A reader emailed me today with a great idea – write an article about Pitt’s Strength and Conditioning (S&C) program. I agreed it would be a good topic… then I emailed back “Do it yourself and I’ll post it!” But he, like myself, is too busy – so what I did is to take the body of his email and will use that as a conversation starter. Here that is:
There have been many guest contributors and by now just about all facets of the team have been covered, except one: who is in charge of Strength and Training, what does it consist of, and is the program any good. I know there is one poster — I don’t specifically recall his moniker — who has been critical. Perhaps if he has special or inside knowledge, he would be a good candidate to write the article.
The reason I am suggesting this is this. I was at my athletic club last Saturday. One of the trainers there is the father of Josh Lugg, formerly of North Allegheny High School and now a freshman at Notre Dame. As a freshman he was on the two deep as an Offensive Guard. Not bad for someone Dokish always saw as overrated.
The guy ahead of him, a senior, will be in the pros this fall. Well anyway, Josh and his younger brother were also at the club — lifting weights, natch. Josh is around 6’7”, 315, and there is no body fat. (His little brother is a couple of inches shorter and about 50 pounds lighter, no body fat.) Seeing them lift, my thinking: if there is a typical fat-ass, or just plain fat, Pitt defensive lineman across from Lugg, the Pitt guy is going to lose that match up every single play.
So, what is going on with the Strength and Training program, who runs it, etc., etc.
That my friends is one excellent question and one area of the football program which there will be a bright shining spotlight on this fall. Why, because regardless of some Pitt’s fans believing that we ‘have more depth’ than we have had in the past I do not, by any means – especially in the unit young Mister Lugg above plays on. BTW – Lugg is a prime example of Pat Narduzzi’s missing out on blue chip players of need right in his own backyard.
I think most fans understand just how important S&C is – a good example for this with Pitt is that in two of our losses, and to teams we really should have beaten in Syracuse and North Carolina, our players were sluggish and pretty gassed in the last quarter of play.
SYR scored 17 points in the 2nd half to win and in the NC game we had an opportunity to keep and extend the lead but on our last two possessions we went backwards two yards on the first series and on the second we had to punt again.
This 2012 article, while old, is still relevant today. In it is a good take on just how important a S&C program is to the team.
“They’re the heart and soul of your program,” says Texas coach Mack Brown. “They have to have the guys in condition, and they have to push them while doing so within in the rules to be safe.
“At the same time, they have such a close relationship with the athletes that if the athlete is griping about a coach, our strength and conditioning guys have to stand up and get everyone back on the same page.”
Meyer put it more bluntly in a recent interview with Pete Thamel of the New York Times: “You can’t function in today’s era of college football without a superstar as a weight coach,” Meyer said. “That’s more important than a coordinator or a line coach. That’s changed.”
Here is the very-early two deep going into the 2018 season split up by the three units that I feel S&C is the most important. not surprisingly they are also the units where height and weight make the most impact on opposing teams as they are the players who directly engage opposing players the most in close blocking and tackling (save maybe the TE unit when they are being held back to block).
Let’s look at them one-by-one – and I’m kind of guessing on the actual two-deep:
All these guys look to have the height and weight required to play on the OL. What is hidden of course is how that weight is distributed and what the muscle mass and body fat percentage is. Here is an interesting graphic showing the average size of the college OL by conference in 2016:
…and by NCAA divisions:
Our starting five OL averages out to 315 lbs with a huge RT Justin Morgan coming in at 365 (according to the Pitt roster). That is a bit too big in my opinion mainly because these kids aren’t going to be dropping straight back to form a pocket for 3.5 seconds… they are going to have to be quick and nimble to accommodate Pickett’s style of play – which is not your typical pocket passer. And because of that our tackles have to be the best on their feet of all the OL.
So – does the S&C coach get a mandate to slim these kids down and get them more mobile – and if so how good is he at doing that? It is a question I don’t have the answer for.
Here are our other two units that I feel are impacted most by S&C. First let’s look at our DL and here is the average size in college:
…and here is what we have in our two-deep. Our DEs average out to 255 lbs which is heavy I think. Our interior DL kids average out to 286.
Weaver is big for a DE but he carries it well and was a surprising good addition to the DL last year. I like the interior lineman to be shorter than ours but that may be because I use Aaron Donald who was 6’1″ and 285 as a benchmark for the DL. BTW – just for a laugh look at Donald’s NFL Combine page and his overall score of 5.3 – which grades out to “5.20 – 5.49 NFL backup or special teams potential”. Missed on that one….
Our LBs two-deep may look like this:
Here is the D1 FBS average for LBs:
This is the unit that concerns me the most after our OL. I think our LBs have been pretty poorly coached over the last three years and 1) either that accounts for their first step being wrong half the time or 2) our LBs are too dumb to understand the flow of an offensive play. I do not think it is the latter.
