The playbook wasn’t the only thing that changed when Georgia Southern announced back in December that Jeff Monken was returning to GSU to become the head football coach.
Tom Melton returned as the team’s strength and conditioning coach and with him, a lot of changes were made at Iron Works, too.
The biggest difference between option-based offense and the spread passing attack of the last few years is simple - the need for speed.
Melton, a certified speed coach through the National Association of Speed and Explosion, has been working on maximizing everyone’s top speed by spending two days a week during voluntary summer workouts outside focusing only on that.
“Genetically, you’re only going to get to a certain point,” Melton said about speed conditioning. “Our part is to get them to that genetic peak. When we go outside, it’s just teaching, teaching guys to run up the field. The guys will tell you that – we spent the spring just teaching them how to run and change direction - because it really wasn’t a point of focus in the past. I know the tradition of Georgia Southern. I’ve been here for a while and I know that speed’s an important aspect of what we do.”
Yes, even for the big guys in the trenches.
“It’s been tough for these guys,” Melton said about the linemen. “A lot of guys have been here under a different system, but the guys have bought in. They’re excited because we’re doing things they haven’t done, in (the weight room) and outside. Outside, we’re focusing on speed. We’re trying to make you faster. That’s the thing – they kind of enjoy that because the big guys aren’t used to doing stuff to try to make them faster.
“What our offensive linemen are required to do is a lot different than what they were required to do in the past. It’s hard-nosed and those guys are just going to have to get after it on every single play. They’re not waiting to be hit. They’re going out, being the aggressor and doing the hitting. We’ve got to get the guys bigger and stronger. It’s a progression, and it’s something they’ve come a long way with.”
The rest of the voluntary workouts are spent focusing individually on areas of strength improvement specific to each position group – linemen, “big” skill positions (B-backs and linebackers) and skill positions.
“It’s all brutal, it’s all intense and it’s not an easy day for anybody,” said Melton. “But they’ve bought into it and they’ve been a great group to work with.”
Things are different in the weight room, but Melton is equally concerned with the players’ diets, working with each individual on his nutrition plan as well.
“You can use the old adage, ‘What you put into the gas tank it what you’re going to get out of the car.’ What they put into their bodies is what they’ll get out of it when they start to perform,” said Melton. “We’ve really done a big push on nutrition. We have guys filling out diet histories because we’ve got guys who need to gain weight, we’ve got guys who need to lose weight and we’ve got guys who need to maintain.”
Melton was around the program in 1998-99 as an assistant and returned to GSU in 2004 as the athletic department’s head strength and conditioning coach. He returned to run the football team’s program upon Monken’s arrival.
He wasn’t the only familiar face. Melton, at one time or another, worked at GSU with Monken, offensive coordinator Brent Davis, quarterbacks coach Mitch Ware and defensive line assistant Victor Cabral, who played at GSU from 2000-04.
“It’s like a family again,” Melton said. “Everybody’s really seemed to gel and come together. Everybody’s got one thing on their mind, one focus, and from that aspect it’s been good. I’m excited.”
The transfers have already arrived and begun work in Iron Works with Melton, and the 2010 team will be complete when the freshmen recruiting class arrives on June 22 for the B-Term of summer classes.
“I think every one of those guys are planning on being here,” said Melton. “Some of them may have to play this year, so we’ve got to get them in here and get them ready to go as soon as possible.”
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.