June 27, 2007
TALLAHASSEE Todd Stroud's post-playing-days resume long ago dwarfed what he accomplished on the football field as a Florida State noseguard in the early 1980s. That's not intended to disparage what Stroud contributed as a player, but rather a nod to his ability to apply what he learned from those who influenced him most.
Hired as FSU's football strength and conditioning coach in late May, Stroud may be the final piece to the overhauled-staff puzzle Bobby Bowden has put together in an effort to get the Seminoles back on top. If nothing else, for the next two months Stroud will be the hands-on conduit between the players and Bowden's five new aides, while overseeing the summer conditioning program.
Vowing to "wipe the slate clean," Stroud is bringing back some "old-school" tricks in his plan to whip the Seminoles into shape.
Though a quarter-century has passed since Stroud last pulled on the garnet and gold colors himself, he won't have to go far to consult some of the men who significantly influenced him. Bowden is close by, as are veteran assistants Chuck Amato and Mickey Andrews. Former FSU strength coach Dave Van Halanger, now at Georgia, also remains a close friend and professional associate.
"They took a lot of average players and got superior players," Stroud said. "It all started with fundamentals and technique, and a great emphasis on conditioning."
Stroud has applied what he learned as a player and graduate assistant and built a 22-year resume as a college head coach, assistant and award-winning strength coach. He spent the last seven seasons at N.C. State under Amato, first as the strength coach and then directing a defensive line that turned out a trio of first-round NFL picks, including Mario Williams, the No. 1 selection in 2006.
That's the kind of background that can help to provide instant credibility with players.
"He has been in the position that we are in right now as players," said FSU tailback Antone Smith, after his first week working with Stroud. "He is not a guy that is out, looking in. He knows how to train the body and how much rest and recovery time we need."
Though folks at FSU are reluctant to say so publicly, that's not the kind of rapport Jon Jost has with either his players or the new coaching regime. Though Jost remains the head of the athletic department's strength and conditioning program, he has been reassigned to specifically deal with the baseball team.
In his first meeting with the media, Stroud was careful not to criticize Jost, but it's clear that they come at the job from two different perspectives. Jost, a disciple of legendary Nebraska strength coach Boyd Eppley, is soft-spoken, with a physiological approach to conditioning.
The philosophy may have worked, but the lack of emphasis on strength and conditioning by those recently purged from the coaching staff didn't help Jost's cause. Neither did the ridiculously high number of injuries the team endured over the past few seasons, which some privately hinted had a direct connection to what was going on or not going on in the weight room.
STYLE: HANDS-ON, HIGH-VOLUME
Stroud is a hands-on, volume-up, get-in-the-trenches sort who epitomizes the "old-school" style that's favored by the likes of new assistants Jimbo Fisher and Rick Trickett, as well as former FSU players-turned-coaches Lawrence Dawsey and Dexter Carter. It also didn't hurt that Stroud worked on Terry Bowden's Auburn staff with Fisher and Trickett, who both place a high priority on physically and mentally tough players.
As a result, you won't see the Seminoles practicing the art of Pilates or working out with balance balls. Stroud prefers the old iron approach, with position-specific weight room work centered on squats, power cleans and bench presses, not the latest "watered-down" trends in developing core strength.
Those are the same principles Van Halanger espoused in his lengthy run with the Seminoles, which ended when he joined Mark Richt at Georgia after the 2000 season.
Stroud said he and Van Halanger share the same philosophy in training, much of which was culled from the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers' strength program, with some personal tweaks.
Oddly enough, Stroud initially had the chance to continue that tradition at FSU many years ago. He was offered the job Jost landed when Stroud instead chose to join Amato's staff at N.C. State.
This time, Stroud couldn't pass up the chance to get on board with the reclamation project at his alma mater.
"We are really excited about getting the chance to come back," said Stroud, who was prepared to begin his first season as a high school head coach in Raleigh when the FSU offer came up for a second time.
At this point, the players seem excited by their new mentor.
"We are doing a lot more intense stuff," defensive tackle Budd Thacker said. "It is more reps and less volume. We are trying to get our bodies built up to work for longer periods of time, like finish that fourth quarter."
That was an area where the Seminoles were especially vulnerable a year ago, when they suffered five losses by a touchdown or less on the way to a 7-6 season. Given the wholesale staff changes, there is little doubt about FSU's intention of putting a halt to its steady decline over the last half-dozen seasons.
In addition to returning to his FSU roots, Stroud brought along an assistant with a similar background. Former N.C. State offensive line coach Pat Meyer, who also had a background in strength and conditioning before joining Amato's on-field staff, will serve as Stroud's top assistant in Tallahassee.