Perhaps the most distinct impression left from interviews Thursday with Georgia Tech offensive linemen Ray Beno, Will Jackson and Omoregie Uzzi is their enthusiasm over new strength and conditioning coach John Sisk. All spoke highly of him and how he has energized and helped focus the team in preparation for the season.
I suppose, even if they weren’t actually enthusiastic, they’d find a way to be complimentary. But the fact that they touched on some of the same points and seemed pretty genuine suggests otherwise. The proof will be in the pudding, of course, but it seems that coach Paul Johnson has found a good one. (Link to a story I wrote and an ensuing blog about Sisk)
“I’m enjoying it a lot more,” Beno said. “I’m definitely seeing the gains of my work and I’m sure everyone else is, too. Everybody’s just enjoying Coach Sisk tremendously.”
Said Jackson, “It’s not just lifting weights for the sake of lifting weights. He’s always reminding us, ‘We’re lifting for 9/3 against Virginia Tech.’ We’re not just lifting to be body builders. He’s just tying everything back into making us better football players. Just keeping that in our minds is helping out a lot.”
From my interview with Sisk, I remember asking him what differentiated strength coaches from good to great, as I’m guessing most coaches have a pretty similar knowledge base. I was a little surprised when he said communication.
“I think that’s essential,” he said. “Communicating what we’re asking of them, communicating what our head coach wants, what our assistant coaches want and communicating where we’re trying to go with that.”
Even if Tech players were doing the exact same lifts and program as they had previously, it seems Sisk has effectively cast a purpose to the work that players have been able to latch onto.
“In the offseason, a lot of times, it gets dull,” Uzzi said. “It seems like it gets mundane. It seems like you’re doing it just to do it, but he’s definitely been good in making it football-oriented, making sure that we know that we’re doing this for a reason. Every day, he makes sure we know what’s going on and what we’re doing this for and where we’re trying to get to, so this I how hard we need to work to get there. So Coach Sisk has really done a great job.”
The team has been breaking down huddles with a chant of “9/3,” Uzzi said. From what Sisk told me and what I’ve gathered, I think he’s been talking about the opener a lot. Synjyn Days mentioned this a couple weeks ago.
“He’s a great motivational speaker,” Days said. “He’s like, We have to get ready, because when we walk in there on 9/3 at Virginia Tech and they’re playing that Metallica (“Enter Sandman”), we don’t need that. We’ve got us. We’ve got us as a family.”
The response, Days said, was overwhelming.
For what it’s worth, Beno, Jackson and Uzzi all looked as defined and trim as I think I’ve seen them. Uzzi, with some embarrassment, said he’d gotten up to about 320 pounds in the spring when he wasn’t practicing but was down to 307. Beno is 285 and, he said, “for an offensive lineman, as cut as I can be.”
Said Uzzi, making clear he was joking, “Girls like me a little bit more.”
Sisk has shifted focus in July to conditioning in preparation for fall camp and the season.
“I was talking to Beno on the way in here, I was like, Man, I feel like I just played a game last night,” Jackson said Thursday. “Coach Sisk [Wednesday], he tried to say it was more of a lift (rather than a conditioning workout) but I beg to differ, because we were outside pushing sleds and kind of doing football drills. It did have some resistance component to it, but we were just running so much and just going the whole time, and when it’s 95 degrees outside, you’re definitely working.”
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog