Greg Finnegan: The summer went well. Our guys did a very nice job. The leaders, our seniors, did a very nice job. They really bonded with the younger players, took them under their wings, taught them. I'm very pleased.
We've got to translate it into success on the field now. But they did a nice job. We got some guys who got faster.
Q: How did the end-of-summer conditioning test go?
GF: It went really well. We had our lowest number of guys ever not make it. That was a big deal.
Q: What is the conditioning test?
GF: We run a 300-yard shuttle. So it's five 60-yard runs, with a three-minute rest (in between). They've each got a time they've got to make according to their position. For our fast guys, it's 46 seconds. They get a rest, then do the second one, etc.
Q: Did you have full attendance for the summer workouts?
GF: Second half of the summer, yes. First half of the summer, no. Edwin Harrison was doing an internship in Houston for part of (the first session). (laughing) We had world traveler Lorenzo Sims off gallivanting across Europe for part of if.
Q: Did the summer feel like last summer? Or how was it different?
GF: It was different from the way we approached things. We did more running, more speed work. More explosive running than we have in the past. Our volume was up about 20 percent on that.
The thing I liked about this summer was the way the team kept its focus on football, and they way they bonded. I thought that was better than in years past. This team did a really nice job. They did 7-on-7s on their own twice a week. We can't be with them on that. They started doing one-on-ones once a week. They held film sessions for each other to review and learn.
They spent time on football. It gave me a good feeling about how important it is to them.
Q: Do you attribute that to the senior leadership on the team?
GF: Yeah. Definitely. But it's not just the seniors. We've got some younger guys who led too. Lorenzo Sims, Thaddaeus Washington, Brian Daniels, they're all guys who lead in addition to our seniors.
Thaddaeus had his best training session ever. He had a phenomenal summer. He wasn't on our dominator board after our (January-March) offseason workouts. But in the summer, he got up on the dominator board (a listing that shows the leaders in a number of strength and conditioning categories). He squats the most out of that explosion group. His incline went up. His vertical jump went up. He vertical jumped 35 inches, which is a best for him.
He ran better this summer than he's ever run. I think you'll see him a step faster.
On running 40s
GF: We don't run 40s in the summer. I'd love to run them, because I know we've got guys faster. But if I tell Coach (Gary Barnett) that we lost a guy to a pulled hamstring right before camp (laughs). I would never chance it.
Q: What did Thaddaeus bench?
GF: His bench is just under 400. He's at 395.
Q: You told me earlier this year that a fast guy is going to be fast. In other words it's tougher to increase speed than strength. But how hard is it when a guy tops out at 390 pounds to get him to bench 400?
GF: With Thaddaeus, it'll take him one more training cycle and he'll get over (400). We don't have a lot of guys who get stuck (strength wise). If something happens where their strength doesn't go up, there's usually a reason. A shoulder injury, something that happened in spring ball. But under normal circumstances, we can get you stronger.
We can get you faster, it's just the harder of the two. It's easier to see big strength gains than it is to see big speed gains. That's why we love getting athletes. A guy like (true freshman) Paul Backowski. He's a 260-pound offensive lineman right now, but he's 6-6. We'll put the weight on him. Over time, we're going to put weight and muscle on that kid. But the thing that he's got is he's athletic. He does a nice job moving. So that's a bonus for us.
Q: So you got a look at the incoming freshmen?
GF: Yeah. They did a nice job. They got to go to summer school for the first time since I've been here. Almost all of them, except two, went to summer school the second session. They were here from July 5th on. It was perfect. Because it gives them a chance to (ease into things). First week, it's like, ‘Oh, my God, what's going on?' Second week, they start to get a little more comfortable. Third week, you started seeing their personalities, where they fit in on the team.
They've been doing their position stuff with the seniors leading them. It was a nice benefit.
Q: Any of them jump out at you?
GF: The guys talked about Gardner McKay a lot. About his 7 on 7 skills. He's a little lean (under 160 pounds), but he's impressive. Kevin Moyd set a conditioning test record for the running backs. And Maurice Lucas set a D-line conditioning record. Those two beat all the veterans and everyone else.
Q: Who wree some of the guys who improved their strength?
GF: Some of the guys that we really had jump up this summer: Alex Ligon had a great summer. Vaka Manupuna had a great summer. Brian Daniels had a real good summer. Klop and Iwuh were both outstanding. Our entire linebacking crew had a good summer, between Brad Jones, Thaddaeus Washington, Akarika Dawn.
In our speed group, Hugh Charles just crushes everyone. He had a nice summer. Stephone Robinson, Ryan Walters, Joel Klatt all had nice summers. Those are just the highlight guys. We've got a good group of guys. Our team will work. No matter what, these guys work. They listen, they do what you ask of them and that's one of the things that's most impressive about them.
Our guys didn't get in any trouble all summer. Coach calls me at the end of the summer and says, ‘It's been real quiet. Everything going good?' ‘Yeah, Coach, everyone's behaving themselves.' That's a positive. Our guys did a nice job of stayin' out of trouble and taking care of their business.
I've been impressed. I can't wait for them to get on the field.
Q: That's my last question. You said you've got to translate it onto the field. What does your program entail now that they're putting the pads on and playing football?
GF: We'll continue working straight through camp and right into the season. We'll continue to at least maintain, and possibly gain some more strength. We'll work with them a lot on their stretching, flexibility, stuff to keep them healthy and on the field.
We'll do a lot of extra stuff keeping their legs fresh. And we're still not ready to peak. Our physical peak, literally, we want to be in the Big 12 Championship game. So we want to continue to build to peak at the end of the season. We want to be the most powerful that day.
We want them at a high level Sept. 3, but we want to still rise after that. October and November is critical for us. That's all Big 12 North.
But we've been talking about Colorado State all summer. We want to pound those guys. It's gonna be a fun game.
We've got a good group, though. I can't wait to see them on the field. One of our things over the summer was: Become a different player than you were during the spring. We kept harping on this as a (training) staff. We kept talking to them about making sure on the first practice that your position coach sees you do something that you couldn't do before. You need to be a different player. Or our numbers don't mean anything. If you didn't get better from the spring to the fall, then everything we did isn't showing up.
All of these numbers are nice, and they love the dominator board. But it doesn't mean anything unless they become a better player, unless they're a step faster, in and out of their breaks faster, they can make a cut they couldn't make before, the o-linemen are more powerful, coming off the ball harder. That's our ultimate goal.
(The strength and conditioning staff) are a means to an end of making our guys better. On Sept. 3, it doesn't matter how much our guys bench vs. how much their guys bench. It matters, can our guys knock their guys on the ground? Are we going to be more explosive and faster and better football players?
We'll see how that plays out. Everyone's excited, though. Everyone's excited.