Boise State proving you can coach speed

ccripe@idahostatesman.comAugust 25, 2013 

boise state football, broncos, fall, camp, practice, newcomers

Boise State strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha estimates he spends 50 percent of his professional development time on speed. Nutrition is second at 35 percent. “Early on,” he said, “speed was just kind of an afterthought.”

JOE JASZEWSKI — jjaszewski@idahostatesman.com

  • FIVE FASTEST BRONCOS

    40-yard dash

    1. S Ebo Makinde, 4.24 seconds

    2. WR Aaron Burks, 4.28

    3. RB Devan Demas, 4.40

    3. WR Geraldo Boldewijn, 4.40

    5. WR Shane Williams-Rhodes, 4.41

    BURROUGHS RANKS AMONG BEST

    Boise State junior wide receiver Dallas Burroughs, left, was sick the day the Broncos ran the 40-yard dash this year, so he didn’t crack the top five.

    However, he tied Makinde with a time of 4.28 seconds last year. And Makinde thinks Burroughs is probably faster.

    “He ran 10.3 (in the 100 meters in high school),” Makinde said. “I wasn’t anywhere near that. I might have to give him that one.”

    Burroughs, of Rocky Mountain High in Meridian, ran the 100 in a state meet record 10.34 seconds in 2011. That time led CBSSports.com to rank him this summer as the sixth-fastest player in all of college football.

    And by raw time, Burroughs actually would rank fourth. The website gave an edge to two younger players who ran slightly slower.

    Ironically, Burroughs didn’t train for speed until late in his high school career.

    “One day, I became fast,” he said.

    He traded baseball for track his last two years of high school to get even faster, which helped him earn a football scholarship at Boise State.

    He has improved his speed in college, he said, but his focus is in a different area.

    “I’m more fast than quick,” he said. “That’s what I’m trying to work on is getting quicker.”

    Chadd Cripe

  • ‘NEXT FRONTIER’

    No-huddle offenses have taken over college football. Even Boise State has dabbled in the concept — using it extensively in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas in December and in the two public scrimmages this offseason.

    “It’s good for our defense,” coach Chris Petersen said. “Everybody that we’re playing is no-huddle.”

    The frantic pace of play has forced strength and conditioning coaches to rethink how they prepare players.

    Fresno State for years emphasized bulk on its offensive line under coach Pat Hill, who preferred a pro-style attack. Coach Tim DeRuyter, who arrived last year, asked the linemen to shed pounds for his no-huddle system.

    “You’ve got to be able to be in shape to do it with your offensive line, especially,” DeRuyter said. “I think our guys feel better about themselves. They look better at the beach than they did before. They’ve dropped 20-30 pounds.”

    Linemen aren’t the only players facing a new reality.

    Receivers and defensive backs, who might run 40 yards at top speed on a given play, are asked to go again 20 seconds later.

    “The big thing hitting me square in the face in the learning process is speed repeatability,” Boise State strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha said. “The ability to run a fast (40-yard dash) but then do it again and again and again. It used to be you’d have a play and then you’d have 30-35 seconds to rest. … How do we get guys fast and how do they continue to be fast, play after play after play — that’s the next frontier.”

    Chadd Cripe

When Boise State strength and conditioning coach Tim Socha began his career 14 years ago, the attitude about speed matched the cliché.

You can’t coach it.

Now, he does little else.

Socha consistently unearths an extra gear in his football players — turning speed-challenged recruits into NFL Draft picks and helping Boise State become a fixture in the Top 25.

“He gets those guys faster,” coach Chris Petersen said. “I really didn’t think that happened. But across the board, our guys get faster.”

Speed has become the must-have accessory in college football.

Some shop for it.

“You can’t coach length and you can’t coach speed,” Utah State first-year coach Matt Wells said. “You can recruit it and you must recruit it — or you’ll be talking to a new guy in three years.”

Others cultivate it.

Petersen will take a great player with marginal speed — cornerback Jamar Taylor, a second-round pick of the Miami Dolphins this year, is a prime example — and give him to Socha.

“I will take the better player,” Petersen said, “because then I think coach Socha will develop that speed.”

POINT OF EMPHASIS

Socha played offensive line in the Big Ten at Minnesota.

Speed was not on his mind.

“It was slow, smash-mouth football,” he said.

He began his coaching career in 1999 as a graduate assistant at Auburn in the heart of college football’s fastest conference — the SEC.

The strength coach’s job back then: Build muscle.

Speed was an “afterthought,” Socha said.

“It was so-and-so walked in the door and he’s a 4.4 (seconds in the 40-yard dash) guy, he’s going to be a 4.4 guy,” he said. “… That mind-set has changed. We know as strength coaches that we can change how fast someone is.”

