When former head football coach Nick Holt arrived at Idaho in 2004, he was welcomed back to Moscow with the unveiling of the Iverson Strength and Speed Center. For two decades strength training was a major aspect of the Vandal football program, and the Vandals won consistently on the field while sending numerous athletes to the NFL. However, during the Sun Belt years that emphasis was momentarily lost as Idaho searched for a new Conference home while simultaneously building a new state-of-the-art training facility that would allow our athletes to train like never before.
The Iverson Center is one of the premier strength and speed training facilities of any Division 1-A program in the west (and certainly among the top of the Western Athletic Conference), and Holt made emphasizing this aspect of Idaho football a personal crusade.
Scott Gadeken is in the second year at the helm of the Vandal strength program. He came to Idaho from long-time Division 1-A powerhouse LSU, where he was an assistant for the nationally prominent football program and head strength coach for the men's and women's basketball teams. Gadeken did not just "take over" the strength program at Idaho; he and his staff are aggressively continuing the rebuilding effort started by his predecessor Aaron Ausmus (Aaron came to Idaho from USC with Holt, then took over the strength program at Ole Miss in 2005). The effort has involved an overhaul of the attitude of Idaho's athletes regarding strength training, which has resulted in an amazing improvement in the physical condition of the team across the board.
VV.com – Can you share with us some of the results from the Night of Champions weight lifting competition?
SG: The following results are from the Night of Champions AND our regular testing week.
POWER CLEAN - In addition to the top performers listed below, we had 18 total players power clean over 300 pounds, and another 13 players within 15 pounds of cleaning 300 pounds. These are kids we expect to power clean over 300 pounds by the end of the summer.
VERTICAL JUMP - We had 24 players vertical jump over 30 inches.
|Reggie Jones||36 1/2|
|Stanley Franks||35 1/2|
|Tracy Ford||35 1/2|
BACK SQUAT - We have another 7 players who are within 30 pounds of squatting 500.
BENCH PRESS - We have 15 players benching over 350 pounds, and another 12 players within 15 pounds of benching 350. We have 2 kids now who bench over 400 pounds as compared to 1 when I arrived [NOTE: A third, Andrew Stobart, has eclipsed the 400 pound mark, but did not hit that mark during this competition].
|REPS OF 225 lbs BENCH||REPS|
VV.com: How much has strength at Idaho improved since you arrived?
SG: Our strength has improved a great deal over the past year. These kids have done everything we have asked them to do and have worked very, very hard. I am not a big numbers guy. I think the testing numbers are important to a certain extent to make sure the program is going in the right direction, but they can sometimes be deceiving. For example, someone may not go up on their bench press max, but they are using 20-30 pounds more on a dumbbell bench or dumbbell incline exercise. So they are getting stronger, even though the numbers might not tell the whole story.
VV.com: Who has made the most progress this off-season? Also, what are some of the indicators you use to verify that the program is heading in the "right direction" and that Idaho's athletes are making progress?
SG: I can't single anyone out to say they've made the most progress because every athlete is different. We are working hard, with great tempo, and with more enthusiasm. From the numbers we had, several people had good individual performances. This is just the first phase of our training year. We will continue to get stronger during spring ball, and then obviously the summer months are very important. My coaches are very hands-on in terms of how we coach the kids. We are able to monitor their progress week-to-week and make sure they are using the proper amount of weight relative to their technique and speed of the bar. We want athletes who are strong, who move and bend well, that are explosive, and change directions quickly. There may be times when we have a 500-pound squatter who doesn't go up on his squat max. But, he is getting quicker and developing more flexibility in his ankles, knees, and hips. I would say this kid is getting better and making progress because he will be a better football player. We probably did more for this kid than [simply] getting his max to 510 pounds and remaining stiff in the hips.
VV.com: In your opinion, how does the performance of Idaho's players compare to other WAC schools?
SG: I don't know what a lot of schools around the WAC are doing. I can only control what happens here at the University of Idaho. But being at Kansas State for 3 years and L.S.U. for 5 years, I would say we're on the right track. We're doing a good job of recruiting, and getting kids here that want to work and want to be coached. We as coaches are not as patient as we probably should be, but from how hard these kids are working I would say we are making positive steps every day.