Zach Duval is one of the best at what he does in college football. In less than 24 months on staff, Duval helped Scott Frost complete the fastest winless-to-undefeated turnaround in college football history as an inherited 0-12 Central Florida program went 13-0 with an AAC championship, a Peach Bowl victory over SEC West champion Auburn and a claimed national championship. For that effort, Duval was selected by his peers as FootballScoop’s Strength & Conditioning Coach of the Year for 2017.
Duval and Frost are now at their alma mater, undertaking another prodigious fixer-upper. Duval speaks with a relaxed, easy-going tone that makes you think he’d be one of your top five choices if you had to take a head FBS strength coach with you on a cross-country road trip, but the words he says compose the most blunt assessment of college football possible.
“All I can do is develop what I have, and the coaches’ jobs… is to recruit the talent coming in. I tell the guys in winter conditioning: It’s my job to make you better than what the coaches are going to bring in, because it’s their job to bring in better talent than you right now,” Duval said on KOZN-AM in Omaha.
“You don’t want to pit one against the other, but really, that’s what’s happening. You get them in an environment where you have to survive, and then they become friends and it’s a win-win, but that’s the reality of it. At the end of the day it’s about accomplishing the mission, and the mission is winning. Winning can be defined as many things, but everything we do, we’re going to try to win… It’s your job to protect the guy to your left and the guy to your right, and to protect them you have to love them, and to love them you have to hold them accountable.”
Duval also supported Frost’s philosophy of not yelling or cussing at players.
“If there’s enough respect and the player knows you’ve got their best interest at heart, I’m not going to need to dog cuss them,” Duval said. “The effort is the only thing they can control anyway. If you’re dealing with a kid that’s not putting forth effort, there’s a problem and we’ve got to figure out what that problem is. Chances are he hasn’t slept in four nights, he’s a zombie, therefore he shouldn’t even be out here today. Or we totally missed on this guy, the effort never was there. It’s one of the two. It’s either explainable or it’s not explainable. If it’s not explainable, we shouldn’t have recruited him.”
The Duval interview begins around the 12-minute mark below.