By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Between the end of spring practices and the start of preseason camp, college football players belong to the school’s strength and conditioning staff. Mississippi State’s Matt Balis is the man in charge of keeping the Bulldogs in tip-top shape this summer, and he met with the media Thursday to talk about the ongoing work.
MSU begins preseason camp Aug. 4 and opens the season at Memphis on Sept. 1.
Here’s an excerpt of the interview with Balis, who’s entering his third season in Starkville.
Q: In spring the emphasis is strength over condition; what is the balance now?
Balis: “In June it is kind of a combo, more strength. You’re going to go a little bit heavier weight, maybe you’re not going to run as much. We do a little bit more speed development work in June. July, it’s more conditioning-based now. We take away one of our lift days and put in another run. You have to run more because that’s what we’re getting ready to do, in two-a-days you’re running every single day.”
Q: How far has this team come since your first summer (2009)?
Balis: “Well, every team is different. That’s a hard question. … This is a younger team so it’s a challenge. Every year is a challenge. Coach (Dan) Mullen made a comment the 2010 team died right when we won the Gator Bowl, it’s finished. The 2011 team started. So every team to me is different.”
Q: When players sign in February, how quickly do you get a workout plan package them?
Balis: “The day after. Yeah, that’s sent out immediately. Because it’s imperative that they do their best. You know, I can tell who the guys are that took the packet and threw it on the couch or it was on the coffee table for three months. You can tell who the guys are that read it.”
Q: Have any of the new freshmen stood out or surprised you?
Balis: “Preston Smith has come ready to work hard. Just got here, you have no idea what he’s going to do with pads on, but he definitely looks like he’s ready to work. Kendrick Market has a great work ethic, Taveze Calhoun has a great work ethic, Zach Jackson and Dee Arrington are two guys that are 6-(foot)-1, 205 guys that can run and have no problem working hard.”
Q: What is the transition like for (transfer linebacker) Brandon Maye?
Balis: “I think because he’s so much older it’s good and bad. Good in the sense that he’s older and mature and he’s seen a lot of things so he can kind of fall in, it’s not going to shock him too much. Bad in the sense that he’s set in his ways and set in his habits with the old system. But our leadership here, he trains with Saulsberry every day, and you have no choice but fall in with Quentin Saulsberry.”
Q: What will you try to accomplish in the next two weeks before the transition to camp?
Balis: “Right now we’re peaking again with strength, and with conditioning. Conditioning especially. Week six is your heaviest hang-clean deal. Next week (seven) is where you peak the lower-body; week eight is where you kind of peak your upper body. So as you come out of week eight now you have about a week to gather yourself and get ready for two-a-days. So your last big leg day is two weeks before two-a-days start.”