Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Getting Strong – Indiana’s Hill Making Changes to Suit Fast Football

Mark Hill didn’t take the Indiana football strength and conditioning job to ease into things. He’s here to blast the Hoosiers out of the limbo they were in between Bill Lynch’s firing and Kevin Wilson’s hiring. Wilson hand picked him -- sending Mark Watseka to more of an administrative role while handling the Olympic sports -- to produce a program in line with his uptempo approach.

“I would take over football like (Je’Ney Jackson) took over basketball,” Hill says. “He’s totally in charge of them. I’m totally in charge of football.”

Hill worked with Wilson at Oklahoma, then refined his approach at Minnesota and Arizona. He joined the Hoosiers on Jan. 7 and immediately went to work.

“It’s not an ease-in process,”he said. “We have to change things to fit the style of program that I run. The style that Coach wants is what I do.”

What does Hill do?

“It’s about conditioning and nutrition,” he said. “Guys have to be in top condition. We start with nutrition and work our way up. Guys will lift and get bigger and stronger. We’re about training football players to be better football players. We want our skill guys to be fast. We train for speed and explosiveness. We want our linemen to be big, strong, but agile. Everybody has to be in shape.”

Wilson prefers a no-huddle, uptempo offense that can wear out defenses. That means everybody on offense, even the 300-pound linemen, have to handle that pace. The same is true with what will be an attacking defense under Doug Mallory and Mike Ekeler.

“Our offensive guys have to be in optimial shape to do that,” Hill said. “Coach Mallory and Coach Ekeler will bring hard-hitting, flying-around defense. There will be a lot of pursuit to the ball, so guys will have to be in shape to run all day and play quality defense.”

IU brought in a nutrional consultant and dietician last week to talk to players about eating right.

“We’re showing them the fundamental elements that will help them succeed and get their bodies right,” Hill said. “They got their body fat and body comp tested. A lot of them weren’t as happy after that as they were when they walked into the room because there’s some realization there. There’s also a goal. The sky is the limit. This is where we’re at, but this is where we’re going to be.

“I talked to them about how to get there. I know how to get guys there. When they get to the point where they’re eating right and their bodies are transforming, it will help them on the field to be better players.”

The transition from Lynch to Wilson, plus the fact IU didn’t make a goal game, affected the returning players’ workout program.

“We didn’t go to a bowl game and it had been a while since we’d had a structured workout,” Hill said. “Voluntary workouts without a strength coach are different that ones with one.

“I have noticed a lot of guys coming in on their own, but Coach Wilson let them know it will be vastly different than what they’re used to. It’s not a knock on the past. We’re all different. But there will be an acclimatio period. It won’t be easy. We’ll get through it and get better. Guys will buy in quick and it will help them in the long run.”

IU’s new facilities, which includes the largest college weight room in the country, makes Hill’s job easier.

“These facilities are top of the line,” he said. “There’s nothing where you have to say, I need this to get better. We have everything we need.”

Hill was once a standout receiver at Tennessee-Chattanooga and if you think that limits him from working with, say, linemen, think again.

“My philosophy is high energy, developing the whole player and athlete, and training football players.

“Am I big on lifting? Absolutely. Am I big on conditioning? Absolutely. I stress speed and training and core training and nutrition. I get guys ready to go on every level. I don’t specialize in one positon. Just because I played wide receiver doesn’t mean I’m only good with skill players. My staff is high energy. We bring an unbelievable passion to the program that these guys feed into.”


How long will Maurice Creek be sidelined? Is it for a couple weeks, a month or the rest of the basketball season?

Nothing is sure except that coach Tom Crean has tweeted on his Twitter account that Creek, a sophomore guard, will have surgery on Thursday to repair the stress fracture in his right patella. Given that these type of stress fractors usually don’t need surgery to heal, given that Creek fractured his left patella (kneecap) last year and needed surgery to fix that (and still isn’t all the way back), it’s hard to know what his status is.

Maybe it’s best to focus on the players IU does have available for Thursday night’s very, very, very challenging game at Wisconsin, guys such as Victor Oladipo, Jeremiah Rivers, Matt Roth and Will Sheekey. The Hoosiers haven’t won there since 1998. They’ve never beaten a Bo Ryan team at the Kohl Center. That’s not surprising given that Ryan is 72-6 at home.

But this isn’t about Ryan. It’s about IU playing the kind of consistent defense that will give it a chance to pull off the upset, and then take advantage of that chance.

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