Auburn Football 2012: Strength and Conditioning Effort Builds Momentum

Kevin McGradySenior Writer IFebruary 24, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 31:  Onterio McCalebb #23 of the Auburn Tigers is stopped short of the goal line by Demetrious Nicholson #1 of the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2011 Chick Fil-A Bowl at Georgia Dome on December 31, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

This is the time of the college football calendar when the media is full of mindless cookie-cutter articles short on substance and long on speculation. For the majority of fans, it is a time they can read exactly what they would like to be true as opposed to what actually might be true about their team.

For Auburn fans it is a time of bringing in the new. Little is actually known about the overall scheme for the 2012 Auburn Tigers. With what is actually one of the most experienced SEC coaching staffs, it is a time for the pieces come together.

Eventful times have arrived on the plains of Auburn. Harvey UpDyke, who gained his pound of fame by confessing to killing venerated trees and signing autographs for adoring Alabama fans in New Orleans, returned to court with a new tactic.

In a move that appears to be a sign of more openness allowed by Auburn team members, a fan uproar was incited by news that Corey Grant ran a blazing 40 that placed him as the fastest member of the football team over speedster Onterio McCalebb (at least for a day). Fans were excited by several rumored sub-4.3 40 times performed by running backs, defensive backs and receivers in this electronically-timed drill.

This is the kind of information that stokes the excitement building around the Auburn football program as spring training draws near. Auburn will likely field the highest level of speed at the skilled positions in the SEC this season.

Coaching all of that defensive back speed will be coach Willie Martinez, another apparent home-run coaching hire for Gene Chizik. It appears he could also be gaining a few players as positions are evaluated and changed with the new defensive staff.

Auburn is a team filled with “Tweeners” at linebacker and defensive end. Some of these players could see a rejuvenated career path, as it is rumored that defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder wants to field a little more size in his defensive scheme.

Players like Daren Bates (5’11”, 205 pounds) and Anthony Swain (6’2”, 205 pounds) are examples of players who might get a look in the defensive secondary. Willie Martinez is known to like a little size and attitude at the strong safety position.

Players like Ladarius Owens (6’2”, 237 pounds), Craig Sanders (6’4”, 260 pounds) and Dee Ford (6’2”, 245 pounds) could be looked at for a more linebacker-like role or as a pass-rushing specialist from a linebacker position as coach Tommy Thigpen seeks to bring more size and muscle to the linebacker positions.

Robenson Therezie, Corey Grant and Sammie Coates were three players rumored to join the sub 4.3-second 40 ranks at Auburn. Jaylon Denson was rumored to have joined the sub 4.5-second 40 ranks.

For those interested, senior Onterio McCalebb is rumored to run a 4.26-second 40. The list of Tigers on the 2012 squad rumored to have posted sub 4.5-second 40 times is long indeed. Strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall has customarily used a timing system for these types of drills similar to those used in the NFL combine.

Corey Grant has also broken the 200-pound barrier and is now comfortably over 200 pounds with an ultimate goal of playing at around 215 pounds. This size should go well with his current rumored 4.24-second 40 time. Time will tell how his hard work in strength and conditioning translates to the playing field.

There is no way of projecting how much hard work in strength and conditioning influences the win-loss record in November, but it certainly can’t hurt. It appears this young Auburn team has taken hard work in strength and conditioning to heart, and the results are sparking some confidence and momentum moving into spring training starting on March 29.