Pushing for national title in weight room

ATHENS – Georgia strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger is never been one to back away from the most optimistic of goals.

In fact, there's not a more optimistic soul in the Bulldogs' program than Van Halanger, a fact that head coach Mark Richt said is a big factor in the amount of success Georgia has had in the last seven years. However, Van Halanger, unlike some associated with the program, is trying to shift the focus from talk about a national title run in 2008.

The Bulldogs are now three weeks into their offseason conditioning program, which means they see Van Halanger, associate head strength coach Keith Gray and assistant strength coach Clay Walker five days a week. Each day, Van Halanger, tells the group not to think about the national title but instead to concentrate on the process.

"Every day you're in here, it's like a block in the foundation," Van Halanger said. "Nobody knows what 2008 is going to look like. This time last year, nobody thought Georgia would be 11-2 and No. 2 in the nation."

Van Halanger also brings up last year's Florida game a lot in the weight room, he said.

"Every day you work, realize how excited you were to play Florida," he tells the Bulldogs. "Every team that plays Georgia this year will be that excited to play you and all stops will be pulled out to beat you. The bull's-eye is on your chest."

After 17 years at Florida State, Van Halanger is used to playing the role of favorite so he feels comfortable he can prepare Georgia's players for it.

"It can be enjoyable," he said.

The Bulldogs changed their strength and conditioning program last year to include workouts more specific to certain positions, particularly the quarterbacks, and they're making another minor tweak this year.

Two days a week, the Bulldogs are training as if in preparation for the NFL Combine, doing all the drills that professional scouts will do for prospective pros. When the actual Combine is being held in Indianapolis, Georgia will holds its own combine and invite the teams' on-field coaches out to watch the players compete.

On another note, Van Halanger is finding himself getting a different view of college football these days. His oldest son, Michael, who is a rising senior offensive lineman at Prince Avenue Christian in Athens, is beginning to receive recruiting interest. Recently he received a letter from his father's alma mater, West Virginia University.

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