Q&A with Drew Wilson: Part II

In Part Two of our Q&A with Colorado's Director of Football Strength and Conditioning, Drew Wilson talks about winter break, incoming nose tackle Javier Edwards and how his program is position specific, among other topics...

It looks like some of the players have been hanging around working out with you during the winter break... mostly in-state players?

Drew Wilson: “Yeah, most of the Colorado kids are in here. We let them know what they need to get done [during break]. I always say this to guys, 'I don't care where you train. I really don't. But where you go to train, are they making you do what you have to do or what you want to do?' With me, you know it is going to be what you have to do. There is going to be no gray area about that. Sometimes other gyms can be what you want to do.

“But I hope that they are training because we are going to jump right into it the day they get back. Some guys have already asked me, 'Coach, we played later this year, does that mean your program starts later?' I said, 'No, we start on the 17th, that is the first lift, we're going. And it is going to be hard and it is going to be a punch in the face on day one and you better be ready because you were given two weeks to train while you were home. I warned you, I told you. I didn't lie to you and trick you and tell you to take the two weeks off.' I was very honest with them, so it is full-go when we get back.”

The previous nine years the Buffs didn't go to a bowl game and there was a much longer break. Do you think the shorter break will make it easier for you in terms of not having to work off as much rust off these guys when they get back next week?

I think most definitely from a weight room standpoint, from a football playing standpoint, especially having all the extra practices. The guys might not see it but the coaches see it. This gives us time to develop them given that they only had a two week layoff. If you give a guy six weeks off, he will think to himself, 'If I start three from now before I get back, that is probably good enough.' There isn't going to be as much rust to work off. It is going to be a short break mentally, but physically it'll allow them to merge right back in seamlessly.”

You talked about the main lifts the players do in the weight room under you (bench, squat, cleans, pulls)... how do you tailor your program to make it position or player specific?

Linemen are always going to squat. To me they are dump trucks that drive around the field and they have to bang into things and move things or resist movement. The receivers and defensive backs are the race cars. They have to be fast and get in and out of space. So linemen always squat a majority of the time. Even a younger receiver will squat a lot more than an older receiver, and it is all dependent on the part of the year.

“If a guy played a certain amount of plays during a game, I tailor his program to say, 'Okay, you are not going to squat as much as the guy that didn't play as much because you have a lot of damage on your body.' There was a point midway through the season where 'Fo' (defensive back Afolabi Laguda) was leading in terms of the play count and you have to look at that because I need him to be good at the end of the season, too. So I not only tailor it to their position but also look at what damage they are taking during the season.

“Out of season, it is based on what they have to do from a lifting/running standpoint, what position they do play. So a defensive back will run a lot more yards in conditioning. From a lifting standpoint, a defensive back is going to squat, but they will also do a lot of single leg work, too, because they are always transferring from one leg to the other. So it is based on what they do.

“But I will never, never, ever try to say, 'Let me get super sports specific in the weight room.' Because the weight room is for getting strong, the field is for displaying that strength. Most of the things we do out on the field are tailored very specifically, individualized for what they have to do out there.”

One of your mid-year Junior College signees, Javier Edwards, looks primed to factor into the nose tackle role but it also looks like he needs to shed a little weight. Is he a special project you have this spring, to get him ready to fill Josh Tupou's shoes?

Yeah. Him and I actually talked about that on his official visit, that was one of his biggest concerns, how we are going to help him nutrition wise. I love the fact that he asked some really good questions. I talked to him about [Sports Dietitian] Laura [Anderson]. And I talked to him about how we are going to get the weight off him, that we are going to get it off the right way so as his body fat goes down, his lean mass is increasing. It is not going to be like he looks like a melting ice cream cone and he is getting weaker.

We want him to continually gaining strength while he is losing that weight and getting to that optimal playing weight. He is already prepared for it. I don't know if he is ready for exactly what I am going to ask him to do. That is fine. Most guys think it is going to be one way, and it is going to be another way, the way I know it works. And we'll go from there. But the fact he was asking me about that on his official visit and that he is self-aware to know that he is a good player but he knows what he needs to do to be a better player, that is important.”

You have someone like Javier Edwards that will need to come in and lose some weight, and then on the flip-side you have someone like offensive tackle Aaron Haigler that is needing to gain mass. As a strength coach do you almost feel like an artist at times trying to sculpt and build these players in a certain way?

“That is exactly what it is. You are molding clay. Haigler needs to gain weight and get stronger. He is a long 6-foot-7 kid and right now he is probably about a 400-pound squater. We have to get that moving up. He has a long way to go, it is hard for him with his frame. But the good thing about Haigler is he has a great attitude. He loves lifting weights and he is good at it for being 6-foot-7. Most taller, longer guys struggle with certain movements. He is a really good lifter, a really good squatter, but we just have to get the whole package down with him. I think year two in the program will be really good for him.”

There will be five early enrollees coming in from high school getting an extra semester in the program before their eligibility clock starts. How much of a head start does that give them over the typical prep signee that comes in for the summer bridge program in late June?

It is a huge advantage, not only in the weight room. They are also going to get a head start academically, a head start maturity wise being in college socially. And then from a physical standpoint they are going to be with me so I know they are going to have everything done the way I want it done. The NLI [strength and conditioning] program you send out, some guys don't have access to certain equipment or they do it the way their high school coach taught them, which is fine, but it is probably different than the way I teach it. So the fact I get to have my eyes on them, I love that. I think mid-year enrollees are great because most of these kids need to be physically developed.”

In the third and final installment of our Q&A with Wilson, he will talk about how his program promotes competition, what sold him on coming to Colorado last winter, and how he has enjoyed his first 12 months in Boulder, among other topics.

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