Just about halfway through their spring practices, after a few important months in the off season program under new strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Balis and his staff, Brian Kelly threw a test at his guys during a recent spring practice to see where they were.
After feeling like they lost a step late in games, which contributed to their 4-8 finish in 2016, Kelly started structuring their spring practices a bit differently to test if they've made strides in that area since Balis came on board with a new approach and attitude in the weight room. At the end of one recent practice, Kelly noted that they ended the session with scripted reps and a scrimmage to see if guys got or tired and sloppy, according to the Indy Star. The fact that none of that happened was a good sign to Kelly on what Balis has done since arriving in South Bend.
One player noted that in the new program, "every day you anticipate someone puking," while another shared with the Indy Star the difference between workouts under Balis and former strength coach Paul Longo:
“Reps, weight, no breaks, no water,” he said. “(Balis) is just like utilizing the entire weight room. I remember the first time going through warmups and guys are like dying. I’m just like, ‘Did we start yet?’ And he’s like, ‘No. We didn’t start.’”
Now, reading that, you might think of recent situations that have made headlines involving players at Oregon, or Iowa, but Kelly insists that is not the case, adding "one of the most important traits you want to build in your football team is the ability to fight through stress and fatigue. You certainly can’t fight through stress and fatigue if you’re simply breaking players down. That’s unacceptable in any program I’ve been around. It’s counterproductive."
Balis' workouts may be difficult, but it's about much more than simply breaking players down, or having them run to a trash can. It's about creating a program where guys have to find a way to fight through fatigue and stress to do their job - just like they'll be asked to do on the field come Saturday's in the fall.
Head here to read more on the changes Balis has brought to Notre Dame, and how players are taking to the new, and extremely challenging approach.