Ausmus pleased with offseason

Ole Miss Strength & Conditioning Coach Aaron Ausmus met with The Spirit yesterday to discuss the football offseason program. To say the least, he's happy with the progress the team made in the January-February intensive session. Read about it inside.

Aaron Ausmus, who heads up the football strength and conditioning program at Ole Miss, entered the offseason with a lot on his mind.

Two things were consuming him - getting the Rebels stronger as a team and the upcoming birth of he and wife Andrea's first child this Friday.

The Rebels did their "max" tests a couple of weeks ago and Andrea will give birth to son "Max" this week.

"I thought 'Max' was an appropriate name, considering what I do for a living," Ausmus laughed. "I've got some 1/4 pound barbells for him to start on soon."

As excited as Aaron is about being a daddy, he seems just as exciting about his other "max" results.

"After the Mississippi State game, Coach O and I sat down and talked extensively about what we needed to do in the offseason," Ausmus explained. "Painfully, we had to admit to ourselves where we were - at the bottom of the conference, and what we had to do to work our way back up. Coach O looked me in the eye and said 'we have to get stronger as a team.' I totally agreed and I know whose job that is - mine."

Ausmus met with the team after the Christmas break and outlined the gameplan for the offseason.

"I realized I had to do a better job of letting the players know I care about them and that I am someone they can trust to tell them the right things to do," he continued. "I basically told them that if they did what I asked of them every day and did everything right, they would see big gains in their strength when we tested."

The talk worked, according to Aaron.

"The kids realized what they had to do and bought in to it," Aaron said. "The attention to detail, the determination, the intensity and the focus during the whole offseason was tremendous. The intensity level this offseason was much greater than last year."

What brought that change for the better on? Ausmus believes it was a combination of things.

"One, these kid shave pride and didn't like the results from last year. They went about trying to do something about it. Two, I think we are all used to each other now. I came in here late last year and most of the offseason was spent getting guys adjusted to my way of doing things," Ausmus allowed. "This year, they know me and trust me and did everything the way we need to do things to improve. Three, we've had a whole calendar year to get it right. Our kids have become more technically sound with their lifts and good technical lifts give you way more gains than lifts done improperly."

Ausmus was also pleased with some leadership emerging on the team.

"Charles Clark, Patrick Willis, B. Brown, to name a few, are obvious leaders on this team and their influence was felt in a strong way," he added. "But it was just as important that some other guys took that leadership and bought in. A lot of guys who used to have a 'get-by' attitude jumped their level of work up several notches. That was as important as being a leader for the whole team's sake. What I'm saying is that we didn't have any guys dragging around and complaining. They all worked their tails off and that was infectious to the overall cause."

Coach O and Ausmus declined to "open the book" of results to the public, but they did give us some highlights of the offseason results.

* With 26 offseason workouts, the team had 99.8% attendance. "That's incredible because that factors in illnesses and class schedules and everything," Ausmus noted.

* Over 50% of the team opted to work out at the 6 a.m. workout slot. The offensive line, as a group, worked out exclusively at 6 in the morning. "Their times are optional, but these guys couldn't wait to get going every day," he explained.

* In 2005 max results, 7 Rebels (11% of the team) power cleaned 300+ pounds. This February, 21 Rebels (30% of the squad) reached that coveted plateau. "Tripling the power clean figure is substantial in measuring overall team strength," Ausmus evaluated.

* In the squat, the team did not max last February - they waited until June of 2005. In June of 2005, 12 Rebs (14%) maxed 500 pounds (that's as high as Ausmus would let them go for safety reasons). In February of 2006, 16 Rebs (23%) maxed 500 pounds in the squat. "That's a big increase in just 7 months," he said.

* In Febraury of 2005, 15% of the team could bench press 350 pounds or more. This February, 27% of the squad reached the 350 pound level. . . In February of 2005, only one Reb could bench 400 pounds. This year, 5 or 7% of the team, reached the 400-pound barrier. "That's not where we want it, but it's a big improvement," he assessed.

* The highest power clean was 330 pounds by TE Lawrence Lilly, who Ausmus praised for his change in dedication, and SS B. Brown.

* The following had a squat of 500 pounds: OG Thomas Eckers, OG James McCoy, OG Maurice Miller, OT Reid Neely, TE Lawrence Lilly, DE Viciente DeLoach, DT Jeremy Garrett, DT Brandon Jenkins, DE Peria Jerry, LB Rogers Loche, LB Garry Pack, LB Quentin Taylor, SS B. Brown, FB Jason Cook, TB BenJarvus Green-Ellis, FB Seth Michaelson.

* Sophomore Guard Maurice Miller had the highest bench press at 445 pounds.

* The players who made the biggest improvements per lift were: Power Clean - Garry Pack from 265 to 320, 55 pound gain; Squat - OG Darryl Harris, CB Trumaine McBride and DT Brandon Jenkins all improved 75 pounds; Bench - DT Brandon Jenkins from 315 to 385, gain of 70 pounds.

* The players who had the largest gains combining the gains of all three major lifts were: WR Mike Wallace (202 pounds), DT Brandon Jenkins (190 pounds), PK Will Moseley (150 pounds), OG Darryl Harris (150 pounds), TB Mico McSwain (115 pounds), TE Lawrence Lilly (110 pounds), CB Dustin Mouzon (102 pounds) and LB Garry Pack (90 pounds).

* Players who got bigger include TE Robert Hough (209 last November to 224 now); WR Mike Wallce (170 to 183), DE CHris Bowers (221 to 237), and LB LeRon King (198 to 214).

* Best Attitude Award went to PK Will Moseley. . . Best Attitude Change went to LB Antonio Turner and DE Peria Jerry. "Will was a workhorse and set the pace for the team in a lot of ways," said Ausmus. "And where Antonio and Peria went from last year to this year in terms of their intensity is remarkable."

* The Comback stories Ausmus liked the best were from FB Jason Cook, who shattered his forearm in October, and still managed to clean 300, squat 500 and bench 340 in February; and OT Reid Neely, who tore his Achilles tendon in July, managed a 290 clean, 500 squat and 355 bench press in February.

Ausmus, as he said, was pleased with the results of the two month (roughly) offseason, but he's the first to admit there is more work to be done.

"Our summer workouts will be just as critical. We will evaluate everything the individual players do in spring and attack the areas they need to work on this summer. If the players will give us the same intensity level they did in January and February, we will see more significant gains in the summer," he closed.

Ausmus has one max down, one Max on the way Friday, and one max this summer.

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