Football Strength and Conditioning (via GamecocksOnline)
Over the past decade, the Penn State fan base's favorite Internet punching bag after Jay Paterno has been the strength and conditioning program, led by long time Strength & Conditioning Coach John Thomas. The basis for the complaints was Thomas' HIT (High Intensity Training) program, which from what I've gathered (and I am no expert on strength training, mind you), placed an emphasis on lower weights and more reps. Many of the message boarders have considered this to be an outdated program, as more and more Division 1 programs have adopted the Olympic-style weight training methods and especially given how many seemed to think PSU's players had lost that ability to overpower opponents like they routinely did back in the 1990's and earlier.
When Bill O'Brien was initially hired, it was announced that Thomas would be staying on board. Naturally, this was cause for major disappointment in Message Board Land. However, in somewhat surprising fashion, it was announced that Thomas would not be returning and shortly thereafter, South Carolina's Craig Fitzgerald was named as Thomas' replacement. Naturally, this led to the rare unanimous rejoicing in Message Board Land.
Playing Experience: Fitzgerald was a three-year letterwinner on the University of Maryland's football team from 1994-96.
Coaching Experience: Fitzgerald started out as the first ever Director of Strength & Conditioning at The Catholic University of America, a position he held from 1997-99, before heading to Arizona State, where he served as a graduate assistant strength coach for six months. He followed his position with the Sun Devils with a trip back to his alma mater at Maryland to serve as Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach.
During his stint at Maryland, Fitzgerald was responsible for overseeing strength training for men's basketball, men's lacrosse, wrestling, and women's volleyball. His time at Maryland also happens to coincide with Maryland's basketball's back-to-back Final Four appearances in 2001 and 2002, winning the national title in 2002. Fitzgerald moved on to Harvard in 2005, where he was the Director of Strength and Conditioning, overseeing all 41 varsity teams at that school. In 2009, he was hired as South Carolina's Director of Football Strength & Conditioning, a position he served up until PSU snagged him the other week.
What To Expect: If the YouTube video above is any indication, lots of tire work, sledgehammering, and other assorted crazy workouts that quality S&C coaches come up with. Fitzgerald seems to put a heavy emphasis on 'core' workouts which apparently helps keeps players upright and on their feet more. There's also this 12-minute long interview by the Strength Performance Network in which he goes far more into depth about what he brings to the table. It's well worth a view if you have the time. From all that I've read on the Internets, particularly from Gamecocks fans, PSU's S&C program is in really good hands. Hopefully, this means a return to the smash-mouth variety of football, with linemen who can dominate in the trenches and running backs who can stay on their feet after a couple of hits, much like the PSU teams many of us grew up watching.