The entire football coaching staff had been replaced, with the exception of Joe Whitt, following a disastrous 3-8 season. Under the guidance of new coach Tommy Tuberville, the Tigers were to begin another era in Auburn football history and he wanted Yoxall to get his players into tip-top shape for battle.
Coming from UCLA where he had developed Bruin football teams and world class athletes in a variety of sports into one of the best conditioned groups in the country, Yoxall arrived on the Auburn campus bringing a new attitude to Tiger football workouts. Those first demanding winter workouts set the tone for the 1999 season as the players worked harder than they had in previous years. Despite limited numbers of top-level SEC players on both sides of the ball, the Tigers were a respectable team on the field and there was a widespread feeling on the team that Auburn was a program on the rise.
This photo is of a row of work stations on the weight room floor of the new strength and conditioning facility. There are 20 stations in all.
Following two seasons in which the Tigers won or shared the SEC Western Division title, Yoxall says the 2002 team is preparing as well as any in recent memory. With a bad taste left in their mouths from the end of the 2001 season, it's not surprising this group of players is working extra hard to make sure they don't repeat the ending to last season.
While that has much to do with the energy surrounding the football team this summer, it's just one of the many reasons why they're working hard. Perhaps the biggest reason is a new weight room complex that houses the football entire strength and conditioning program.
"Of course, the kids are excited about it," Yoxall says of the new facility that was officially opened early this year. "They've enjoyed working out in here. It was really kind of funny when the weight room was being built. I guess the kids thought I didn't want them to come in here when it was being built. Hardly any of them ventured down the hallway connecting the locker room and weight room to look in here.
"Last winter when we moved in, the first day of workouts was probably the first actual day that these kids all came in here at one time and got to see the weight room setup. The reaction was great. They were very excited about it. They've been very good about keeping the room clean and protecting the room because it's their home away from home. I think they've been very appreciative of it."
Redshirt freshman tight end Cooper Wallace is shown during a summer workout. He is one of the players who has made major size and strength gains using the new facility. Wallace is expected to play this season at around 250 pounds.
It's hard not to be impressed by the facility. When you walk in from the player's entrance coming from the back of their locker room, the first thing that catches your eye is the amount of space Yoxall and staff have to work with. With plenty of room to work out a large number of players on the weights while another group does cardio and conditioning drills upstairs, Yoxall says the new building gives him the opportunity to get more done in a shorter period of time.
"The thing that we've been able to do is that I was able to put a lot more equipment in here," he says with a big smile. "Coach Tuberville jokes with me all the time that I've got too much stuff in here, but I told him, ‘Coach, if you give me this kind of room I'm going to put stuff in it.' While the other weight room was a great weight room and we were able to get a lot of good things done in there, this one is a lot more functional. We've been able to spread out the equipment a lot more evenly though we've added equipment."
The room and added equipment has allowed Yoxall's assistant Tommy Stucky and graduate assistants Tony Del Angel and Keith Caton to actively participate in everyone's workout. Whether it's taking notes or keeping records while supervising, Yoxall says that having four sets of eyes and room for all to do their job is perhaps the best part of the new facility.
Brandon Johnson is shown working out Thursday afternoon in the new weight room.
"Being able to watch and supervise and coach the kids is a lot better in this room," Yoxall notes. "As coaches we were kind of shoulder to shoulder or back to back watching the guys lift and recording the workouts and such. Now we're really spread out. We've got four rows of five racks. Coach Stucky, my full-time assistant, and I and Tony and Keith, my two graduate assistants, we're in here with all the kids working out. We're able to each take a row. We have a designated row where we take our individual players and work them out. So the biggest thing has been, besides the newness of it, having a really great functional weight room.
"But it's not state-of-the-art," Yoxall adds. "My program is based around some good old sound fundamentals that have always worked. I wouldn't call it any revolutionary weight room or anything like that. We've got 20 platforms and 20 racks and that's where we do well over 95 percent of our work. We're able to get a lot more kids in here and at the same time they still receive a great amount of supervision and coaching just because of the way the room is situated. There have been some workout groups this summer that have had 70 kids in them. In the old weight room I could not have done that just because of the size of it."
Something also vital to today's student athletes are supplements that help the athletes maintain a balanced diet and develop their strength at a maximum. The days of the football plays all eating at the same training table at Sewell Hall are long gone with athletic dorms no longer allowed. Players are scattered around on campus and off campus and coaches can't monitor what they eat.
Yoxall had ideas for a nutrition room to be built adjacent to the weight room so players would have access to all their essential supplements as soon as they finished a workout. He spends a significant part of his day making drinks for the players to consume after they finish workouts and head for home, class or jobs during the summer months.
"We have the nutritional room right next to us where we pass out the supplements," he says. "We've got enough room in there where we can actually prepare the supplements for the kids. That makes is easier for them to consume everything. It's funny that a college student, just being a college student, he doesn't want to take a packet of carbohydrate and protein mix home and take 30 seconds out of his life to mix it up. But it does get consumed if we take the time to mix it up. With our new nutrition room we're able to do that."
Sophomore Jay Ratliff lifts weights as teammate Roderick Hood works as his spotter.
With a new facility as the showplace of the program at the moment, Yoxall notes that he is excited about things to come with the football program as a whole and particularly the strength and conditioning aspect of it.
"It's made our days a little easier I guess you could say in a sense. It's been a great weight room. People are very impressed when they come in here. Of course, I'm very impressed. I'm flattered to have been a part of it. I really, really am. I really enjoy it."
Editor's Note: Look for part five of the series next week.