Dwight Galt turned and pointed to the four video screens behind him in the Lasch Football Building weight room.
For Penn State’s nearly hour-long training session Monday, the boards featured a question written in capital letters and punctuated by three question marks: “Who really is the hardest working team in the country?”
The answer, Galt hopes, is the Nittany Lions.
“That’s a big thing for us,” said Galt, Penn State’s director of performance enhancement. “We want to be the hardest working team in the country, no doubt. We don’t want anybody to be our peer in that area. That’s what we always strive for. And really to inherit a group of guys that work as hard as our guys, it’s been great.”
Penn State finished its first testing day, which included the 40-yard dash and bench press. The Lions will go through two more days of tests, running shuttles, doing the vertical and broad jumps and power clean on Tuesday, and finishing with the squat on Wednesday. The testing is part of Penn State’s final week of winter workouts as the team prepares for the start of spring practice on March 17.
Galt, who is the football team’s new strength and conditioning coach, said he’s been pleased with the players’ progress so far, but they’ll continue to work through the spring and summer to be ready for training camp.
“The one thing you’re gonna kind of find about me, we’re all year-round,” Galt said. “So we’re gonna lift on Friday after the winter workout and then we’re gonna take nine days off and then come back. The spring ball weight training cycle is no different than the offseason.
“We are gonna crank all through spring ball. It’s gonna be a little bit of an adjustment for them. Those first couple days of practice, they’re gonna be weight-training sore.”
Galt said the staff takes the testing results and converts them into a score, which is an average of 10 events that gives the coaches an accurate measure of the players, Galt said.
“I don’t want to tell any secrets,” Galt said. “But basically it assigns values for every test thing we do. (The) 40-yard dash, they all get values from 1-100. And 75 and above score is what you’re looking for; 90-100 is a big-time NFL guy, so you get graded on that, and that’s really the best grade we have for total preparation.”
Working under new Penn State coach James Franklin when both were at Vanderbilt the last three years, Galt saw the value of the score translate to improvement on the field.
“At Vanderbilt for example, my first year I did it, we had six guys with 75,” Galt said. “Second year, we had 19. So to me, it showed marked improvement in preparation as the kids got older and better. Here, with the talent we have here, I have very high expectations of what that T score will be.”
The Commodores went 6-7 in Franklin’s first season and finished 9-4 in the last two.
Galt also believes his strength program contributes to performance late in games. The staff tries to challenge the players, saying anyone can perform at a high level when they’re fresh.
“The first and the third quarters, it’s kind of an even playing field,” Galt said. “That second and fourth quarter is a little different dynamic. You got a little more fatigue, not as much energy and that’s where you kind of draw from within. And that’s where it goes from physiological to almost mental.
“We’re going to do everything we can off field to prepare them for that feeling so they can still perform at a very high level even though they feel that way, and I think the summer basically does the same thing.”
In the summer, Galt said running takes on “a whole new dimension.” The team will run four times a week in the summer, but Galt also said the focus is on improving athleticism through up-tempo speed and agility drills rather than on conditioning.
The work in the weight room, from the winter to the spring to the summer, is focused on having Penn State ready for the start of the season. The Lions will continue to train hard during the season, a method Galt said leads to success in November.
The nonstop program is just part of the new staff’s plan to elevate the Penn State program.
“We’re gonna work them hard,” Galt said. “But we want them to enjoy doing it.”