FAYETTEVILLE - Every football coach craves coaching a team with speed and power or power and speed.
Emphasizing which comes first emphasizes a coach’s philosophy.
With new Arkansas Coach Chad Morris, come to the Razorbacks after three years head coaching SMU, five years coordinating collegiate offenses, 2010 Tulsa and 2011-2014 at Clemson after 16 years coaching high schools in Texas, philosophy runs with speed.
“You better have some speed,” Morris said upon Dec, 7 Arkansas arrival. “You either have speed or you’re chasing speed and you don’t want to be chasing speed.”
Morris’ rhetoric of “speed, speed, and more speed” hasn’t changed in subsequent meetings with Arkansas media.
Trumain Carroll, the strength coach Morris brings from SMU, knows the drill.
“We’re going to make sure we develop speed where people are actually chasing us,” Carroll said.
That speed can be taught to any great degree seems debatable.
“You can’t make thoroughbreds out of jackasses,” former Arkansas Hall of Fame Basketball Coach Eddie Sutton used to say.
But speed and flexibility can be improved and combined with power, particularly for a particular sport.
“Workouts are going to be structured to be football specific,” Carroll said. “We’re not going to make our guys power lifters. We’re not going to make our guys body builders. Our focus is to get guys that can go on that football field that fit our offense, that fit our defense.”
How do you accomplish that?
“We have to do a great job of incorporating explosiveness and speed, and not just linear speed,” Carroll said. “You think linear speed, you go out here to the track you want to be fast going straight ahead. But obviously playing the game of football, it’s not just played straight ahead. We have to be able to move out in space, redirect, accelerate, decelerate and get out of those cuts, and have guys that can be fast in all directions. We talk more specifically about movement and efficiency, not wasting steps and making sure every step counts.”
Flexibility always is football valued.
Improving flexibility is as old as yoga, the ancient Hindu art exercising and relaxing body and mind and taught by Marc Soltis, the assistant strength coach and certified yoga instructor that Carroll brings with him from SMU.
Yoga not only helps flexibility but recovery, Carroll said.
Of course some old school football types might scoff at yoga.
“People think of yoga and they think of guys wearing tights in a hot room and doing all of that,” Carroll said. “No, it’s not like that. We want to make sure that just as hard as we train, we want to put as much emphasis on the recovery side of things. That flexibility is going to allow guys to move well out in space. And when you get caught in those compromising positions, you run the least likelihood of becoming injured because your body is able to adjust and adapt to those difficult positions that you sometimes get put in on the football field.”
Strength and power of course are important, too. They were considerably important to Bret Bielema, Arkansas’ coach from 2013 until after the 2017.
And they are important to Morris and Carroll but running second to mobility and endurance, particularly for linemen in Morris’ fast paced no-huddle offense.
“Obviously we want our linemen to be strong, physical at the point of contact,” Carroll said. “They did a great job developing strength here. Obviously they’re a good strong group, but we have some mobility issues. That’s going to be addressed as soon as we hit the door.”
Thanks to the Jerry and Gene Jones Nutrition Center, Carroll said the Razorbacks are ahead of the game in a key aspect.
“That thing is probably hands down the No. 1 nutrition center in the country,” Carroll said. “We can train at a high level, but the thing is, you can’t out-train a bad diet.”
The nutrition center meets each athlete’s nutrition needs, Carroll said, citing that’s the goal for his weight room.
“We’re not going to do a cookie-cutter approach where we take the SMU program and just bring it to Arkansas,” Carroll said. “It doesn’t fit. You have different players, you have different styles and you have different needs. We want to be able to address those needs and that comes with asking a lot of questions.”