The last time we talked was about a month ago. What has happened since then?
"Since then, we did get 6 new power stations (platforms). We also got some more weight. We have the staff better trained at what they are doing, things such as coaching techniques, coaching attitudes, coaching work ethic. We've seen a change in how players do things. We aren't where we need to be, yet. But, we are heading in that direction. We are a lot further along now than we were a month ago. We are coaching effort less and less, which is good. We are having to coach technique a little less. The players are learning how to do the lifts and how to focus and give a good effort. The thing that they are starting to realize is champions do it every day, regardless of how they feel. If you feel great, that's good, it's a little easier. If you don't feel so good, you still have to come in and get it done with a great attitude."
Watching them workout, there's really not much slack time. Is it planned like that?
"It is. A football game lasts 60 minutes and I don't want the workout to last any longer than that. If you look at the workout sheet, there are a lot of things on it. The thing we don't want are guys dragging it out and going through the motions, taking their time. We talk all the time about workout tempo; get a good tempo going. We will superset several exercises. When they are resting between a set, they may be doing something else."
After working with them for a month, were you surprised with their lack of strength or were your pleased with how strong they were?
"To answer your question, I was surprised. We have some big guys that weren't very strong at all when we first started out. We certainly need to keep improving our leg and hip strength. Our guys' upper bodies (strength) are not as bad as their lower bodies (strength). However, football games are won with legs and hips. If you aren't strong and explosive in your lower body, then it is going to be more difficult to do what you need to do in a football game. But, the good thing is they are coming along, they are working hard and they have a great attitude and they are trying to get better everyday."
How much progress can you actually see in a month? Have you seen some dramatic success during the first month with a few of the guys?
"I have, I really have. The thing that we didn't do is never come into a program and test too soon, because you always have to take into consideration that they have had some time off and have probably not been doing a lot. You don't want to come in that first week and max them out on one of the heavy exercises because that is a way to get someone hurt. What we did was set bench marks. We started out light, and then, as their technique improves, we began to add weight to the bar. We staple each week's workout on top of last week's workout, so the player can refer back. Right now, we are kind of doing things by feel. When we do a test or do a max on certain exercises, then we will refer to workout percentages."
When are you going to do maxes?
"We are going to test the week before spring break, the week of March 8th through March 12th."
Are you going to have a set amount you expect each weight category to do?
"When somebody asks me how much you want your offensive linemen to squat or how much you want your defensive backs to bench, I don't have a certain number in my mind. Obviously, we want them to be strong, fast, quick and explosive, but I don't have a set number. For example, one kid may squat 500 pounds and we may have another kid who squats 450 pounds. The 500 squat kid is stronger, but the other kid may be a better football player. Everything we do here is geared around two things and that is improving on-the-field performance and preventing or limiting injuries. If it doesn't do one of those two things, then I feel like it is a waste of time. My heart is in building them to be better football players."
One of the things you mentioned in your first interview was finding the leaders and getting them to believe in what you are doing. Have you seen that happen?
"More and more guys are coming in and stepping up and leading by example."
After three straight losing seasons, what has been your impressions of the attitudes of the players?
"I am never satisfied, but I'm very pleased. To be honest with you, we haven't had a bad day. The attitudes are good. It's hard to be negative when everybody around you is being upbeat and positive. Players will usually take on the attitude of their coach. The staff that I have does an excellent job of coming in here every morning at 5:30 a.m. with a good attitude. And some of these people are interns who don't make a nickel. I tell them if you don't have a good attitude and you aren't excited, your players won't be excited. Enthusiasm is a contagious thing."
You mentioned that the staff comes in at 5:30 in the morning. What is a typical week like in the weight room?
"Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are in the office by 5:30 a.m. Our first workout starts at 6 a.m. We will do about 10 or 15 minutes of warmups. Then, do about an hour of lifting. When it is done, we will have office work to do and straighten up the weight room. We talk about the workout. I probably wear our guys out about it, but I know you can always improve what you do. I am always looking for that one little thing that can make things go smoother. Our second group will start at 11:10 a.m. That gives them a little time to get here because some of them get out of the 10:50 class. That (session) will end about 12:25. The third group will start about 1 and will end about 2:15. After that, we talk about the groups and compile all the attendances. Then, my staff has other sports such as softball, track and field, golf, tennis, volleyball, soccer, baseball, men and women's basketball to work with. My staff usually gets out of here at 6:30 to 7 at night.
"We try to give players plenty of options. We tell them that you fit into the Bulldogs; don't ask the Bulldogs to fit into you. Our workout times are 6, 11 and 1. You fit into one of those groups. Next fall I will have their workout times for in-season in advance so I can tell them our group times. That way, they can schedule their classes around the lifting group they want to get into.
"Tuesday and Thursday, we have one running group and it starts at 6 a.m. It is a team run. The reason I like that is I have always wanted to do a 6 a.m. team run because I feel there are a lot of positive things that come out of it. Number 1, in the past we have had people who overslept for their classes. If you have an early morning run, the odds of them missing class are going to be less. They are probably going to eat breakfast, too, because we finish at 7:15. The next positive from it is they have to go to bed at a reasonable hour in order to be able to get up early and perform during those workouts. That is a good thing because they don't need to be out running the roads all night. They need to take care of their bodies. If they want to be a champion, they have to treat themselves like champion.
"Tuesday and Thursday are my days to catch up. I'm checking with our signees. I mailed them out a workout manual for this spring. I'll try and stay in contact with them to see how things are going. The other coaches have their other sports that they have to take care of."
Do you have planned what you will be doing during spring practice and the summer?
"In spring practice, we will kind of be on an in-season type program. We will train around the practice days. During the summer, we will be on a five-day program, similar to what we are currently on. I also want to add karate Wednesday nights for flexibility. We did that at LSU and it worked out good. In the summer, we will go to a four-day run (program), two of those days will be speed and endurance running. That will be a lot of volume, getting us in better shape. The Tuesday and Thursday runs will be similar to what it is now; speed, agility and quickness. We will still be lifting on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, then have karate on Wednesday night."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing email@example.com.