football is a process. The older guys usually have an advantage. They are going to be stronger and faster because of time in the weight room. We had a lot of players that were not developed on the field last year. They were thrust into playing time. Some of them did very well, but they are going to be much better now and in some cases they are set up for exceptional years."
Now it's time to turn them over to Bobby Petrino to see what they can do on the field. Jason Veltkamp can hardly wait.
Veltkamp Excited About Gains
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