ATHENS - There was a lot made last year when Georgia overhauled its offseason program, supposedly doing away with those famous mat drills. Well, they haven't completely gone away.
Georgia spokesman Claude Felton confirms that the team is now doing "some mat drills" this offseason. But Dave Van Halanger, the former strength and conditioning coorrdinator, is not involved.
Van Halanger is still an active member of the program, in a player development role. In fact his office is a few feet away from head coach Mark Richt's office.
So what exactly are mat drills? Here's an excerpt from a 2006 story in The Telegraph by Josh Kendall:
The program that Van Halanger came up with is brutally simple and only takes between 70 and 75 minutes. It consists of five stations and gets its name from one of those stations, a wrestling mat where players do agility drills, including diving to the ground. There’s also a running station, which emphasizes sprinting; a shuttle drill station, which focuses on side-to-side movement; a ropes layout, which designed to build foot quickness, and a station with a plastic frame constructed so that players are forced to bend at the knees and move as fast as they can in a football position.
When Joe Tereshinski took over the strength program last year, he put an emphasis on long-distance conditioning, aiming to make the team better in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs ended up improving slightly in the final quarter, though they still ended up being out-scored by their opponents.
Georgia has also had a couple members of the strength program leave: Assistant coordinator Keith Gray left for a job with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Josh Kasay Sr., who had been with the program in a part-time role, is off the payroll again. (The NCAA is preparing to limit teams to five staff members in strength and conditioning programs, so the decision was made to have Kasay Sr. step away in advance of that.)
UPDATE: Here's a fresh quote from Richt on why mat drills were brought back:
“We didn’t do them last year. We’re doing a few of them this year. Mat drills are great for changing direction and for football position and for mental toughness, coachability, and accountability as a teammate. It’s just very valuable. We felt like we would resurrect them a little bit.”