One of the more exciting things to follow this time of year, in the spring and eventually at the start of training camp, is the changes in physical appearance and ability of certain players as they develop through the offseason.
"The first guy, when I sat down and talked to the people at Pitt, the first guy I talked about was Shawn Griswold," Graham said. "I'm going nowhere without him, let me assure you. In college, the nature of it, he's going to spend 80 percent of the time with the kids, I'm going to spend 20 percent with them. That's the nature of it, just by NCAA rule. It was pretty important."
As Graham looks to implement his own system in developing discipline, winning games and producing players of integrity and character as he likes to say, one of the many foundations will start with the strength and conditioning approach. Though Buddy Morris' system was successful at Pitt, Graham says that Griswold's approach will be different.
"It was very different," Graham said. "They didn't do power cleans, they didn't do explosive lifts. It was different. The philosophy was different, not to say it was bad or anything. Our philosophy is we want to be explosive. When it comes to offense and defense, we don't go hiring offensive and defensive coordinators. We do little-bitty discipline things that we do that are very important, going back to training those guys to be efficient."
Part of that efficiency, will carry over to the discipline part. Those itty-bitty things even start out with how the players are dressed in the weight room. While both the previous system and the new system have proven to be effective, in addition to the actual conditioning Graham's setup will include structure.
"Our guys tuck their shirt in, they wear their hat a certain way," Graham said. "Everything that they do, we're all going to be the same. It's all going to be about team. It's not about individuality. It's all about team. When we go in that weight room, we're going to go in there every day and we're going to have a spirit of a champion."
One of the regimens the players will begin over the next couple of weeks, will be something that Graham refers to as a ‘Tour of Duty,' something that they employed at Tulsa.
"We get into our ‘Tour of Duty' which is our 5 am workouts, stuff like that we're working on and developing. It kind of takes us into spring ball, focuses on discipline and toughness, those type of things; kind of like a boot camp.
"We work with Gris(wold), so we don't mess up their training. We have to correlate that with their training. We'll probably start that here towards the end of February."
The whole team will participate in this Tour of Duty, but the groupings will be broken down in terms of when certain players have class—another area Graham has focused on heavily. When Graham was hired, he talked about how the strength and conditioning program carries over into running the fast-pace, high-octane system he would like to set up. As the Pitt players begin this Tour of Duty, the pace at which the workouts go will carry over to how spring practices will be run. Those spring practices will then carry over to the spring game, which will then carry over to the offseason leading into fall camp.
"We've always done the ‘Tour of Duty,'" Graham said. "We'll usually get six to eight (groups). It's just about getting together as a team. I like doing it early in the morning. It's kind of like a boot camp. It's more about discipline and we'll strain them a little bit.
"It's not just go out and see how hard you can run them. It's more of a discipline regiment, our tempo, and how we move from drill to drill so that once we start spring (practice), everyone knows what we're doing. It's drills. It's teaching our system, our tempo, and really a focus on discipline. That's why we call it a Tour of Duty. It's like a boot camp. It's for the whole team."
Graham also cited a need to improve Pitt's on- and off-the-field discipline, whether it refers to committing too many penalties or getting in trouble for an off-the-field incident. As he lays the groundwork for Pitt to improve itself in those areas—two areas he feels he values heavily—he feels it will all start in his strength program under Griswold. So far he feels the players have responded.
"If you talk to our players, they're pretty excited about our training regiment," Graham said. "It starts with the mental. We have to train them mentally, emotionally and then physically. You can train guys to be more explosive. You can train guys to be faster. You can train guys to be more efficient. We're going to be high-octane, up-tempo. We're going to be fast and efficient. That's where coaching comes in."