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Q&A with Andreu Swasey

RALEIGH -- I'm sitting in my hotel room here in chilly North Carolina waiting for tonight's prime time showdown at the Dean Dome and listening to the radio back home. And, shockingly enough, despite the fact Frank Haith's team is playing in huge game tonight, UM football is still dominating the airwaves.

SwaseyI'll keep feeding the beast. As I told you last night, I still had plenty of left overs from the time I spent with Canes strength and conditioning coach Andreu Swasey. I know there are still a lot of questions out there about what exactly he does with his players, what his focus is on workouts and how exactly UM compares to other programs. While I'd love to have the weight room numbers for USC, LSU, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma and any other top BCS school, I cover the University of Miami. That's where I got my info from. If I get the chance in the next couple months to compare and contrast the program with others I will. But for now, you'll have to settle for what I got from my time with Swasey this week.

Here's my warning -- it's a long read. But if you really want to know the ins and outs of his strength program from what they do through each phase, who Swasey's influences were, what he thinks of the program and its direction and much more -- you'll read it.

Q: Who would you consider your biggest influences in coaching, is there somebody you shadowed your program after?
A: Mainly I'd say the discipline part of it is my biggest influence. Growing up at Carol City with Coach [Walt] Frasier and the discipline I learned from him. There is a lot of carryover too from the time I spent with track, plus what I studied over time.

I learned from [former UM strength coach] Darryl Hewlett. God rest his soul. He ended up passing away. He gave me an opportunity when I first got here [in 1997]. Even though his philosophy and things he did were totally different from my philosophy, I learned from him. I learned some things from Tommy Moffett [now at LSU]. I learned a lot from him.

Q: How would you say your philosophy is different from those guys?
A: Hewlett is totally opposite. He ran HIT, which is high intensity training. We do Olympic Style lifting which is free weights with multiple sets. There are some things I did learn from Dale. But HIT, you didn't do Olympic lifts, you aren't going power clean. It was a bunch of machines that are controlled. I ain't doing that.

Q: So what are the benefits of Olympic style, free weight lifting?
A: Power and speed. It's a track based system. You are talking about recruiting the most power and speed. HIT, you are going to get it from absolute strength and controlled weight. That one is set to failure. We're dealing with multiple sets here. Moffett's program and ours, your dealing with a lot of similarities. It's basically the same.

Q: A lot of people look at the program and see that its gone from national champion to where it is today. Everybody wants to point fingers and some people point it at you. Have you changed your strength and conditioning program at all?
A :As far as the basic work, it hasn't changed much. To be successful, it's about constantly doing what you do. To be honest, if it changed so much, I wouldn't have so many kids come back after leaving for the National Football League. The consistency is what they respect about the program.

Q: Do you have the same workouts for every player or does it vary by position?
A: Every coach wants their big skill athletes to be just as strong and just as fast their small skill [athletes]. And they also want their small skill to be just as strong and fast as their big skill. There's a balance. In the game of football you have to be strong and you have to be powerful and you got to be able to run.

Q: In terms of what the kids are doing, maybe the easiest thing to do is compare player by player what the kids on this team did last year in your program versus the last time you won a championship. Are the strength numbers, speed numbers the same?
A: To go player by player for what we have right now, you are comparing and its that's hard to compare freshman to seniors. I'd be comparing Ed Reed to a freshman or sophomore like a [Vaughn] Telemaque. But if I was to compare him to Randy Phillips, strength numbers they compare to Ed just as strong. I mean being in the program for four years, Randy [Phillips] is strong. He's benching 315, squating mid 500s. Antrel [Rolle] squated about mid 450s. Randy is just as strong. [Ed] Reed wasn't as strong in the legs, but he was strong in the upper body.

I think everybody has their different strengths. I mean, I can see the comparisons. Roscoe Parris to Travis Benjamin. Roscoe came to me about 140 to 145, now he's like 175. Travis came to me, oh lord, 150 to 155. You are talking about in one year Travis is probably up to the mid 160s, 170. But his body type is compatible to a Roscoe Parrish.

You take a Santana Moss, to me he's like Pimp [Thearon Collier] because of the strong lower body. I've been here long enough, I can take each kid and compare and contrast with. Andre Johnson left at 232 as a junior, but came in at 205. Aldarius came in right at 200. You got that going a little bit.