Socha joined the Boise State staff in 2006, Petersen’s first year as the head coach. The Broncos couldn’t match Oklahoma’s speed in the Fiesta Bowl at the end of that season — they won anyway — but Socha said that gap has narrowed in the seven years since.

It’s so important that every element of Boise State’s offseason training program is aimed at increasing speed. Socha spends half of his research time on speed.

“Even the bench press is centered around being fast,” he said. “That’s the name of the game. The game has changed. Nine out of 10 times when you play a football game, the fastest team is going to win. … It might be in subtle ways here or there, but you hope you have that advantage.”

The Broncos’ training focuses on straight-line speed, change of direction and deceleration. Coaches break down the elements of running — acceleration, deceleration, cutting, upper-body technique, footwork, etc. They strengthen the key muscles — the hamstrings, glutes, calves and quads — through weight-training exercises like squats. And they improve flexibility.

It’s a six-month process, from the beginning of the spring semester in January to the start of fall camp in early August. The rigors of the season prevent speed training the rest of the year.

“(Socha) knows how to get people in the best shape and get them faster and how to get them to move on the football field, especially,” senior safety Ebo Makinde said.

TESTING DAY

The Broncos check their progress every spring, usually in early May. Players go through a series of tests similar to those administered at the NFL Scouting Combine. They also try to lift their max weight in three disciplines — back squat, hang clean and bench press.

Two tests stand out to players.

The squat — an explosive lift that contributes to speed. The linemen dominate.

And the 40 — a measure of top-end speed. The wide receivers and defensive backs excel.

“That’s such an important day to them,” Socha said of the sprint. “It takes a long time because they’re so focused in on it. A 40 to a skill guy is like a bench press is to a bodybuilder. If you want them to be confident in their speed, they have to have good 40 times.”

Makinde ran the 40 in a team-best 4.24 seconds this year. He carries that memory onto the football field.

He has dropped more than a half-second from his 40 time since his junior year of high school.

“I can feel more comfortable out there because I have that confidence — I know I’m fast,” he said.

Socha figures he can trim up to two-tenths of a second off the time of a fast player during his five-year college career. He can chop up to a half-second off the time of a more plodding linebacker type.

That’s why Petersen is willing to take a player with superior skill and intelligence who has a speed shortcoming and trust Socha’s staff to prepare him for college football.

“We’ve had a track record of getting that done,” Socha said. “As long as our guys work hard at it, they’re going to get better at it. They recruit really good guys who want to work hard and that’s what’s allowed us to do it. And sometimes it takes a while. It’s not a process where you can microwave a guy. It’s slow cooking and sometimes it doesn’t happen fast enough for anybody — the player, the coach, anybody. But it does happen.”

And since players put so much emphasis on speed, they’re willing to work for it.

“It’s easy to convince them to buy in,” Socha said. “What’s hard is more and more guys at an early age are getting advice on speed. There are a lot of preconceived notions that they’re coming in with about how to get fast.”

DEVELOPING EARLY

The emphasis on speed has trickled down to the grass roots of football.

“Ever since Pop Warner, they’ve always told us you’ve got to be able to run,” Makinde said. “You have to be in the best shape. You have to be able to run against the best receivers. And if you’re not as big, you have to make up for it somewhere else — that’s in quickness and speed and agility.”

Makinde didn’t train specifically for speed until his senior year of high school. He was a two-time regional champion in the 400 meters in Arizona.

But he says he didn’t become fast until he began training with his brother, Victor Makinde, who designed his own training program while playing football at SMU.

By the end of his freshman year at Boise State, Makinde ran in the 4.3s. He ran 4.77 as a high school junior.

“I actually was surprised,” he said. “I never thought about running that fast. I just wanted to get faster.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Patti began speed training when he was in seventh grade. He grew up in Orlando, Fla., and worked with a trainer at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World.

“In Florida, it’s a fast game,” Patti said. “All the kids down there are quick. I put a lot of importance on it.”

Treasure Valley high schools have joined the speed revolution, too.

Centennial High coach Lee Neumann, who is entering his 24th season, used videos and sessions at a speed school to learn how to train his players. He teaches a fitness class that is half speed development and half strength training.

“The biggest change in the last 10 to 15 years in the Boise area is just the speed factor,” he said. “Kids are becoming so much faster, so much quicker, so much more explosive.”

The question now is where it stops.

If the track world is any indication, there’s no reason players can’t keep getting faster.

The world record in the men’s 100 meters has dropped from 9.92 seconds by Carl Lewis in 1988 to 9.58 by Usain Bolt in 2009.

“We haven’t seen a wall yet,” Socha said. “As long as guys are getting stronger and more flexible and they’re doing it the right way, I don’t know where the wall is going to be.

“That’s the neat thing. We don’t know.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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