Two years ago, the Strength & Conditioning (S&C) program at the University of Georgia was a joke—you know it, I know it, and a lot of the professional football world knew it too. And while many thought 2011 would be the season the most improvement would be seen, the team’s on-field performance that year was littered with failed efforts in the second-half of ball games which resulted in some contests ending closer than they likely should have (Kentucky and Vanderbilt), while others ended disastrously (Michigan State and LSU).
(I, for one, didn’t feel 2011 was going to be the kind of year it was predicted to be due to the amount of work still needing to be done shoring up depth. There were too many holes at key positions—be them attritional or maturational—to feel comfortable that Georgia could win big all year).
However, 2012 has showcased a clear difference in the way this team goes about its business on the football field and a great deal of that success can be attributed to what has happened within the S&C program since Joe T. took the reigns in 2010.
I’m not saying there haven’t been hiccups during his tenure. There were certainly times when this team looked out of sync and unmotivated, but you never got the feeling they weren’t capable of more (side note: Shawn Williams deserves an MVP for what he’s done to help turn things around) and there wasn’t one game where they team looked defeated or physically unable to keep up with the competition. Despite their, sometimes, uninspired play, they were in each and every contest until the last tick of the clock, and that is a credit to the improvement Joe Tereshinski has made over the course of two seasons.
2010 saw a need for strength, so he made adjustments to the diets and weight-training regiments of each position on the team. 2011 revealed further issues with speed, agility, and overall fourth-quartet conditioning, so he added both Sherman Armstrong and Joe Thomas to the fray to improve those elements and balance out the gains made in the weight room.
The speed, the ability to remain physically aggressive well into the fourth quarter, the overall look of this team in their uniforms (the “eye test”) is noticeable even to the untrained eye and that is all S&C.
Don’t believe me, just take a look at Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Below is a picture taken in November 2011. Marshall arrived in January and Gurley in the spring—both were given individually developed training regimens to work on prior to the start of spring ball. Note their before and after.
I don’t know about you, but the difference is certainly a marked, one in my opinion, and their success on the field is likely due in large part to their being able to hold up to the grind and wear of SEC play—something Isaiah Crowell was unable to do last season.
Even more, the injury bug, while still significant in the losses of both Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett, hasn’t been nearly the factor it has been in recent years. The defense has been able to remain essentially unscathed—aside from early suspensions—and the offensive line, while young and prone to some inconsistency, has performed more ably than not this season because the same guys have essentially been able to play together as a unit all year long.
Georgia’s program has long been criticized for bringing in top-tier talent, but not developing it the way it should be—it’s an achilles heel Mark Richt would rather not continue to hear, I’m sure—but with the changes that have been made since AD Greg McGarity arrived (another significant change), there is certainly the feeling that this program is headed in the right direction.
The changes Georgia has made since 2009 have finally begun to pay off with a team that stands on the brink of a potential National Championship appearance—something that few Georgia fans could have imagined when the Bulldogs finished with an ugly 6-7 record just a few seasons ago. And S&C’s role in that success should not be overlooked.