Georgia Southern didn’t just change the playbook when head coach Jeff Monken and his staff took over in 2010.
The Eagles changed everything — the way they eat, the way they train, the way they exercise and the way they run.
According to strength and conditioning coach Tom Melton, the Eagles were fast learners in the weight room.
“It’s just amazing just how far we’ve come since this time last year,” said Melton. “There was a lot of teaching last year, now sometimes we joke, ‘This is getting a little boring. They know everything.’ We hope somebody will mess up just a little bit so we can get some coaching in there.”
Now that the players know how to train the way Melton and his staff want them to, the biggest concern during the summer’s voluntary workouts has been complacency after the 10-win season and run to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals in 2010.
“One thing we were worried about, especially after the success of last year, was, ‘Are they going to still want more?’ You can tell that they know they’re that close, and they’re even hungrier than they were last year,” Melton said. “They taste it.”
Iron Works, the GSU athletics training facility, has been busy during voluntary workouts, with only a few exceptions.
“This year it’s been a totally different approach. Guys have come in ready to go, and we’ve made such big changes,” said Melton. “This is all voluntary, and we’ve got the whole team here — I think we’ve got five walkons that aren’t here — but everybody else is here.”
Melton has been pleased with the progress of the whole team, but a few of the players have really stood out. Jerick McKinnon, who not only was the backup quarterback to Jaybo Shaw as a true freshman a season ago, but also spent time at wide receiver and slotback, has come a long way since arriving on campus for the first time as an Eagle in summer, 2010.
“Jerick McKinnon came in at 182 [pounds], and he’s rocking about 200 pounds,” Melton said. “You’re looking at right about a year, and he’s just lean and strong. Like some of those o-linemen, he’s just a freak, busting his backside every time he’s in there. Our whole o-line, from where they were last year to this year is just incredible.”
Melton, a certified speed coach through the National Association of Speed and Explosion, focuses on the importance of all aspects of training when he’s coaching.
“We’re putting on a lot of weight and still getting faster. That’s my main goal,” he said. “We’re going to be big and fast. You don’t have to sacrifice size for speed or speed for size. We want to do both.”
The Eagles report for fall camp on Tuesday, Aug. 2 and begin practice at Beautiful Eagle Creek on Thursday, Aug. 4.
The 2011 season kicks off on the road at Samford in Birmingham, Ala. for a Southern Conference matchup on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m. (EST).
Matt Yogus can be reached at (912) 489-9408.