Strength Coach Talks About Cal Football Workouts
Feb. 17, 2000
Berkeley - As part of www.calbears.com continuing effort to provide quality information about the Cal Football program during the off-season, Associate Athletic Director Kevin Reneau sat down with Strength and Conditioning Coach Todd Rice to discuss what has transpired during the off-season, his philosophy and what players are making the most strides since the conclusion of the 1999 season.
KEVIN RENEAU: DURING THE SEASON AND SPRING FOOTBALL, THE COACHES TAKE CENTERSTAGE. HOWEVER, FROM DECEMBER THROUGH THE END OF MARCH AND AGAIN DURING THE SUMMER, YOU ARE THE CATALYST IN CAL'S SUCCESS. WHAT IS YOUR TRAINING AND CONDITIONING PHILOSOPHY?
Todd Rice: The number one thing in any of our 27 sports is to develop athletic ability. That's why we emphasize the Olympic lifts - the clean and jerk and the squat because it takes athleticism and movement. The two most important aspects in all our sports are acceleration and deceleration. What we work on is the stop and the start, with the proper center of gravity. With football, you combine that with the goal of getting bigger and stronger. Just getting bigger or stronger is almost meaningless, without the acceleration factor. For a 260-pounder to hit an opponent going 10 miles an hour compared to 20 miles an hour, it's like the different between being hit by a bicycle or a semi truck. It's force production and lots of things go into that. We particularly emphasize flexibility and acceleration.
KR: HOW DID YOU DEVELOP YOUR PHILSOPHY?
TR: I've been around sports and coaches my entire life, particularly football. My family are all coaches. My dad has been a high school coach for decades. I also have brothers and uncles in the coaching profession. You tend to learn in that environment what's important. And it's not just size. It's beating people to the punch. It's about being faster than the other guy. Paul Horning didn't necessarily have great speed, but he did have great acceleration. A guy like Barry Sanders doesn't have overwhelming straight-ahead speed, but his lateral quickness, his ability to accelerate and decelerate make him one of the greatest players in NFL history. It's acceleration and velocity in addition to brute size and strength.
KR WHAT ABOUT YOUR PHILSOPHY IN THE WEIGHT ROOM? IN THE OLD DAYS THE BENCH PRESS WAS KING? IS IT NOW?
TR: We're more interested in the clear-and-jerk and the snatch. And, in order to do those two lifts, you have to be able to squat well. That's not to say we completely ignore the bench, because we do it twice a week. But, the most important thing is movement. I've been at five different schools during my career and, without exception, the team's best bench pressor at all of those schools thus far, have not been in the playing rotation. The better correlation are things such as a player's vertical leap, the 10-yard dash and the power snatch lift.
KR: WHAT ARE THE OFF-SEASON GOALS FOR THE CAL FOOTBALL TEAM AND HOW ARE THINGS PROGRESSING?
TR: We've been going four days a week for a full month at 6:00 a.m. and we've only had three guys miss a workout the entire time. That's a pretty amazing thing, far different than in previous years. Nothing happens in the off-season without the coaching staff. How much commitment the players show is a direct reflection of how involved the coaching staff is. And Coach Holmoe and his staff have made this a huge priority. When I worked at Wisconsin, Barry Alvarez was the same way. But, it's not that way at many programs, particularly on the West Coast. My first summer here, we had about 20 of our players stay around the entire summer. The next year it was around 40 and last summer, we had about 60 kids with us the whole summer. This summer, I haven't heard about one kid not being with us. That stems from the coaching staff. It also has helped that our alumni have been able to provide more summer jobs for our players. The Bay Area is an expensive place to live and that requires the guys to get jobs. We're finding now that our guys are able to find summer jobs that allow them to get off at 3 p.m. so they can get to our workouts starting at 4:00 p.m. If I guy goes to a job at 7:30 a.m. and doesn't get back until 6 or 7 pm, there's no time to train. I think we're much better in getting our guys in the right summer jobs now then it was a few years ago.
KR: IF YOU WERE TO SINGLE OUT SOME PLAYERS THAT WOULD STAND OUT DURING THE OFF-SEASON THUS FAR, WHO WOULD THEY BE?
TR: There are some obvious players and some not so obvious. The most obvious is Andre Carter. He's an impressive physical speciman. He's gone from 235 to 255 pounds since he got here and there's not any fat on his body. He's cleaning almost 400 pounds and will break our school record. Uusally a smaller player will have a big advantage in that type of lift. A 6-5 player compared to a 5-11 player are built differently, so comparing certain types of lifts is doesn't make sense. However, for Andre at 6-4 and 255 pounds, to clean 400 pounds would be astounding.
Two guys who have been somewhat maligned by the general public last year have been stars in the off-season: Langston Walker and Brandon Ludwig. Langston is working like a man. I'm so happy with him. His worth ethic has been great and he's improved his movement greatly. When he got here, he squated 330 pounds. Now, he's up to 550. Brandon is now benching 460 pounds now. When he came in here, he was benching 315. That's a pretty dramatic change. Another guy who comes to mind is (redshirt-freshman ) Joe DiBise. He's a little over 6-1 and 210 pounds and he has made tremendous strides. He could be a better athlete than Marquis Smith. Marquis was 6-2 and almost 220 pounds and could run a 4.5. Those things fit the computer great. But, we're also interested in hand-eye coordination and other types of things and I can tell you Joe has a lot of the elements you look for. In fact all of the freshman class from last year - Joe Igber, Joe Eschema, Nolan Bluntzer, Mark Wilson - and the others have made great stride. Igber has never worked with weights before this year and I think you'll see a difference in his performance on the field. Eschema is getting close to 220 pounds and he's sprinting on the Cal track team, so that's a great sign. Bluntzer went down to around 225 pounds with his arm injury, but he's coming back strong. He's back to almost 260 pounds and getting stronger and stronger. Wilson is up to 290 pounds and he looks like he's ready to compete for a starting spot. Kyle Boller is another guy whose made amazing strides in the off-season. He's really improved his flexibility and athleticism. His speed and footwork are really improving and I think you'll see him playing at about 210 pounds next year, which is 15 more than his playing weight last season. There are so many good stories for us this off-season.
KR, WHO WOULD YOU CONSIDER THE BEST ATHLETE ON THIS TEAM?
TR: I prefer not to compare athletes and challenge them not to compare themselves to others, but to concentrate on improving from their own past performance. It's not realistic to expect a walk-on lineman to have the same numbers as Andre Carter, but if he can improve his lifts and his vertical jump, that's a success. Some of the guys who do stand out as top performers and athletes are LaShaun Ward, Jacob Waasdorp, Andre Carter, Joe Igber and I think Langston Walker has a chance to get into that category if he continues down the same path he's on now.
KR: WHAT ABOUT THE NEW JC RECEIVERS. WHO HAS IMPRESSED YOU?
TR: There have been some nice surprises in that area. The main thing is that we've improved the work ethic of the wide receiver position group by about triple. The new guys have a great work ethic. They're pushing guys like Sean Currin, who's taken a big step forward this off-season. They're in here twice a day, trying to improve. None of them have weight lifting backgrounds and I've kidded them that they have the body type of Gandhi. But, they are making great strides. Chad Heydorff is much more athletic than you would think. He's been a surprise. Charon (Arnold) and Derek (Swafford) are both hard workers who have good quickness. We'll have to see what happens when they put on the pads.