Practices for incoming freshmen begin Monday and the newcomers will have the undivided attention of the coaching staff until the full squad practices begin three days later.
After working hard since the end of spring football practice, the Tigers finished their summer program workouts last week. Except for final exams for the ones taking second summer semester classes, the time off has been a welcome break.
"At lot of people don't realize what these kids go through," Yoxall says. "I try to talk about that as much as I can because I think the perception is people see guys playing on Saturday and getting all the glory. What they don't see is the preparation that lies therein beforehand. A typical week for these kids before July 4 was running five days a week, Monday through Friday. They are also lifting four days a week, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Every workout where the kids either lifted or ran, they need at least a two-and-a-half hour block when you consider coming in here and getting taped up and showering after the workout."
True freshman Lemarcus Rowell is expected to challenge for playing time this fall.
The normal summer workout is quite a change from what most players have ever done in their preparations for a football season. As a high school player you might work out a couple of days a week to get ready for the season to begin and you might have a summer job to give you some spending money. On a college campus you might do that, but you also have the added challenge of taking classes towards your degree. With the time limitations in the fall and spring it is imperative players take advantage of the summer schedule and Coach Yox says that makes the summer a tough one for the college football player.
"We almost always warm up and do our conditioning first," Yoxall notes. "We take about a five or 10 minute break, which is not much time after you've run and come right in here to this weight room and start lifting. We divide up every group into four different sub-groups and each one of us coaches take a group. The kids are supervised from their very first warmup jog until their very last repetition here.
"Then, on top of that, the kids are doing their individual work and they're doing that this summer at least three days a week and most of the time four days a week. That's usually been late in the afternoon when guys are done with class, done with school, done working out with me. That's usually at least an hour's worth of work they're doing on their own, getting pass patterns down, plays down, defenses down, things like that. They are having to do that on their own because coaches can't be out there. So there's a lot of time commitment during the summer.
"Plus, no matter if a kid is on full scholarship, that stipend doesn't go a long way. So if a kid is trying to work and earn a little extra money then he has his job on top of that. If he's taking six credit hours he has that on top of that. And as anybody knows, if they've ever gone to summer school you have to be on top of things from the get-go in summer school because things happen a hell of a lot faster. These kids have all those things going on and I know there's people here in Auburn that are working a full day and going to summer school. These kids are in the same boat as the guy working downtown all day long and going to school at night or going to school in the morning and working all night. It's a pretty full week for these guys and I appreciate what they do. They probably don't think I appreciate it, but I do."
Victor Horn is shown working on his upper body strength at the new weight room.
Once the preseason and regular season starts, the conditioning doesn't end, but there is a different focus. "With the redshirted kids our goal is to make those kids as strong as we possibly can," Yoxall notes. "Those kids spend more time lifting than the veteran guy that's a traveler. He lifts three days a week. That workout will last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. We lift on Sunday, we lift on Tuesday and we lift on Thursday. Along with all that we have to work around injuries, treatments, meetings, all that kind of stuff.
"What we do is at the beginning of the semester I get the guys' class schedules and I find a window of time on those days between classes, meetings and treatments. Usually it's in the morning and a lot of people don't realize that we've got groups that start at 5:30 a.m. and 6 a.m. in the morning while most of these students are sleeping before they go to work or class. That's basically it for the traveling guy, guys who are playing a lot.
"The redshirted guys are on the same schedule Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, but they also lift on Friday morning and run. Then I also do lift a group and run a group on Saturday morning of home games. We've awokened a lot of people around here in their RVs with our early morning Saturday workouts because I have to use that extra time to get those kids in better shape."
Because of the extra time spent in the weight room, the redshirted kids have a tough transition into big-time college football. Throw in a new environment and for most, the first time being away from home, and you see what a tough first year it is for many players. Still, Yoxall has a job to do and that's to find out which players want to work hard enough to play and whether they have the intestinal fortitude to stick it out for the long haul.
Free safety Jared Nelson, a redshirt freshman from Mobile, works on his strength.
"Really it's not a matter of getting the kids stronger or in better shape, it's a matter of getting a kid coming out of high school to understand the intensity and the work ethic involved in getting better on this level," he tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "That's the main thing we try to do with those kids. We really work those kids hard and they're practicing on the scout team and all that stuff. That redshirt freshman year is a tough year for those guys. What I try to do during the season is spend a lot of time with the guys that are playing and seeing how they are doing, see how their strength levels are because there are some weeks that I have to really back off them. There are some weeks that they appear to be really fresh and we have to take advantage of that as far as making strength gains in here. The very bottom line is that we try to keep them in as good a condition as we can and keep them as strong as we can and keep them injury free. That's part of this job, too."
Moving from the summer to the fall, Yoxall and staff now begin the task of keeping the players strong enough during the season to perform at a high level, but not working them too hard that they risk injury or tired play. This will be especially important early in the season when the Tigers play a series of four games in 18 days beginning with a trip to Los Angeles to face USC and ending with the sometimes troublesome visit to Starkville to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
"Talking about the four-game stretch we've got, we can't hammer these kids running-wise and lifting-wise like we've been doing," Yoxall says. "Your basic hope and very bottom line is that you hope to maintain the strength levels that they've built up over the winter, spring and summer. That's your very basic hope that you can get that done through a minimal amount of lifting."