Neal Peduzzi is the director of player development at Georgia Tech and oversees the Jackets’ strength and conditioning program. He has been there for seven seasons and found some time to chat recently about his job, his philosophy and a few of his strongest players. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
As a strength coach, what is your philosophy at Georgia Tech, and what is your goal every offseason with these guys?
NP: Our goal every offseason is to get these guys as big, fast and as strong as we possibly can. We also want to prevent as many injuries as possible, and to be the best conditioned team in the nation. I don’t know how many games we won last year in the fourth quarter -- the ACC championship, Florida State, Wake Forest. We want to be in the best shape possible, that’s one of coach (Paul) Johnson’s big things, is to be in shape.
What is the most gut-wrenching, grueling drill you put them through in the offseason?
NP: It has to be our agility runs we do. We divide it up into four quarters, and there’s a different agility station for each quarter. We run them through, try to make it like a game, so they get 25-35 seconds rest between each drill. We try to make each drill as miserable as we can. If they don’t do what they’re supposed to do -- don’t finish the run, don’t do the right drill, don’t do whatever, then we either redo the drill or add something towards the end of the workout, like a hill, or up-downs or something like the cart push. We make the guys compete, make them work when they’re tired.
Did you say cart push?
NP: Yeah, cart push. We have a few shopping carts and had skis welded instead of wheels, so they slide up and down the turf. We put sandbags or people or weights or whatever we can in them.
How creative do you have to be to keep these guys into the workouts?
NP: Very creative. Me and my assistants were talking about that today. The first time you do something it’s pretty good. The second time it’s OK. The third time they’ve lost focus. We constantly have to change stuff to keep them into it and keep them guessing.
What are summer workouts like, just in terms of the schedule at Georgia Tech?
NP: Summer school started on the 17th, we started on the 24th of May. We give them a long weekend for the Fourth of July and a week before camp. We have nine weeks and two days worth of workouts. They work out five days a week. We lift three, we run two in the first half of the summer. And then in the second half, from the Fourth of July on, we lift three and run three.
Who are the freaks in the weight room there for you guys?
NP: Joshua Nesbitt, Brad Jefferson and Julian Burnett.
What makes them stand out?
NP: Josh Nesbitt, he broke the all-time quarterback record for power cleans here -- twice. He broke it his sophomore year and his junior year. He powercleaned 350 at 215 pounds. He might have had a little more, but if I get him hurt, I’m in trouble.
And what about Jefferson?
NP: Oh Brad, he’s good at everything. He’s probably our best bench presser. He cleaned 350 as well. He squatted 550, and that’s because we cut him off at 550. And Burnett? Burnett is the strongest dude alive. We don’t know how much he can bench press, we’ve never let him go. I know he did 435 for a triple.
How difficult is it for you to push these guys and not get them hurt?
NP: It’s very difficult. You spend the whole day just watching their mannerisms, watching everything they do. It’s hard to tell when a guy is telling you the truth. Either way, if he’s saying he’s hurt and he’s really not, or a guy like Brad, he’ll be sick and here working out and doesn’t want to leave. We put it all down on paper, but stuff gets changed daily depending on what they’re doing, how they’re feeling and how they’re working.
When these guys come in from high school, how poor is their technique, and how much time do you have to spend with the freshmen just working on proper technique?
NP: Ninety-five percent of them, it’s bad. There are some that come in that are very good. Some can jump right in. What we usually do, they get here, and on the first of July, we bring them in and start them from square one. Some of the good guys rise to the top, but we don’t ever put them in with the older guys. They run with the older guys because we want them to see what that’s like. We want them to get in the fire, see what it’s like, because they have no clue. There’s no other way to do it without them being with the guys. The guys who play, they end up working out with the older guys during the in-season stuff. The guys who are redshirted, we have a special group for them. We call it the developmental group. It’s more like a summer workout for them during the season because they’re not playing on Saturdays, so they continue to get teaching and learn. By the time the winter starts, they’re good, they’re ready to go.
Has Paul asked you specifically to do anything different than the previous staff?
NP: No, not really. He’s pretty hands off. He wants to know what we’re doing. He keeps a pretty good eye on what’s going on, but he’s never really come down and said, ‘We need to do this, we don’t need to do that.’ He just wants them in shape, he wants them healthy and he wants them strong.”