But the first step / quick twitch for a LB is essential and we have to get better at it.
Our S&C coach is Dave Andrews – here is a bit of his bio on the Pitt football site:
Described by Narduzzi as “a highly disciplined coach who instills toughness in our entire program,” Andrews arrived at Pitt with strong credentials in both physical development and as a former player. He was a tight end on Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team and has spent the past decade as a major-college strength coach.
He is a certified strength and conditioning coach by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association (CSCCa) and USA Weightlifting (USAW) as a level one sports performance coach. In 2014, Andrews was an assistant director of strength and conditioning at Notre Dame, which defeated LSU, 31-28, in the Music City Bowl.
Prior to Notre Dame, he spent two seasons as the associate head strength and conditioning coach at Illinois (2012-13). From 2005-11, Andrews served in various strength and conditioning capacities at the University of Cincinnati, including his final four years when he was the Bearcats’ head Olympic strength and conditioning coach. Andrews was a graduate assistant football coach at Cincinnati in 2004.
Andrews is a 2004 graduate of Ohio State with a bachelor’s degree in education. In addition to his undergraduate studies in education, Andrews also owns a master’s degree in that subject from the University of Cincinnati.
I wonder how well he’s accomplished his mission at Pitt but I will be the first to admit I’m no subject matter expert on S&C. Let us know what you think…
Here is the latest on the Spring Drills from Pitt:
PITT FOOTBALL SPRING PRACTICE: DAY 5
3/20/2018 2:00:00 PM
Pitt Head Coach Pat Narduzzi
“Practice number five, we are about a third of the way through. Coming out, I didn’t know if they were cranked up or not, to be honest with you. But it was energetic and enthusiastic and competitive. Our guys kept throwing punches—not physically throwing punches. It was just an intense practice today like you want to see. You sometimes worry about the enthusiasm you have in the first week and that it would kind of wear off by the second week, but they came out and had fun today. That’s when they get better, when they enjoy being out there. I like how things are being done. I like the way we’re coaching them. I like the kids’ attitudes. I feel good.”
On Saturday’s scrimmage:
“It was back and forth. There was a lot of good things on both sides of the ball. There was nothing ugly about it, so I liked that. There were not as many explosive plays that I’d like to see from the offense, but that is a good thing for the defense. Defensively, I would say they weren’t as stingy as I’d like them to be as far as five-yard gains here and there. I would like them to be two-yard gains. So as a head coach, that is about as happy as you can walk away at a scrimmage. Things are just good on both sides, but nothing is great. If the defense is doing a great job, you are upset and miserable because you don’t know what’s wrong with the offense and vice versa. So all in all, it was a good day.”
On if the outside linebackers can learn multiple positions:
“Yeah, I think they can. Saleem [Brightwell] is playing both. Elijah Zeise is playing field and boundary. I was impressed with the linebacker corps on Saturday. If you had to say, ‘give me a position where I would say whoa’, our linebacker corps is pretty good. There are some young guys that are starting to play really well. [Cam] Bright has shown the ability to pick things up. Kyle Nunn—a guy you have never heard of—is just doing some really nice things and being coached and doing the little things right. Sometimes young guys don’t do things right. Anthony McKee [Jr.] has finally arrived; we have been waiting for a couple of years. So there are a lot of good things coming from our linebackers right now. We just have to sustain that and keep it going.”
On George Aston and Tre Tipton returning from injury:
“Receivers are different. They get all excited, they call, they run way out there, they get in cat fights. George is in there with the linemen; he’s in the dirt and mud. It’s a different energy, I guess. George is energy, and Tipton is positive and a leader.”
On the biggest difference in quarterback Kenny Pickett since last year:
“With Kenny, it’s obviously night and day. Last year he was just looking around, wondering what facility he was in as a young freshman. He has grown up, matured and is confident. The biggest thing is that he is confident with what he’s doing. He’s a leader out there on the field—period. He gets the guys going. He’s playing real well so far, so I’d say his confidence.”
On the mid-year freshmen enrollees:
“Shocky [Jacques-Louis] has been a little bit limited with what we are doing with him. Jake [Kradel] is doing well for a true freshman. They’re about where you thought they’d be as freshmen. It’s hard as an offensive lineman. Shocky is talented; he’s got a lot of juice to him. We are just making sure we don’t bring him out here too early, so he doesn’t get hurt.”
On if Chase Brown will play tackle at all:
“There’s a possibility. There’s nothing set in stone at this point after day five. There’s a long time until September 2nd.”
On #TurnOnTheL19hts being the new recruiting hashtag:
“It’s time to turn them on. That’s the new one.”
MIC’D UP: Defensive Coordinator Randy Bates
Special Teams Coordinator/Running Backs Coach Andre Powell
Fullback George Aston