Me, personally, I hate the comparisons. Aldarius is Aldarius. Travis is Travis. I want kids to have their own identity. I do want Travis trying to be Roscoe Parrish. He's going to be good enough he'll be Travis Benjamin. Aldarius is going to be good enough to be Aldarius. I know we got some great kids right now. I can look at the scale, tell you how strong they are. I just know they're on the path of getting us back to where we want to get back to.

I mean, [Jonathan] Vilma came in here 190 pounds. He ran a 4.91 in the 40-yard dash and ended up working his way up. Spence, he came in 193 pounds. He was just like Vilma was. Now, he's already up fluctuating between 205 and 208. Kellen Winslow came in here 215 and left 255 as a junior. I can give you Epps, who came in 228 or 230 and now he's at 252. The program is set when start going through the numbers. Epps is can run a 4.5 just like they did. You got a lot of symmetry, a lot of comparisons. If you go to quarterback, you take Ken Dorsey came here 160-something and left at 195. Jacory came in 166 and he's already at 185. Some guys are actually ahead of the curve. I mean can compare and contrast all day. We just got to give a kid time to get into the system and develop.

Q: Can you talk about how your program is structured. Do you have phases, times where you focus on strength more than speed or conditioning more than other things?
A: We basically got five phases. It starts before spring ball, right now when class begins Jan. 20

SwaseyclappingPhase I is the six to eight weeks before we start spring ball. Basically, this is the time when you're trying to develop as much strength, speed and power as you can. It's not as much conditioning here. You are trying to recruit as much mass and muscle as you can. That's what helped Jacory and Spence and all those guys that came in early. That's why it's important to get the young guys in early. If you look at the season, you saw those kids hold up because they had a good base. They were able to put on the weight and able to endure the early development phase. We spend four days a week doing this, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Throughout it, we'll do multiple agility drills, we'll use the sandpit. I work on acceleration stuff, doing sled pulls. This phase is nothing but strength, power and speed. I could care less about conditioning at this point because I'm just trying to make them physically bigger.

With the lifting, you got to shock the body so you can continually develop kids. Muscle has memory. You always got to continue to shock the body to allow it to continue getting stronger. We got to two upper body days -- Monday and Thursday -- to do that and then power and leg days on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Now, when spring practice begins we hit Phase II. We go to a three-day workout because they're practicing. You are not really cutting back on workouts because they're practicing, but you are still hitting [the weights]. At this point, we're still looking to recruit muscle mass. But now we also go into more agility drills.

As soon as spring ball is over, we hit Phase III and go back to a four day program. We'll go back into the weight room for another six weeks and work again on muscle mass recruitment, concentrating on strength and size because when you get back from your little summer break, you are going to work even harder.

Q: And this is all mandatory, this phase after spring ball?
A: [Laughter] This is not voluntary. This is what's required. This is what comes with it territory.

So, then after that, they get about a 2-3 week break. We have a discussionary period, I talk to them give them feed back and I send them home with a workout over the break for them to do continuously. I tell them, an active break is the best break. And I'll change it up a little, maybe make them workout with dumbbells to change the monotony of it.

So after that break, we go into Phase IV in the summer time. Now, we got more blocked time [because there is no school]. We go back to a four day workout.

Now is when we're trying to put it all together, strength, speed, endurance, conditioning, plyometrics. Now, you are trying to peak and get the guys ready for the coaches. Now, when the coaches get them in August, they're not passing out and falling out in two-a-days. Wednesday is a day we'll come in and do stretching and 7-on-7. Players set that up on their own -- Wednesday and Saturdays. That phase is everything in one.

Q: At this point you are the only one having contact with them. When you go out and watch the 7-on-7 what are you looking for?
A: For me, I'm just monitoring the injuries. I'm hard on guys who get hamstrings or anything at this point. Really, all I'm making doing is making sure everything ties together.

Now, Phase V is when the season starts. Here, you want to try to continue what you were doing. Now, you are not going to maintain the same pace like the other phases. All you are doing is just trying to try and add a little bit to maintain what you earned. The program is setup on Sundays after games and we end up working out Wednesdays and Thursdays. This is the block times where kids come in at different hours of the day. They sign up for their workout times and hold them accountable to be there when they say they will. Now, that's only a sophomore or higher. If your [butt] is a freshman, you come in with me at 6:45 a.m.

