Jan. 5, 2014
Strength and conditioning coach Ryan Russell has earned respect from Auburn players
By Phillip Marshall
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - Ryan Russell hasn't called a play. He hasn't taught a single player how to catch a pass or make a tackle. Yet, Auburn players are unanimous in their opinion that, without him, they wouldn't be playing Florida State in the BCS Championship Game at the Rose Bowl on Monday night.
After Gus Malzahn was named Auburn's head coach in December 2012, he quickly hired Russell to replace iconic and beloved strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall. A former Yoxall assistant, Russell had been with Malzahn in his one season at Arkansas State.
Some Auburn players had misgivings. They were soon gone.
"He's the best strength coach in the world," defensive tackle Jeff Whitaker said.
"He brings it every day," fullback Jay Prosch said. "Obviously, in the past I had tough workouts. Coach Russell brings it every day. It's incredible."
Russell deflects the credit, saying it's the players who made it happen in the weight room and on the field.
"I don't know how many people would have said they saw us getting to this point," Russell said, "but at the same time, nobody knew what the limit was for these guys once they bought in."
They bought in with the help of a large silver bell Russell bought for the weight room. Players who achieve personal records ring the bell. It rang frequently in the offseason and has rung throughout the season as players have continued to get stronger and faster.
"Unheard of," Prosch said.
Not even Russell knew his bell would have such an impact.
"It gets you fired up," Russell said. "That's what it was for. It's kind of taken on a life of its own. It changed the whole dynamic of our in-season training. We challenged them and told them we were going to train probably harder than you have in the past. They bought into it, and that bell made it a lot easier to do.
"We talked about why would you train all the offseason and summer and de-train what the season started. It's been great. They feel like it's been a big part of their success."
Russell ordered the bell on the Internet. It turned out to be larger than he expected. Davis Machine Shop in Opelika built a stand for it. And the ringing began.
"It has to be a personal record," Russell said. "They all know where they are. They have their personal records on their workout cards. Underneath that they have their personal goals for every test or lift they do. We always want them to know where they are and where we want them to go. Without that, they are kind of training aimlessly."
More intense in-season training is a cutting edge approach. The volume reduced from the offseason, but the intensity is the equal or even higher. Russell says he expects it to spread quickly.
"The thing was to make the guys feel every time that thing rings that it means something," Russell said. "I've seen guys do it at different schools. I think the kids bought into it and made it part of the program."
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: