The 9-4 season is over and so, for all intents and purposes, is the recruiting "campaign," both major successes.
Now, the Rebel football team shifts gears and starts the cycle all over again with the offseason program, an eight-week tester under the able direction of Strength & Conditioning Coach Don Decker and his staff.
But first, a word of warning, if you will.
"We have had a couple of team meetings to get the offseason program going," said Coach Houston Nutt, the architect of one of the most remarkable turnarounds in the nation. "I told the team they are now the hunted. Everyone will have us in their sights this year.
"That means we will have to work even harder than when we were trying to climb up from the bottom. We will have to pay attention to details, do all the little things correctly and not waste any opportunties to get better. Every day is critical. Every workout must count toward improvement."
Decker is the man in charge of that for the next seven weeks. With a week of the offseason under their belts, the Rebels have to make the most of that window of opportunity.
Decker is expecting the best and the reason why is simple - familiarity.
"I have had these players for a year now. I have analyzed them from head to toe. My staff and I know exactly what each athlete has to do to become a better player," Decker explained. "Last year, our first with them, we were still analyzing and getting to know their needs. This year, we have them pinpointed."
A standard of excellence has been set for the players and it's unyielding.
"We will not compromise on our standard. It will be higher than last year's standard," Decker continued. "Our standard for each individual player will be a challenge to achieve, but we expect them to get the job done each day.
"After every workout, we want every athlete on our team to leave the weight room knowing they got better that day and that they can apply that improvement to practices when spring training rolls around after spring break."
The fine-tuning of individual workouts has been an ongoing process with Decker and his staff.
"For example, Markeith Summers and Shay Hodge will not have the same workout, even though they are both wide receivers," said Decker. "They are different and need different things to maximize their potential as football players.
"This offseason, we will attack each individual's needs. Last year, we were defining those needs as we watched them practice and play in games. Now we have those areas targeted and can attack them."
Besides the identification of players' needs, another important facet of the offseason that will be team-wide, is what Decker refers to as prehab.
"We have joined forces with the trainers to make sure we are doing specific exercises to help prevent injuries. We call it prehab and it entails working muscles that are very important to strengthening around the joints that do not get worked with standard exercises," Don noted. "In most shoulder routines, the deltoids get worked but not the muscles under the deltoids that support the rotator cuff. Twice a week, as part of our shoulder routine, we will work those rotator cuff muscles as well. We don't want the deltoids overriding the rotator muscles and making rotator muscles less effective in holding the shoulder in place."
Bigger, faster, stronger has always been the mantra for any offseason program.
In that regard, Decker and his staff are no different than most strength staffs across the country.
The question isn't what you want to accomplish during the offseason, but what methods you choose to get there.
"We don't change the tried and true methods that we know work, but we do constantly tweak things and apply them on a more individual basis with each athlete," Decker closed. "We are confident we are going to give Coach Nutt and his staff athletes who are capable of doing what it takes athletically to win. That is our charge and that is what we will do."
After the offseason, the cycle continues with the next phase of the football year - spring training.
What's next for the football team?
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