Worries about the Strength & Conditioning program

Who is "Big" John Williams, why was he brought to KU, what was his coaching history and track record?  And what seems to be the problem so far?  Will it get better?

At SC State:

"We loved him," Pough [SC State coach] said. "He has such a good football sense of conditioning and performance. Lots of times in strength and conditioning, you get guys who want to road race or be bodybuilders and that is not necessarily the best thing. It’s about relationships with kids and being able to talk to them about any and everything. You want to have them be able to be good football players. With him, our kids moved around better. They were more flexible and a lot of that can be attributed back to ‘Big’ John."

Well that's a good review by a former boss.

At Baylor:

But despite his nickname and his imposing stature, Williams is not a big mean grizzly bear or a cruel taskmaster.

Go figure.  A HCTG coach who is a "softie".

"He is a very strong coach that works all the athletes very hard," Bell said. "Over time he has come to know each athlete individually and relates his methods of coaching to everyone's benefit."

Former Baylor defensive tackle M.T. Robinson said Williams has a unique style that most players take to.

"There are few who were not able to relate to him," Robinson said. "Most do well with his style of training. I felt like I flourished under him."

Some like him, some don't, apparently.  In his defense, I suppose, it would take time to get to know every player and develop a workout regimen tailored to the specific athlete.

But Williams said he's preaching a message that's not always well-received.

"My staff and I have the difficult job of trying to get people to do what they don't want to do, which is to put in hard work," Williams said. "Very few want to just wake up and sweat, be sore and ache. They would rather chill under the air conditioner than go play the game they love to play."

While his job is to strengthen players physically, Williams said he wants to make them stronger in other areas as well.

"Everything I teach them, I want it to apply to the guys to help them obtain their goals and be successful in life," Williams said.

Well, Williams seems like the right candidate for HCTG's "build a man" program, but whether that can work is yet to be seen.  I would say that Williams's S&C program is a major ingredient into making the whole thing a success--a bad place to have a weak link, if it is one.

First Impressions At Kansas:

Not that the old staff didn't have a handful of players that went above and beyond the call of duty, but senior cornerback Chris Harris said the number of players staying after to put in extra work is the highest he's seen since he has been here. Part of the reason is now that every player is starting from scratch, there is a sense of competition to jump to the top of pecking order to impress the new regime.

Well, Harris is on-board, but we knew that already.  Interesting note in the last line - I wonder how that dynamic has affected the team during the season, not just in the S&C aspect.

On his desk his Bible is flipped open to the book of Genesis. Williams is reading the story of Joseph. Like Kansas coach Turner Gill, Williams' religious faith is what makes him tick.

"Coach Gill and I believe that The Bible gives you the path of decision making in your life and we use that to mold these young guys and build character," Williams said. "Most people miss on the intangibles of character in the game and understanding the purpose of going out there hard and encouraging each other. We tie all that into the why and get the results."

Well, we continue to not be surprised as to why HCTG was so eager to bring Big John in.

The players are already noticing the difference in coaching philosophies between Williams and previous strength coach Chris Dawson.

"To start off, we did a lot more running under coach Dawson, but right now we are focusing on lifting and getting a lot more bigger," cornerback Chris Harris said.

Further confirmation of the emphasis on strength over endurance.

Several Months Into 2010 At Kansas (according to blog commenters):

BMWJhawk wrote: Word out of the program is that KU's strength and conditioning coach, John Williams, is lazy and isn't seeing eye to eye with Coach Gill.  Also, there are a number of players who simply aren't buying into the system.  It's hard to have success when coaches and players aren't all on the same page.  You guys remember the difference it made when Mangino was finally forced to get rid of Quartaro?  I realize that this season sucks, but I honestly expect things to gradually improve as Coach Gill and co. start to bring in their own recruits and start to get rid of some of the deadweight that is currently plaguing KU's football program.
I know that this is rumor, but I would be surprised if it was true.  Gill had his eyes set on Williams while he was at Buffalo, but obviously didn't have the facilities or money to lure him there.  And Williams seems to be well thought of by many circles as a strength and conditioning coach.  Unless Williams has changed in recent years, I just can't see this happening.  I guess we'll wait and see.

So take that and the following comments with a grain of salt, but it is what we're hearing/thinking too.

Exactly.  I have a good friend who is an NFL scout in this region that did some asking around for me when Gill was hired.  Williams is, in fact, widely regarded as a lazy fat-ass, and most coaches in this region were scratching their heads at the hire.  I mean, there were some resounding WTFs when that guy got that job.

Ive heard this from 3 different guys this season, mainly related to a lack of accountability by the S&C staff when they work out.  There's a S&C member there, but they aren't out on the floor watching the players workout too much, so lots of players are shorting their workouts.

from what i hear, williams refuses to share the details of his program with hudy and she has refused to sign off on what he is doing. williams apparently spends little time with the players and that there is not much enforcement to the program. of course, there is some accountability on the players part, but you are talking about coaches that spend more time with the players than the rest of the staff. if the s & c staff is not instilling discipline in the weight room and with conditioning, how do you think its going to work when they get to the field?

My question (if it's worth dignifying random blog comments with a response) is if Williams was widely regarded as lazy, incompetent, and/or stubborn, where were these observations right after he got hired?  Not saying they're wrong, and where there's smoke there's probably fire, but it's easy to pile on when the situation doesn't seem to be going well.

There you have it.  "Big" John Williams is a philosopher, a player's coach, and builder of not just players, but "men".  He was brought in, hand-picked by Gill, because of his approach to coaching, and is coincidentally very religious.  He spent several years at Baylor, which is a good sign (though he was in charge of the entire school's program, not just football); he also got a glowing review when he left SC State, which is a further good sign.  Multiple observers seem to think that the S&C program under Williams is not working and that players are smaller and in worse shape than would be expected; there are a number of reasons this could be the case, but blog commenters think that it's a lack of accountability and strictness within the S&C program. 

Will it get better?  I guess that depends on if you buy into the "Big" John Williams philosophy and if you believe he has the correct personality to make it work.  The idea of helping players develop as people and not just as piles of muscle is intriguing--as is the bigger-picture development of football players as citizens of a broader society--but whether the experiment can really work is certainly still in doubt.

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