Walk into the LSU football weight room in the summer and you might think you’ve entered a construction zone.
With the clank-clank of weights, the grunts and strains of big, burly young men toting and lifting, it can sound like a great foundation is being laid.
In a way, that’s true.
The seeds of championship football teams are planted in the hot, fertile months of summer. It’s a well-worn old axiom, but like so many of them they get to be so old because the happen to be so true.
The supervising foreman is LSU strength and conditioning coordinator Tommy Moffitt.
It’s Moffitt, not Les Miles nor any of his squadron of assistant coaches, who is allowed to have direct supervisory contact with football players during the summer. It’s Moffitt who has the best pulse of the Tigers’ progress as they build toward a nationally televised showdown in their season opener, Sept. 3 against Oregon in Arlington, Texas.
Just how well are the Tigers doing? So well their strength coach allowed them to start their Independence Day holiday a day early.
“I hadn’t planned on giving them (Friday) off, but it’s going so well we decided as a staff to give them a day to revive,” Moffitt said.
“July is always the hardest and hottest part of the summer. I thought it would be good to give them (Friday) and Monday off and time to recoup for the rest of July, because it’s going to be hot.”
Hot and heavy is the interest and speculation about this LSU team, ranked No. 1 by some preseason publications.
Inside the walls of the weight room, all such talk is deflected as if by a great lead shield. The work being put in speaks for itself and so far, Moffitt has had no complaints.
“This team is special,” he said. “(Former Tigers) Jacob Cutrera and Craig Steltz were finishing up (Thursday) when we had a group of guys come in and Jacob said, ￔCoach, I feel something about this team that feels different.’ Even Jacob could tell by the work ethic and intensity they’re putting into their workouts.
“It’s an atmosphere they’re creating when they’re in the building, so it’s easy to see that they’re a special group of kids. There’s not any more talk than normal about winning the national championship or going to a bowl game. This group has this air about them, whether it’s confidence or how they prepare, it’s a special group.”
Moffitt said every eligible returning and incoming player^=more than 120 in all^=are on campus working out this summer. Incoming freshmen are required to enroll in summer school to participate while on scholarship, an actual easing of the old NCAA rule that used to require them to pay their own way during the summer.
“The NCAA gives us eight hours of instruction a week,” Moffitt said. “We’re using up all eight hours.”
Now in his 12th season at LSU, the job Moffitt does was considered so vital he was promoted to assistant athletic director in the offseason.
Titles haven’t changed the way the Tigers pursue titles. For Moffitt the old ways^=with a few annual tweaks^=are the best.
“We do the same thing every summer,” Moffitt said. “We lift Monday, Wednesday and Friday and run four days a week. Three times a week they get together and do seven-on-seven drills. They’re busy.
“As a staff, we felt like before we started this summer it was one of the best plans we’ve had in some time. When this summer is over we start preparing for next year. We prepare seven months in advance.”
When the Tigers return Tuesday they’ll find waiting for them a ramp up in the weightlifting regimen, like a marathoner facing a long, rising grade to the finish line.
In this case, the finish line is the start of preseason practice Aug. 4.
“We increase the volume of the number of reps we’re doing,” Moffitt said. “We shorten the rest intervals. Now we’re resting for 50 seconds to a minute. We’ll cut those down to 30 or 40 seconds in July to increase the number of reps.”
Every player does virtually the same workout, except those recovering from injuries and surgeries.
Moffitt noted free safety Karnell Hatcher, still mending from offseason shoulder surgery, as one of those who has been slowed.
Despite the fact he was limited in spring practice, Moffitt said defensive end Sam Montgomery is going full speed in summer workouts. Montgomery suffered a knee injury Oct. 2 against Tennessee that ended his freshman campaign and required surgery.
“I had him in one of my groups (Thursday) and I didn’t see any kind of indication that he’d had surgery except that scar on his knee,” Moffitt said. “Barring any unforeseen problems in training camp, he should be fine.”
The second half of the calendar is Moffitt’s favorite time. The foundation is almost complete.
“I’m excited for July and I can’t wait for practice to start,” he said.
“I can’t wait.”