By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
When Mississippi State opens preaseason camp today, many of you will voluntarily stand out there in the devil’s heat for the duration of practice. I will also be out there, and as much as I like football, I’m not terribly excited about the prospect of spending that much time in 100-degree heat with no shade.
At least the practice starts at 6 p.m., but as y’all know, the sun may set, but the heat usually chooses to linger a while longer around here. The forecasted high for today is 100, with the heat index around a million degrees.
While you and I fight off dehydration and second-degree sunburn, though, the Bulldogs will probably feel like they’re getting a bit of a break. Because Matt Balis is no longer fully in charge of their lives.
MSU’s strength and conditioning coach owns the Bulldogs between the end of spring drills and the start of preseason camp. And he works them hard.
Senior offensive tackle Addison Lawrence said Balis and his crew “are usually more strict and hard on us than the regular coaches.”
An example: MSU’s recent trip to Camp Seminole, which is located in Oktibbeha County, north of Starkville.
As receiver Chad Bumphis recounts it, upon their arrival the players were presented with different stations that offered unique challenges: a sled push, a tire flip, keg carrying, rope pulls, etc.
Each challenge represented an SEC Western Division opponent – Ole Miss was the tire flip. After the stations were conquered, each two-man team had to grab a canoe, jog with it down to the lake, row across and back, then jog through the woods to tackle an obstacle course.
“It was a lot of work,” said Bumphis, “but it was fun.”
As they say on Twitter: !!!!!.
This is the twist with Balis. Like many strength coaches, he is highly demanding, but you hear few complaints out of the players. In fact, if you follow them on Twitter and have kept up this summer, you’d know they made offseason conditioning sound like a birthday party.
Bumphis is so high on Balis that he recently changed his Twitter handle to @ImSo_ BalisMade1. He said he did so after a particularly tough workout.
“I felt it was appropriate.”
Players and coaches have given Balis a lot of credit for helping the Bulldogs turn things around on the field. His method seems simple: Outwork the competition.
According to Bumphis, Balis knows exactly what the competition is up to. Bumphis said Balis somehow learned what Ole Miss players do for their end-of-summer conditioning test, and “we’ll run that as just a normal day. Whatever they do, he’ll just figure it out, and we’ll double it, or he’ll make it harder or something.”
Perhaps Balis was, um, taking license in order to motivate. Who knows if he actually has knowledge of the Rebels’ conditioning standards.
But he’s got the Bulldogs ready for August, a lot more ready than you or I will be.
Brad Locke (brad.locke@ journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.