Strength And Conditioning Program Peaking For WVU

Strength And Conditioning Program Peaking For WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There is much different about the West Virginia football team as it goes into the 2017 season but the biggest difference may be one you haven’t thought about yet.

True, Will Grier takes over at quarterback and Jake Spavital will call the plays as the new offensive coordinator. Defense coordinator Tony Gibson is fitting in many new starters on the defensive side and there’s a giant new video board to help keep you entertained and informed between plays.

But the biggest — and maybe most important — change of all may be in the athletes themselves … bigger, stronger, faster than they’ve ever been for coach Dana Holgorsen.

The man — and his staff — responsible is strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph, who knows a little bit about not only getting ready to play the game but playing it as maybe the best running back Fairmont State ever had and Holgorsen acknowledged him the day camp opened.

“I thought we had a great summer, I want to put that on the record. Mike Joseph and his staff did an unbelievable job. We have better bodies in better numbers. The strength and conditioning numbers are better than they have ever been; it’s not even close. Our guys look good; they feel good,” Holgorsen said.

Holgorsen went on to note that they have, for example, taken linebacker Dylan Tonkery and completely remade him so that “he doesn’t look anywhere near what he looked like a year ago.”

“We have a bunch of young kids that we’re going to continue to look at. Who knows how those other guys could have developed? (Redshirt freshman linebacker) (Brendan) Ferns looks great. He tested out elite. I’ve never had two redshirt freshmen that have tested out elite. (Redshirt freshman cornerback) Jacob Long tested out elite as well.”

Testing elite assures nothing, but history says it means a lot.

WVU strength coach Mike Joseph leads the Mountaineers through warmups

“Mike Joseph calculates numbers – height, weight, speed, strength, quickness, a lot of that stuff. Obviously, Tavon Austin tested elite, Bruce Irvin tested elite, Mark Glowinski tested elite, Kevin White tested elite. There are some guys that tested elite that couldn’t play a lick, but we have way more in the program than we ever have,” Holgorsen said. “Usually, we were sitting at around four or five. We’re two, three, four times that right now.”

So what is going on? First off, just what are these tests and why are the scores so high?

“We’ve been doing the grading system for five or six years,” Joseph explained. “Every year we have players come to us going to the NFL Combine wondering how they rank and where they stand.”

This allows them to get an idea of where they stand against others, but it also allows them to quantify their athletic improvement over the years and pinpoint where they need to improve.

This isn’t, Joseph says, done to build bodies. It’s done to build football players.

“Our goal is to develop athletes … physically, mentally. We are preparing them for the game of football, not necessarily for tests,” he said. “Preparing for the game of football, I will stress them, try to confuse them, throw different things at them.

“We came to a point where we wanted to see how they were developing and if they were developing in the right way. We came up with eight tests — speed, conditioning, strength, agility.”

The grades depend upon your position. Linemen need strength, so they may score 80 by squatting 300 pounds but with a wide receiver that might be a 95. Receivers, on the other hand, have to perform better in speed and agility tests.

The tests are graded 0 to 100, based on position and then they arrive at a total score from the average of all the tests.

“It breaks down to poor, which means the athlete needs to dramatically get better, or they are just starting. Linemen, for example, come in and often need to get bigger and stronger. Some guys come in who love lifting weights but can’t move. It shows your strengths and your weaknesses,” Joseph said.

“Then we have average. Then good, then excellent, then elite. It’s based on your score and to be elite you have to be 94 percent or better on all of it. Excellent is 86 percent or better.”

This year receiver Ka’Raun White led the way with 98.

Joseph is careful not to put too much on the testing, though.

“The point I have to get across is that testing is just one piece of the pie. The biggest thing is can you play football, are you accountable, do you go to class, do you get sleep and eat right? It all goes into it.”

Why, though, is it peaking now? Holgorsen has his own ideas about it.

“It goes back to that recruiting thing; it’s not always about the bodies. Coach Joseph puts it on the bodies. I’ll put half of it on him. He trains them as good as anyone in the country,” the head coach said.

But there is more.

“Our setup is really good; the facility downstairs, the support with the administration as far as what we’re putting into their bodies, it’s really good. Hopefully, it equates into wins.”

Joseph concurs with that analysis.

“Everything has to work good, obviously. It goes back to recruiting. It goes to continuity, the coaching staff being here,” he said. “It takes time to get guys into a system, get them to trust it and grow in it before you get to where you want to be. They are just now reaching that point.”