No member of a football team’s coaching staff impacts the players more than the strength coach.
At Pitt, Shawn Griswold appears to have made a strong, positive impression on his players.
Senior linebacker Brandon Lindsey said he came into camp 15 pounds overweight after postseason shoulder surgery, but you never would know it by the shape of his body.
“I got stronger, bigger, faster and I am definitely in better condition,” Lindsey said at the end of Griswold’s summer conditioning program.
Griswold arrived at Pitt with coach Todd Graham in January, and had bigger shoes to fill than any member of the new staff.
Griswold replaced hugely successful strength coach Buddy Morris, who served Pitt for 19 years in three separate stints under five head coaches. A total of 18 Pitt offensive linemen who worked under Morris were drafted into the NFL.
But Griswold’s strength training methods are different than those of Morris. Due to the nature of the up-tempo offense, Griswold emphasizes speed, quickness and increased cardio performance, without ignoring the requisite brute strength. Players from three different positions – defensive lineman Aaron Donald, center Chris Jacobson and linebacker Shayne Hale – were leaders in the weight room, with 30, 30 and 29 bench-press reps of 225 pounds.
If they had done that at this year’s scouting combine, they would have finished ahead of most of the college prospects.
Keeping a level head
Lindsey, who had 10 sacks and then had shoulder surgery immediately after the season, said the Pitt medical staff cleared him in May to participate in all drills.
He is recognized as one of the top players in the Big East, but he said he is keeping those thoughts “in the back of my mind.”
“I am just worried about taking care of Buffalo (in the opener) and getting to a BCS bowl,” he said.
I don’t know if this is just blind luck, careful planning or absolutely unimportant, but Pitt plays only two road games through Nov. 5.