Vandal Strength Program UPDATE

Four years ago, before joining the WAC, there reportedly wasn't a Vandal football player that could bench 400 lbs, and few were close. But since the new Iverson Strength and Speed Center opened in 2004, Idaho's strength program has boomed. Now redshirt freshmen JONATHAN FARAIMO and Jonah Sataraka press 400-pounds, with more on the cusp. Inside we talk with Strength Coach Scott Gadeken.

When Idaho's brand new weightroom was completed in 2004, the new facility brought instant credibility to the strength and conditioning program at Idaho. The first strength coach hired to rebuild the conditioning program was Aaron Ausmus who came to Idaho from USC with Nick Holt in 2004. Ausmus immediately set the tone that strength and conditioning would be a cornerstone in the Vandal football program.

Scott Gadeken
In 2005 the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) of the SEC hired Ausmus away, but Idaho's new facility (as well as an emphasis on conditioning by Holt and his staff) netted significant interest in Ausmus's replacement. The Vandals got another solid coach, hiring Scott Gadeken from LSU, where he was an assistant strength coach for the football team and the Head Strength Coach for the men's and women's basketball teams.

Aside from helping prepare LSU's football team for a share of the 2003 National Championship (where he was an assistant for 5 years), his men's team finished the 2004 season with a 20-10 record and 6th seed in the NCAA Tournament, while the women's team went 33-3 that year and was ranked in the Top 5 for much of the season. In 2001, Gadeken was a finalist for the National Strength and Conditioning Association's National Strength Coach of the Year Award. Before LSU, he was an assistant at Kansas State for 3 years, and over the course of his young career has developed some of the same philosophies as Ausmus. Incidentally, Scott earned NAIA All-American honors as a football player at Midland Lutheran a 270 pound offensive lineman. He's trimmed down to 200 pounds since then, and practices what he preaches.

The vast improvement in Idaho's strength program is one of the most visible improvements in the team since major facilities improvements - as well as WAC membership - began coming to fruition in 2004. 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.

Just four short years ago nobody on the team could bench 400-pounds, and very few were even close. Now, two redshirt freshmen are pushing 400 and several more are on the cusp of the mark. The effort has involved an overhaul of the attitude of Idaho's athletes regarding strength training, and the improvement in team strength is abundantly evident. It's evident both in the type of athlete Idaho is now recruiting, and the commitment the University of Idaho has made to providing our athletes with the type of strength facility needed to compete.

Below Larry Johnson spoke with Coach Gadeken to get an update on Idaho's progress in the weightroom.

Jonah Sataraka
LJ: How many guys on the team currently bench 400+ pounds?

SG: "Currently three guys on the team bench over 400 pounds. They are [the following]:

Jonathan Faraimo
Jonah Sataraka
Siua Musika (graduating)

"We've got a lot of guys in the mid- to –upper 300s, but they haven't quite hit 400. That's our goal for the winter."

(NOTE: Mike Iupati and others are near that mark)

LJ: How much improvement have you seen in the athletes Idaho is recruiting?

SG: "From a recruiting standpoint, I think the [athletic] quality of kid that we're bringing in is better. We've got kids coming in that have more of a background in lifting weights, that have a little more athleticism when they get here. First and foremost, the thing that makes my job the easiest is recruiting. That's the number one, most important thing...bottom line. The quality of kid that you bring in, his sense of urgency, does he love football, is he coachable, and what I like to say – does he have a motor? Is he always going – is he going, going, going – and wants to be pushed and wants to be coached? Is he kind of a self-starter and can he push himself? You know, we can write the best program in the world, but if a kid doesn't have those things, or if he just isn't a good football player, all the strength and conditioning in the world isn't going to make a difference. We can take anyone off the street, get ‘em faster, get ‘em stronger, and get ‘em quicker. But if they're a bad football player, they're still going to be faster, stronger and quicker, but a bad football player."

LJ: How much improvement have you seen in the athletes using our weightroom?

SG: "In here, I think we're doing really well. Our cleans and our squats I think are as comparable to anyone in the country. Our numbers are just as good as the guys we had when I was at LSU. And when I was at LSU, when we tested, we let the guys use straps. [Here] we make the guys just grab the bar with their hands without straps so they have to rely a little bit more on their grip strength and their hand strength. We've got guys that can power clean 360 pounds. We've got a bunch of guys – our numbers increased from the previous year – as far as our 300 pound cleaners. Same with our guys that can squat. Our goal for that is to be a 300 pound clearner, a 400 pound bencher, and a 500 pound squatter. Our numbers for the 500 pound squatters have increased significantly, probably doubled since I've been here."

Devon Sturdivant
"That's the good thing, and it just goes back to how hard these guys work, and the quality of kid that we're bringing in. We don't have any kind of "magic" program. We put together a first-class, solid program for them. We hold them accountable. We coach them up. We focus on the little things, attention to detail. But the bottom line is it comes down to the accountability of the kid, and his desire and his willingness to work."

LJ: What are your plans for the future?

SG: "I'm focusing in on getting everything ready for next semester. We're looking forward to having an unbelievable winter. We had a great one last year. And don't forget the Night of Champions, which I believe is going to be on March 3rd, probably about 7:00 in the evening."

LJ: Well, thank you very much Scott.

SG: "Anytime."

Iverson Strength and Speed Center

Iverson Strength and Speed Center

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