In modern college football, the strength and conditioning coach is as important a hire for a head coach as any coordinator or position coach.
The strength coach helps set the culture that the head coach desires with workouts for all 12 months of a calendar year. On a college football staff, it is the strength coach that works the most with the players as he trains a team physically and mentally year-round.
The work of a strength coach gets cranked up during the summer months in particular with the foundation for the identity of every college football team being laid during that lead up time to the season.
Mario Cristóbal brought respected strength coach Aaron Feld with him from Oregon and the head coach was pleased by the way the team responded to and attacked the new program that Feld instituted.
“[We learned] that we are willing to work, which is critically important,” Cristobal said of the Miami offseason program just wrapped up. “Our capacity for work load and understanding learning systems is fairly high. There is potential for it to grow even more and that is exciting for a coach. To understand that you have a bunch of guys that are willing to work and capable of learning and have no issues of when you get after them in a positive way with some juice and intensity. It is all for the good of the team.”
Feld is pleased with the way the 2022 Miami Hurricanes have embraced his program and coaching.
“What they did is really special,” Feld said of the offseason work Miami put in as a team. “We have a group of guys that immediately bought in. They are hungry to learn and I met with 100 percent of our kids and every single one of them said something along the lines of how they wanted to be pushed to a high standard. That makes it really, really easy.”
Feld’s program goes beyond the physical conditioning of football. Feld believes it is important to condition players from a mental aspect as well. He is a believer in the power of neutral thinking.
“To me, everything starts with the mind,” Feld said. “We preach neutral thinking, which is neither positive or negative. We don’t know if positivity works, but we do know that negativity works and it works 100 percent of the time. Thinking neutrally is going to the facts. What are the facts and assess the situation. How do we move forward and what is the next thing to do? Being made or being excited isn’t going to help you make a play…When your guys are focused on what they have to do to make a big play, the big play doesn’t seem so big because it’s just part of what we do.”
What type of team speed does Miami feature as a whole this year?
“We are a very fast team,” Feld said.
How does this Miami team compare from a speed perspective to other teams he has been a part of?
“Very fast,” Feld said.
Tight end Will Mallory experienced Feld’s strength program from a rehabilitation perspective this offseason as he recovered from offseason labrum surgery. Mallory marvels at how quickly he recovered from the procedure.
“He brings a lot of energy and juice, but with that is a lot of wisdom,” Mallory said. “There is meaning and study behind a lot of what they do. Their blueprint works and they firmly believe in it and so do we. They are a lot of fun to work with.”
defensive end Jahfari Harvey improved his power clean year over year from 315 pounds to 345 pounds after taking part in Feld’s program.
“He pushes us to work as hard as we can every day,” Harvey said. “He won’t let you do half of anything. As long as you go as hard as you can go, he holds us to a high standard. I feel like he makes us better.”
Feld is well known for his trademark handlebar mustache, but he is also a highly respected strength and conditioning coach. During his tenure at Oregon, Feld helped Cristobal transform the Ducks into a bigger, powerful team that also featured speed.
Prior to his time at Oregon, Feld served as the assistant director of strength and conditioning at Georgia. Prior to his time at UGA, Feld was the strength coach at North Alabama for all of their athletic programs.
Feld and Cristobal crossed paths at Alabama in 2013-14 when Cristobal was the offensive line coach and Feld served as a volunteer strength coach. The two didn’t have their first conversation until Feld’s interview with Cristobal for the Oregon job. Ever since then, the relationship has grown and the two work well together in the player development phase of the football program.
And now Miami has its most advanced, cutting edge strength and conditioning program in the history of the program.
“We train attributes,” Feld said. “Everything we do is designed specifically to make you a better football player. I’m not a football coach. I don’t teach guys to strike, and block, and tackle, or whatever. You look at the movements on a football field and break it down. What are the attributes you need to have? You need to have a big strong, chest, a tight core, and transfer that force from your hips to your hands. We train those attributes.”
Read on for more news and notes from Friday’s UM practice.
News & Notes
– VIP LINK: Observations from Friday’s practice.
– Mario Cristóbal recapping day one of fall camp: “Day one and we worked hard and we have worked hard and a lot of that showed. Some guys are further ahead than others, but the competition is making everybody better. Our pace of practice for day one was solid, but it will increase. Our pace with the way we do things will get better. We are demanding it and we are getting it for the most part, but of course on day one it is not where it needs to be. I like the type of attitude that we display. You can push this team and you can push these coaches.”
– What does Cristobal look for on a first day of camp? “Everything has to be full throttle,” Cristobal said. “How you finish a play has to be full throttle. If it is a walkthrough, there shouldn’t be a ball on the ground. The way we do things as opposed to the result of that period or play is really important.”
– Miami had two ‘cool zone’ portables outside the indoor practice facility as a means for recovery with getting the core body temperature of the players down after the practice. The portables were chilled to a temperature of 20 degrees. “It has nothing to do with anything but recovery,” Cristobal said. “The way we practice is a different level. There are times after practice where you want to bring your core temperature down. It is really good with helping our guys recover and the way we practice, every ounce of recovery and every advantage we can gain “We are going to do. We have a saying that it is easy to be tough with somebody else’s body. Go hard, practice hard, go lights out, and when it is time to shut down the engines and cool them down, do that.” as well.”
– On the official 2022 roster, there are no players with the no. 1 jersey or the no. 26 jersey. Cristobal wants those jersey numbers to be earned at Miami. “You have to earn No. 1,” Cristobal said. “I think some guys have asked for it, but if you are going to wear that, you better be the baddest son of a gun on the planet. I think we have guys that can work themselves there and if somebody gets to that point, maybe it is a consideration. The number 26, one person asked for it and I just felt like it wasn’t quite the level it needed to be to wear that number the way it should be worn.” Former UM great SeanTaylor made the no. 26 jersey special during his playing days in the early 2000s.
– QB Tyler Van Dyke on the first day of practice: “It was the first day out today, so there was going to be some rust. There was some good times and bad times. I feel like it was a decent day. There is still some stuff to improve on with our side of the ball. I thought the defense had a good day today.”
– Van Dyke on the receivers needing to step up during fall camp so that dependable options emerge: “We have to push them. We have to find who those guys are going to be. We have plenty of guys that are able to do it, but we just don’t know who the guys are going to be yet. I am excited to see who it is going to be…We have a bunch of guys that are capable of doing it, but it is about knowing your plays and knowing your responsibilities and how to line up. You need to have every little detail of knowing what to do.”
– TE Will Mallory is excited about the growth from Elijah Arroyo this year. “He’s a natural talent,” Mallory said. “Most importantly, it is just him as a person. He is a great guy and a great teammate. Ever since he came in as a freshman at 17 years old, he had a different mentality compared to most freshman and he has only improved. He is a leader in the room too. He helps the young guys and sets an example. I am fortunate to have him as a teammate and he is a rare talent.”
– JUCO wide receiver transfer Colbie Young has impressed Van Dyke. “He’s a big, freak athlete with great ball skills,” Van Dyke said of the pass catcher. “He can move too.”
– EN Jahfari Harvey is embracing the competition for playing time that the transfer additions to the defensive line are bringing to his group. “It’s actually fun to go out there and compete,” Harvey said. “You don’t even really think about it. Everybody is competing and everybody is 100 percent. You have to go.”
– O.L John Campbell played left tackle on Friday with Zion Nelson still rehabbing his way back from a knee injury. Harvey praised Campbell for his play. “He looked good out there,” Harvey said. “Coach Mirabal does a great job with those guys. I think they will be solid this year.”