New Penn State football coach James Franklin has urged Nittany Lion fans to pack 107,000-seat Beaver Stadium this fall to give his team a significant home-field advantage. But stuff that has been going on far removed from the public eye this summer will have much more to do with how many games PSU wins and loses in 2014.
With training camp set to open in early August, the Nittany Lions are in the home stretch of intense summer workouts under first-year strength coach Dwight Galt III and his staff. The team went hard for six weeks through early July, and did so well that Galt gave them all a week off leading up to last Saturday's Lift For Life Challenge.
Now we'll go for four (weeks) and bring the ship home, he said.
Summer workouts have followed a generally set schedule (that obviously has had to work around semester breaks and such). On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, the players lift for about an hour and then do running drills for about an hour.
Wednesdays entail position-specific work the players can do on their own — linemen doing their drills, skills players working on seven-on-seven sets.
Friday in the morning, 6 a.m., we run only, Galt explained. That's kind of a toughness thing. It's big (for) conditioning, we do a lot of agility, a lot of hills, a lot of sand, but there's a toughness component, too.
The Lions run on two hills, depending on what Galt and his crew want to get done on a given day. There is a smaller hill across the street from Holuba Hall, right next to the Lacrosse Field. There is a bigger one near Medlar Field (the baseball facility) a short distance away.
“My key is movement. Our team speed, team agility (and) team explosiveness has improved a lot, and that’s what I hope (people) really see on the field, is how we move.”
The hills, Galt said, are the foundation of resistance training. The staff also uses weighted sleds to achieve the same type of resistance. The bigger hill is used as a Coup de grace it's steeper, longer, a little more of a conditioning element.
The school's sand pit is near the track. Why sand?
Your foot is absorbing into the sand, Galt said. The purpose of that is you've got to work so much harder to get out of the sand. The sand has become not only great for athletic improvement, it's become a toughness thing for us, too.
We push them, he added. It's the best sand pit in the country — 50 by 20 yards. Man, I've died and gone to heaven. It's a great sand pit. So we've gone there, I think five times already. And I'm gonna finish a lot there the next three weeks.
Galt said the team has made significant strides in the weight room since the spring. The average squat is up 21 pounds. The average bench is up 13 pounds (to 324). But he emphasized that he cares about more than just sheer strength.
Remember now, my key is movement, he said. Our team speed, team agility (and) team explosiveness has improved a lot, and that's what I hope (people) really see on the field, is how we move.
Whatever they see on the field, though, will be a product of the summer work that went on behind the scenes.
It's a grind, Galt said. I personally feel that June is their hardest month, not August. What we do in June is really aggressive.