Redshirt Freshman Can See The Difference

In part three of a series on Auburn's strength and conditioning program for football players, one of the team's talented young players discusses his physical improvements in the past year.

Auburn, Ala.--When Cooper Wallace was signed out of Christ Presbyterian Academy in Nashville, Tenn., in February of 2001, few realized that would become a major recruiting coup for the Auburn Tigers.

At just over 220 pounds and 6-feet-3 inches tall it seemed a long shot that he would be ready to play tight end in the SEC after just one redshirt season. However, it's going to happen this fall thanks to some hard work in the weight room and on the field.

Now over 250 pounds and running just as fast as he was when he lined up at tailback his senior season in the state title game, Wallace says that he never would have guessed he would be in this position heading into two-a-days.

"I have come miles," Wallace tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "I've taken huge strides by just being able to work out in this heat with this kind of college intensity that you must have. It's funny. In high school the summer after your senior year you think you are working hard. You think you are running hard and lifting hard. Then you get here and you realize that you haven't done anything.

Cooper Wallace was one of the more impressive players in spring practice for the Tigers.

"It came faster than I expected it to. I figured I would need at least another year. I really didn't have any idea of how long it would take because I had never really done what it takes to put on 20 pounds and keep the speed."

Wallace says without hesitation that his improved size and strength would not have been possible without the direction of coach Kevin Yoxall and his staff. At home in a new state-of-the art facility that houses the weight room, cardio and rehabilitation areas for the strength and conditioning program, Wallace says things have been very smooth this summer as the team works towards the Sept. 2 kickoff against Southern California in Los Angeles.

"They're just as much a coach as coach (Bobby) Petrino or anybody out there," he notes. "We're with them everyday. We're with them more than we're with all the other coaches. They mean a lot to the team and they get us going. They keep us working hard even when nobody wants to. They do a great job."

"I think it's good," Wallace says of the new weight complex. "It's obviously a lot bigger and a lot nicer. It's going to help a lot to bring in recruits as well. I've been to four other SEC schools and they all had nice weight rooms so that seemed to be a big deal. It's going to help a lot."

It appears the Tigers have already taken full advantage of the facilities. The team as a whole is bigger and that should help as they head into one of the tougher schedules in recent memory for an Auburn team. With four games in 18 days to open the season there is no easing into the 2002 season. That could be a blessing for the Tigers following a disastrous end to last season in which they lost three games in a row to close out the year. With no time to dwell on what could have been last year, the players have been working hard to make sure there's not a repeat performance.

"I think the way we ended last year was terrible," Wallace says. "I don't think that's going to happen again. No one wants that to happen again. This summer the work ethic has been bumped feels a lot better this summer, just the whole team. I myself, I feel a lot more part of the team not being a redshirt just being here for a year. This summer is definitely a lot different."

One of the things the players have been doing this summer to get ready is having coaching and teaching sessions on their own time in the afternoons. Because coaches aren't permitted to work with the players on the field until two-a-days begin, the upperclassmen have taken it upon themselves to get the team ready to hit the ground running when full squad workouts begin on August 8.

"It's vital," Wallace notes of the summer work. "We've got four games in 18 days so two-a-days isn't really enough time. It's all about the summer. I think it's important for every team. Who works the hardest during the summer is really going to get their season going."

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