Talk about what the guys have been going through since spring ball.
"As soon as spring ball ended we got right into it. We didn't take any time off, we kept up with the workouts and we finished the spring, like we always do, with the combine work. That's where we do all of our physical testing and movement testing, we do all of our strength testing prior to spring ball, and we just had some exceptional work there in the final weeks before they went to test. The kids did great, I just can't say enough good things about how hard they come to work and how hard they've kept their focus. The slow guys got fast and the fast guys got faster. It's just real neat watching them work with the intensity and focus that they come out and work with."
How competitive does the Combine get?
"It's very competitive and that's why we do it. We want to keep the competitive nature of these kids high, I don't want to get out of spring ball and then walk into something that is mundane and boring for the kids. Going back into the weight room and lifting weights would just be the same old thing because the season is so far away and we need to get them focused on competing for something else. They just saw their former teammates go through the whole NFL combine chain of events and they saw how important it was.
Coach Carroll is a big believer in getting players prepared for what they are going to see. Before the fall camp scrimmage he takes everybody over to the hotel and we go through a complete pre-game activity to help the freshmen who have never been through it. By the time we get to a game situation they know what to expect, they know the schedule, the timing, etc. When we do the combine we want to do the same thing for these kids so that they will be prepared when it's their time to show for the pros. They saw how intense it was for them and so they bring the intensity up when it's time to compete against each other.
For the last four years we've taken the top combine test results and set them up to show the best running backs run this time, the best receivers are this fast in the agilities, etc. It allows the current players to compare themselves against what the best out there is doing. These tests measure athleticism and that's at the heart of our program. The main thrust of our program isn't to train a bunch of refrigerators, I've seen too many programs that simply concern themselves with how much they can lift and that's not what we're about. We'll have 30 people power cleaning over 300, we'll have 30 people squat over 500 and we'll have 30 people bench over 400. We don't have the 500 pound bench presses but I don't see what that has to do with movement. We're here to train athleticism and so when we do these movement skills tests after spring we're testing what our kids do better than a lot of people and that is we move exceptionally well."
The last time we talked you mentioned the offensive linemen lifting as a group at 6:00am. Do they still do that?
"During the spring they were in here as a group at 6:00am but now with summer school classes they aren't able to get in as a group like they had been. We still get large numbers of offensive linemen working in the same group, I think we had 7 or 8 in the last group and we'll have 7 or 8 in the next group. They are a really close knit group. It's not just the offensive line, you see it all over with this team. It's a pretty tight group of kids. You see it during the season with the defensive line and the way they spend time together. I really believe these guys are over that national championship thing. Nobody talks about it anymore, they just saddle up and go to work."
Talk about Matt Leinart and the work he's done down here.
"With Leinart you're talking about a 6-5 quarterback with a 36 inch vertical. His movement skills are all improved, our kids get a negative rap sometimes about being immobile, Carson had that and then he went out and ran a 4.6 40 at 6-5, and I think it's important to remember that our kids don't run because they don't have to. If you have the mark of being a mobile quarterback I would go back and check your offensive line. A good quarterback shouldn't have to run. Our kids can move, it's just that with the three step drop and the running game we have you don't have to run a lot.
It's one of those things where as a leader there's not much better than Matt Leinart. He's followed in the footsteps of Carson and the way he leads is a great example for the young quarterbacks. He shows them what it takes to get the job done, it's not going out to speak to a Boy Scout group and then missing your workout, it's taking care of all your outside business and then coming in and doing your workout. He finds a way to schedule his life to make sure he gets done what he needs to get done."
Who are some of the other leaders?
"Lofa Tatupu, Shaun Cody, Jason Leach, those are some of the kids that you're really starting to see step up and are holding people accountable for what they're doing and what they're aren't doing. When you start having that kind of leadership in the spring it drives the machine throughout the summer workouts."
Part 2 of this interview will appear on Friday