After a short winter break, the Bulls football team is "back to work!" according to USF Strength coach Ronnie McKeefery
After a roller coaster season that saw the Bulls start 6-0 with a #2 ranking, then suffer through a 3-game skid, to finished strong 9-3 and a third straight bowl appearance, only to have a less then stellar showing. Now, the Bulls are back with an attitude and ready for one of the most important times of the year for college football, the off season, which officially began last week.
"What makes a good football player a great football player is the work he puts into the off-season," said McKeefery. "The off-season is all about improving a player's strength and conditioning."
The Bulls train year round, but there is an added emphasis on the off-season conditioning program.
"The whole winter program has been the background of our team. We prepare year round, but in the winter were really able to develop both the physical and the mental aspects that are going to be needed to be successful during the season."
USF's off-season work-outs program is a combination of strength and conditioning, but what does that entail?
"The conditioning is basically made up of morning agilities skills that are very difficult from both a physical standpoint and a mental standpoint. Our guys can count on it, the veterans have gone through it, and it's almost a rite of passage for the young guys to go through it, and it helps the team to come together."
The cardiovascular conditioning gets off to an early 5 a.m. start with the entire team participating in station drills which consist of speed, agility and footwork that not only improve their physical endurance, but their stamina and quickness as well.
"When the guys are getting up early at 5 a.m. and going at it, shows a level of dedication and discipline, which helps with the mental aspect of the game."
What does the Bulls winter conditioning portion of the season consist of?
"Basically our program daily is made up of a dynamic warm up, a stretch, a core routine. Then go into our resistance training, training our neck and grip. After that, they'll go into skill or speed development. Each day we're working on either making you a better football player or a faster football player."
The winter program consists of combinations of workouts focusing on different areas daily.
"We work pretty much work one aspect of strength and conditioning every day. We take pride in being known as one of the faster teams. So everyday we're going to work our speed technique."
The conditioning program under McKeeferey increases in intensity from the start up to the beginning of spring practice.
"We start off working agilities once a week until after signing day, after signing day when we really want to increase the conditioning while preparing for spring ball that will increase to two, and then to three times a week."
What does the Bulls work-out schedule consist of?
"Basically during one a days, we start off at 5:00 am and do our agility session, and then come back at 2:30 and lift. At 3::30 well go out and do either our skills or speed work. What ever we're doing on the field that day we're doing the opposite in the weight room."
During the week the training program changes daily to maximize performance.
"On Monday, that's our agility day so we don't do anything on the field that day. On Tuesday we'll lift the lower body, then will do some skill work inside and then go outside and do our speed work. On Thursday we'll do the opposite, we'll lift the upper body, and do the speed work in the weight room, and then go outside and then do the skill work."
With the Bulls losing some top stars this season, does the staff alter the program to address those areas?
"Obliviously we have a different team every year, with different players and different strengths and weaknesses. We lost some great players this year in Jenkins, Williams, Moffitt,
When it comes to the strength part, the Bulls program also increases throughout the winter.
"We start off with less intensity and more volume and then progress to greater intensity with less volume. By less intense I don't mean any easier of a work out, it's just the weights are lighter but we're doing more reps."
The team meets in the afternoon, for an hour of intense weight training. At this time, it is about gaining size and strength as well as developing a football physique, but also helps build competition.
"What we do is make it competitive in the weight room. One of the challenges of strength and conditioning coach is that you're pushing for eight months out of the year without a game to play for. During the season you're working out in preparation for that particular game, but in January the games seem far away but they're really not."
With no games to play for, McKeefery and staff found a way to keep the competitive juices flowing.
"We've created a competition in the weight room among the players. It's an annual winter competition that this year pits the offense against the defense in hopes of building intensity. Each week you're competing in different areas in the weight room."
The winter program recognizes those that are excelling through a point system. That helps the players individually and as a team.
"Everyday there's a competition going on. We're tacking on points every day or losing points based off of efforts. For example, one day we'll do a push-up competition among the groups, and when the defense comes in for the 4:00 lift, and the offense is leaving, they'll find out how many reps each player did. What ever we may be competing on that day, they'll know it and try and to outdo them."
McKeefery also uses the depth chart to increase motivation in strength and conditioning.
"Typically I'll work-out the offensive line and defensive line. I'll take the four starting lineman center, and have the second and third strings to my left and right of the platform. If a starter is not cutting it, or getting it done by putting in the effort, then I'll move him down to second string and move the second string guy up. That way they're getting feedback daily on whether or not they're pulling their weight."
What does the competition consist of through out the winter?
"Every player starts off with 100 points. Then points are added or subtracted depending on different factors. If they miss a work out its minus 10 points and have to come back later to make it up if they are late it's minus 5 points. If they have a good workout its plus one point, if it's bad then it's minus one point. We'll also have a lifter of the week and he gets 10 points, and the three honorable mentions will get 5 points each."
Keeping the competition among players high is paramount to a successful off-season conditioning program.
"Keeping track of the points through daily competition lets you know what guys are really going after it. The guys that come in on a Wednesday or a Saturday to get an extra lift in get a point, but it helps you gage who's doing the right things and who's not. It's like a peer pressure system that makes guys push each other, to work harder for the team, themselves, and be better ball players."
Check back later in the week with USFNation.com for the continuation of our inside look into the Bulls off-season strength and conditioning program.
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