Q: So how do you plan the lifting workouts? Do guys max out all the time? What are they actually doing during a work out?
A: Basically, based on their testing, I give them a sheet with their information. If you max 252 on your power clean max, you'll lift a certain percentage of weight for x amount of reps and work your way up to the max. It's built to make you stronger. Basically, you are given an upper body day and then a lower body day, rotate four days a week.

I mean basically, this is a game of collisions and everybody needs to get padded. I don't know anybody who has played the game of football without being padded up in terms of muscle mass. So, everybody is going to benefit from this.

I look at it like this, genetically a kid is going to come in like Vernon Carey or Orlando Franklin. But if I can get Orlando to move just as fast a guy and just as powerful as a guy at a skill position, Orlando becomes a better football player. That's my philosophy. I want to help every athlete increase their first step.

You talked to the new guys around here. The one thing he finds intriguing is the strength and endurance our guys have. He was lifting weights and saying I don't know how they can keep going. My goal is a better conditioned athlete. Bigger, faster, stronger is always going to out-do a guy who is not in shape and a guy who is not strong. I want every athlete to develop coordination and develop that first step. Because every position you want to be able to beat somebody to the punch
whether its o-line, d-line, tight end, DBs, linebackers. So, why wouldn't I do that for everybody.

Like Bosher. Let's say I got Bosher on a whole different program. Why? What if Bosher needs to make a tackle as a kicker? Power is power. So when you leave here, this is my theory, they're going to get better at football at their own specific position. As a strength coach, my job is to make sure that everybody has a great first step and that they're powerful and strong and in great shape. It's my job to get them to the coaches like that.

Q: How do you feel about people blaming you?
A: It's hard to get upset if you didn't have results. If I wasn't getting results from what I was doing, I could get upset. I understand where we're at. Nobody is happy with the losses right now and I'm not happy. I was here in 1997 when were 5-6 and I watched the development. I've been here long enough to know that I have patience to see where we're headed and where we're going.

Swasey765123If you go through history with programs, there's going to be times when things are great and not great. New York Yankees, Boston Celtics, the University of Miami. We're a high profile program where excellence is the way and championships is the only success rate measured. And so when you have been at the stage for awhile and you aren't winning championships, you are going to get criticized. And It's OK. You got to understand the nature of the beast. It's what comes with Miami. I've been here long enough to know where we need to be at. All the greats get down before they get up and I think our time is coming back around. I see the kids we have coming in. You look at our young guys and the number one thing Coach Shannon preaches is the depth of the program. He's trying to create the depth. He's been here, won championships, played in championships. I've been there with him and he understands the formula.

At the same time, I think it takes a little time for chemistry to get involved. You got to have the chemistry and the development of the kids and I think that's where we're at. I think we're headed in the right direction. Staff chemistry, staff continuity -- all that plays a part in winning games.

Q: What do you like about the players you are getting?
A: The one thing you're doing is taking care of home. He's taking a lot of our guys in our own backyard. If I bring up the Jon Vilmas, Willis McGahees, he's getting the kids from our backyard. The same trend happened when we we're 5-6. You recruited all the local guys and went out and handpicked a guy from Texas, Louisiana and California. I think in the last two years you can't argue we didn't do that. He really took care of Florida. I see the trend coming back and creating the depth.

Q: Who excites you the most of the young guys?
A: What excites me are the qualities they're bringing. They're real young. Weight room is mental. It starts with the mental game. Mentally, they're starting right. That's what I love about this group. You got Marcus Robinson, Marcus Forston. You are adding Allen Bailey to the group. We're adding all these kids in -- with vets like Eric Moncur.

When you got these type of guys together, what your creating is depth and chemistry of guys being very supportive around each other. When the kids took control with the chemistry and developed a closeness. That's what Jacory Harris, Aldarius, the Booker T. kids are bringing -- that hunger, that fire. They know each other. That's what happened earlier. You sprinkle in an Ed Reed from Louisiana or a [Vaughn] Telemaque] now, you're getting back to the chemistry and the development you want in the weight room. That's what I'm looking at more importantly. The development is going to take care of itself. They've done a great job genetically and mentally getting kids in here. I see the comparisons. Roscoe Parrish and Travis Benjamin. All these kids are coming in. I'm seeing a lot of that. My thing is the chemistry is first. Development is the last of my worries, that's going to work. That's going to take care of itself.

> FYI, one final note... As far as testing goes, Swasey only tests the 40 once -- in the summer. He tests strength and power numbers twice (during the first phase and again in the summer).