"We have a very good core. (A.J.) Nicholson has done a great job. He has had an outstanding - when I say he's done a great job I don't only mean on the field - I tend to think more of what he has done in his progress in the weight room. He has done a very good job. He can be a leader within that group. As obviously, Michael (Boulware) will be and has been. Kendyll (Pope) as well. Another person who has done a good job is (Sam) McGrew."
You also have a solid core returning in the secondary.
"Stanford (Samuels) is somebody you look at. He's going into his sixth year. He has to be a leader of that group, without question. You take a look at the other three in Rufus (Brown), Leroy (Smith) and (Bryant) McFadden. They've all played a lot and that should be one of the strengths of our defense. Fortunately, they've all done a good job in the weight room and been good leaders in the offseason."
Talk about your system. Any tweaks planned?
"Well, there's always changes. One of the things that I pride ourselves in this program, we are going to do the cutting edge. Five of us just got back from a conference in New Orleans. We spent time in sessions with people who are diehard research guys that are only in the muscular and cellular level to listening to the strength coach from Tennessee to Auburn to North Carolina. There were some great presenters. You spend a lot of time speaking with all of these people outside of the presentation. There aren't any earth shattering, dynamic changes from last year to this year. There are some adjustments, some things we feel we can improve upon.
"We drove to the conference and coming back for that six hour drive, it seemed like the bulk of our conversation was about some of the changes we've made, improvements we've made and can do. Pretty much the general consensus has been and is. ... one of the most important things that I do that Randy does, that my staff does, is develop relationships and have great communication with these athletes as individuals, and the relationship we have with this team as a collective group of individuals. It's within those relationships, helping to develop unity and discipline and character, and all of those intangibles. It's so critical for us. I know that gets away from the Xs and Os, but if we put forth the best strength program in the history of the world and completely drop the ball and ignore the chemistry and relationship with this team and these kids, we will no way ever reach our potential. We've got to make sure that we take care of doing everything that we can in developing those relationships, the character and chemistry, and all that. What do you do to do that? Relationships. Communication. If there is an issue, deal with it. Make sure it's handled. Go to Coach Bowden. Communicate with coach Bowden. I guess that's the art of it all. There's a Science of it all. It's part Science and there's a very large part that is, for the lack of a better word, is art. That's an extremely important component."
What's your plan for the next month?
"We really have six weeks before our offseason conditioning starts. The first two weeks are critical that we spend a lot of time with technique and making sure we are a little bit lighter right now. Lighter weights, higher volume. Working on technique. We do have some lifts that we are doing now that we did not do during the season. So it's going to take us a few weeks to continue to work on technique. As we refine our technique, we'll start to get heavier and heavier so by the time our offseason program starts we will be at a volume of reps of eight for the most part. Volume of 32 per exercise. In other words, 32 reps per exercise, four sets of eight. As we get closer, we will really end up, six weeks from now, four to five sets of four. A lot heavier weight. We will have to back off a little bit for the first week of our conditioning drills, then we will start to increase our intensity so by the time they leave for spring break, we are again back lifting pretty heavy. They have spring break off. We will then lift. ... we will lift as heavy as we can during spring football. It's really a short amount of time to develop a lot of strength. You can't develop a lot of strength because again, you have six weeks. ... out of eight weeks, we are lifting just two times a week. We have to do everything we can to develop a solid foundation upon which we can build over the summer. The summer continues to be a critical time for us. Quality will always take precedent over quantity. Every rep that we do, we want a quality rep. We will never sacrifice technique for the expense of weight. We will not rush through our workout. Our workout is going to take approximately, at the longest, and hour and a half."
Who has jumped out at you?
"The biggest group that jumps out - and I think this includes everybody - is Greg Jones, Kendyll Pope, Ray Willis, (Jeff) Womble and (Broderick) Bunkley. We need them 100 percent. I will tell you some younger guys who I am really excited about, who has done an outstanding job during the season has been (Lorenzo) Booker, (Darrell) Burston, (Chris) Davis - he has really done a tremendous job rehabbing that knee. (Cory) Niblock has done a really good job. I am excited about him. A.J. Nicholson, Leon Washington, (Chauncey) Stovall - all will be key ingredients for us. Offensive line and defensive line - they will always be big for us. Last year, they were guys that we were counting on. Our poster said Lay it On The Line. This year it's big because they have to be developed. The two lines are always going to be huge, particularly when you are talking about strength and conditioning. So much of the game lies on the offensive line. Can we protect the quarterback? Can we control the line of scrimmage? Can our defense rush the quarterback? Can they control the line of scrimmage?"