My silence for the last two months may seem like “the quiet before the storm.” Trust me, it certainly hasn’t been “quiet”, but the “storm” part is accurate.
After thirty-two years of training camps at every level, it still is exciting. We all start at the bottom of the mountain. We have been preparing for the climb, schedules, play books, policies. As coaches we prepare the environment and evaluate the competition, but most importantly, we create a plan for our team. Right now it doesn’t matter what the other guys are doing. The challenge for us is to be as good as we can be first.
This weekend, 90 players will report to training camp 2012. Thirty-one of those 90 will be freshmen. The remaining 59 will be those upper-classmen who displayed a commitment to our team in the classroom last semester and on the practice field during the spring. There will be other members of our team who will report on the 1st of September with something to prove. There is a small group of upper-classmen, who were injured during the off-season. They will be returning on this weekend. These young men will have roughly the same amount of time as their classmates did to demonstrate their abilities. The train is leaving the station, we are moving on.
We had roughly a third of our team stay here over the summer, including thirteen incoming freshmen. Those numbers are not near good enough, but it’s a start. We have hired a new strength and conditioning coach for Football, Ryan Cidzik. Ryan will work exclusively with football and direct the new weight facility in the Campbell Center. Few people know the Team as well as the strength coach. Work habits, attitude, toughness and confidence can all be evaluated and developed in the weight room. “Coach Cid” is going to have a huge impact on our team and he already has. Ryan comes to us from Memphis State where he was the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach. Prior to Memphis, Ryan was with the New York Jets and the Cleveland Browns. Ryan also served as the Head of Strength and Conditioning Coach for NFL Europe. Cid is smart, tough, experienced, detailed and demanding. Most importantly, I trust him with our Team. I know they are getting the same message from Ryan as they do from us.
Working along with Ryan is our nutritionist Tara Ostrowe. Tara works with Columbia Health Services and is the nutritionist for the New York Giants. Tara spent a considerable amount of time with our team last spring, both as a group and in individual meetings.We were interested in the body composition of our team. Obviously the goal is bigger, stronger players, and it all starts with nutrition. We set target weight and body fat parameters by position. Everyone was given a reporting target weight, body fat and lean mass goal. At considerable expense, Football purchased a machine that determines body composition. It’s an important piece of equipment. We keep it in the training room in Dodge so every team in the department can take advantage of it, if the coaches choose to do so. We want to be surrounded by winners; we are all in this together. When it comes right down to it, there is nothing more important than the individual health of each of our players. Without them, we have no team.
We have strengthened our operations staff. We hired Jansen Petagna as our new Director of Football Operations. John Cavalier will move up to Assistant Athletic Director in charge of Football and Special Events. John enters his fourth year with our team and has been instrumental in our transition. John will handle the “big picture” administration of our program, budget, alumni relations and events, summer jobs, university relations. Our program has grown. To manage our responsibilities with players, alumni, faculty, administration and staff, we needed to strengthen our administrative team. Jansen Petagna is a recent LSU graduate with four years experience as an intern with the New Orleans Saints, where he worked both with player personnel and operations. Jansen will handle our day-to-day operations, including housing, travel, meals, training camp and practice organization. Jansen will also serve as the liaison with public and media relations as well as marketing and the NFL.
Our academic, student support and career development, which falls under our Enrichment Services office, may have progressed as much as anything we have done to this point. We have reached out to the faculty concerning a number of areas and events and their cooperation has been great. It is amazing what honest communication and a common goal can do. We have confronted the perceptions and found that they really aren’t what we thought. The University community is behind what we are trying to create. We are all working for the same thing, the development of productive successful people. We have a plan for career development. We have the resources and the alumni community right here in New York to make it happen. What we are offering is an opportunity.
Now the emphasis changes; It has always been about developing an environment conducive to winning. That environment really has no boundaries, everything is important. But now it is time to stop focusing on the big picture, we have done what we can this first off-season. We have plenty left to do, next year will be just as important to our development. Now we start to live one day at a time, one practice at a time, one period at a time, one play at a time, one situation at a time. Can we string two good plays, two good periods, two good practices together? When that one play presents itself and the game is in the balance, can we nail it? Can we handle the grind of training camp? Can the freshmen handle all the distractions of orientation and still execute like we need them to? Will our upperclassmen sustain their commitment to who we have said we want to be?
The playbooks are done. The practice scripts are completed. The schedules have been finalized. Every detail has been reviewed, and reviewed again. We are at the bottom of the mountain, with everyone else. We will fight our history, our opponents, and more importantly, our own limitations, to see how good we can be. We are moving on.