MSU Head S&C Coach Ben Pollard

Mississippi State head strength and conditioning coach Ben Pollard discusses what he and his staff are currently doing with the football team during the time leading up to spring practice. He also talked about how the true freshmen are progressing in the weight room, and how the two quarterbacks, Josh Riddell and Wes Carroll, are currently doing health-wise.

What strength and conditioning work are you currently doing with the football players?
"This is probably our busiest period with them. We've had six weeks to deal with them and this is week number six. My emphasis right now is the strength aspect of it. But we still have our two 6 am team activities Tuesday and Thursday. That's conditioning. And we try to throw in an element of speed development in there as well, but the main emphasis is conditioning.

"When the coaches are brought into it, which they did the week of signing day, we did eight-station agility drills. Each coach had their own station and we went through three-minutes at each station. Then, we did what is called a 12-plate drive at the end which is an all out sprint work.

"Like I said, we are on our last week and the coaches will be in Tuesday and Thursday morning sessions. They get to do it because it's not football-related. It's general movement conditioning drills. They are pretty general. You can take a softball player or soccer athlete and do the same thing with them and they will benefit from it as well."

The conditioning drills are two times a week. How often do they lift weights?
"We lift four times a week. We lift on Monday, Tuesday afternoon, they are off on Wednesday, then we lift again on Thursday and Friday. We will fill up the 8 hours (a week) we are allowed."

How do you help the true freshmen catch up strength-wise and conditioning-wise with the veteran players?
"We do that in the fall. A game is counted as three hours by the NCAA. Because of that, we can lift weights with them three times a week. The kids who didn't play in a game or dress out has those three hours available to work out. They have a 5:45 am Monday lift that the older guys don't do. And they have an early Friday lift, too. So, they do a lot more lifting than the guys who are playing.

"The guys who need the most catch up were the true freshmen that played and dressed out. Karlin Brown traveled and played on special teams, so he didn't get to do the lifting the other freshmen did. There was also a time where Damein Anderson, when Tay Bowser was down, was traveling. And it was during a critical period where we were actually maxing the freshmen. K.J. Wright is another example. But I have seen a lot of progress with him just during the last couple of weeks because he has good work habits."

Have you done a little extra with guys like Brown, Anderson and Wright?
"I don't think we have had to do much extra with any of this freshmen group because they are pretty strong. Wade Bonner is almost as strong as (Keith) Fitzhugh and (Derek) Pegues. But he came in strong. Quentin Saulsberry is also a really strong freshman. Derek Sherrod is another one. He is one that has never been in a straight up offseason program, so he's making good progress. He is probably one, coming out of spring ball, that we need to catch up a little."

Have you maxed him out on the lifts?
"He squatted 425 the other day."

That's not a lot for a big man is it?
"I think it is for a 6-6 freshman who has never been in a regular offseason program. I think there is a lot of potential in him. And Derek doesn't carry a lot of extra weight. While he's got a little catching up to do, he has such good work habits that he will be fine."

What is his bench press and clean?
"He benches 325 and cleans 275."

Who is your strongest offensive lineman, J. C. Brignone?
"Oh by far. He squatted 605, cleaned 375. Because of his shoulder problem we make him bench with a board and he did 400 with little effort. We cut him off at 400."

What are you able to do with the two quarterbacks, Josh Riddle, who was injured during the season, and Wes Carroll who came into the season still recovering from shoulder surgery?
"Josh is pretty far ahead in his rehab, so he's been able to squat and do some cleaning. But we may have to make some adjustments with Josh. He's also been running the last couple of weeks, although it's just straight ahead. There's been a lot of progress with him. Josh is probably stronger right now than he was a year ago simply because he is paying attention to the details.

"Wes had it difficult because when he came in here he was pretty beat up already. He wasn't fully rehabbed from shoulder surgery. He wasn't physically ready, but Wes did a great job considering where he started. I think he's finally to the point where his shoulder and hamstring are healthy. And he's put on a good amount of weight and it's muscle mass. He just looks so much better now. And he's not a kid that you have any trouble motivating. He's always going to do extra work whether it is footwork, jumping rope, working on his hand speed. He just always tries to find something extra to do. And it's good for the quarterback group."

Since Wes was still doing rehab when he came into the season were you able to do much with him?
"No, he wasn't physically where he needed to be simply because of the shoulder surgery. Then, once the season started, the last thing I wanted to do was over train his upper body and have him not be able to throw the ball in practice. So, we did what we could, but we were also careful about what we did."

Did it help his arm strength?
"I won't know that until I actually see him pass. But I'm sure before next fall you will see a difference in his arm strength."

How has the team, overall, improved since last season at this time?
"One thing is we are definitely in better shape, conditioning. Last year, when I took over here, they had been off for six or more weeks. Since they didn't play in a bowl game, once school ended, they went home. And I don't think many of them did a whole lot while they were home. Because of the bowl game, we've had more time with them. And that has made a huge difference. We started at a higher level. Our team speed is better, especially among our big bodies, the O-line and D-line. We run so much better than a year ago. There is a noticeable difference because when you look up you don't have a group here and five guys in the back."

What were you able to do with them during the bowl practices?
"When school is over, you aren't limited hour-wise. So, we lifted every day when we were on site. When we were here (at Mississippi State) we lifted at 6:30 and 7:15 every morning. We had the offense and defense lifting everyday. And after every practice, we ran them. But once we got to the bowl site, we didn't do those things. I think we ran them after the very first practice, and that was the end of it. And the kids who weren't going to play in the game, we lifted the first four days we were there."

What is your day like during this period?
"Tuesday and Thursday morning, we are getting here about 5:15 to set up for the team run. When I'm done I leave there and come straight to here to train the men's golf team at 7:30. I'm also working with a couple of guys, Eric Butler and Demario Bobo, getting them ready for the NFL combine. (Assistant S&C coach) Erik Korem is doing most of that work, but I've got a couple due to their class conflicts. Then, we have three lifting groups. And soccer is late in the evening Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We try to get through early Friday so that we can clean up the weight room, especially during recruiting."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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