Written by Chad Wesley Smith
What are the first things players to Auburn do as part of the program?
The first thing our incoming athletes do is go through a Functional Movement Screen and some performance testing. This will give us a pretty good idea where deficiencies are and what the common trends are. Common deficient areas are normally ankle mobility, T-spine mobility, lack of overall posterior strength, and lack of core strength. We will also do a video analysis of their linear and lateral running mechanics to identify any energy leaks or inefficient movement that we can help correct. Once we are done with the evaluation process, the athletes enter our Stage 0 program where we work on correcting their deficiencies and building up their work capacity. We also begin our lifting orientation process at this time. We begin with establishing our standards of what we expect every time they enter our facility. Attention to detail, tempo and intensity are a few. Stage 0 is all about becoming brilliant at the basics. Relative body strength exercises such as inverted rows, chin-ups, push-ups, etc. are emphasized. We will begin taking our athletes through our hinging, squatting and Olympic lifting progressions as well.
What advice do you have for a young coach/student who is interested in breaking into the college coaching scene?
Find coaches you respect in the profession and go visit them. Read everything you can about them and their program. Be very persistent and be a scavenger for knowledge. You must also be passionate about the profession. Find a niche within the field such as speed, corrective exercise, nutrition, etc. The college coaching profession is very competitive, so having a specialty is a good way to set yourself apart. When I hire I am looking to hire great people who will be excellent role models for our kids. They must be low ego and high output coaches who are great teachers.
What are some of the most impressive feats you have seen by your athletes through the years?
I’ve seen many but I’ll keep it to the last two years. I’ve seen Sammie Coates, one of our receivers who weighs 210lbs, do three strict chin-ups with 3 45lb plates hanging from his waist. Jay Prosch, a fullback of ours who is now with the Houston Texans, squatted 365lbs with 100lbs of chain and hit .80 m/s on the tendo. One afternoon I came out of my office onto the weight room floor to find Greg Robinson squatting 315lbs with 80lbs of chains and hitting .85m/s on the tendo. It wouldn’t have been so impressive had he not been wearing flip flops. He was actually waiting for the St. Louis Rams staff who were on their way to work him out. In no way am I advocating wearing flip flops and squatting obviously.
What is a piece of advice that Ryan Russell the coach in 2014 would like to go back and give Ryan Russell the player and Ryan Russell the coach in 2004?
I would tell myself to focus more on recovery. I trained two or three times a day, five or six days a week. I always thought more was better and never let myself recover. Another thing I would have done more as an athlete is open reactive change of direction work. Being an old track guy, I did a lot of running fast and leaning left and spent little time on change of direction. The linear speed training helped me get fast straight ahead, but did very little to help my change of direction. Seeing the impact this type of training has had on my athletes the past few years has been amazing.
What sets apart what Auburn football strength and conditioning does from other top programs in the country?
I don’t know if anything really sets us apart. I know there are a lot of programs doing a really good job. I always tell our guys psychology trumps physiology. We can have the best program in the world and if they don’t buy in and work hard they aren’t going to get better. On the flip side, we could have the worst program in the world and if they give us all they’ve got they’re going to get better. Now I believe we have a good system in place but our guys work extremely hard as well. Attention to detail really matters around here, and our players know it pays to be a “detail guy.” I believe we do a nice job finding our guys limiting/deficient areas and correcting them, in essence helping them get out of their own way. They progress through a stage system where, if they do what they’re supposed to, they will progress through three or four different stages/programs throughout their careers. There are performance standards as well as screening standards that must be met to graduate into the next stage. At the end of the day our guys know that my staff and I are extremely passionate about their development, and that goes a really long way.
Everyone knows that to succeed in the SEC you’ve got to be fast, what are some of your favorite speed training drills/concepts?
We follow a non-competitive → competitive → pure competitive progression. Our last 3-4 week block will be purely competitive with our guys broken up into groups based of their 10yd dash times. It gets extremely competitive, and we are now having to film a lot of the drills to decipher winners and losers. We live by the quote “the best way to get really fast is to go outside and run really fast.” It’s simple but true. We have our guys broken up into 3 different stages as well for speed training. One of our favorite drills for acceleration is pairing heavy sled drags with electronically timed 10’s. Heavy sled drags are an awesome way to teach our athletes to feel the “lean” they will need for optimal acceleration. We will normally do 3x15yd drags with 3x10yd timed 10’s contrasting the two. With our stage III athletes we will do some French contrast training. A pairing we have used looks like this, A) Heavy sled push x10yds B) sprinter stance start x10yds C) chain sprint x20yds D) assisted sprint x20yds. Our athletes will go through this sequence three times. The gains we have seen in force production through these two methods have been impressive. The French Contrast Method has specifically helped many of our older athletes break through speed barriers late in their careers.
I want to say thanks to Chad and Juggernaut for the great job they do and the wealth of information they put out. We purchased the Juggernaut football manual and gained many valuable ideas when it comes to programming and implementation. Keep up the great work and thanks for the great product.
Ryan Russell has been the Director of Performance for Auburn University Football since 2012.