There are a couple of things you'll notice (or won't) in the strength and conditioning domain at the University of Colorado under new guy Dave Forman.
There won't be a "big lift board" - no names posted alongside outlandish numbers in the bench press, squat or whatever. There will be piped in tunes, but probably not Metallica. And for additional purposes of improved perception, there will be assistant coaches wearing CU shirts with collars. No muscle T's with cut out sleeves, please.
Oh, and Forman won't slip you a business card identifying him as Director of Speed, Strength and Conditioning. Rather, it will read Director of Sports Performance.
Why the changes? Let Forman explain:
"The change to sports performance, while it might seem like semantics, I think it better reflects the all-encompassing aspects of performance and what we're trying to do. We're more than just running around and lifting heavy weights. There are the aspects of recovery, there's crossover with what the athletic training staff does - and not just in a rehab setting but in reconditioning, where maybe you're out of rehab but not quite full-go, there's a whole spectrum of function there . . .
"I just think that title, that new term, really is a broader term and encompasses all that we're trying to do. I want to have the most comprehensive sports performance department in the country. That's what I envision. How we're going to do that, I'm working on it."
Don't think for a second that the essential components of off-season football conditioning or fundamental weight room work will be deemphasized. To the contrary, Forman said, "We will power clean, for example, but not like you see guys in the Olympics power clean - that's not our job. Our job is to win the battle across from you, move the big guys out of the way and let the fast guys run past the other guys. That's football. But hopefully we can create a better athlete in the weight room - bigger, faster, stronger and more durable, and that's our goal."
Pay very close attention to "more durable."
The department's name change also allows Forman more overall responsibility, which he has never shunned. Each CU sport retains its own strength/conditioning coach, but each reports to Forman, who noted, "I didn't want to rock the boat in that way. But overall, at the end of the day, the buck stops with me."
AND IN THE SCHOOL'S big-buck sport, Forman is the guy. He's new coach Mike MacIntyre's handpicked choice to not only build up the Buffs, but keep them on the field and out of the training room. As much as getting their 40 times down and their poundage up, Forman (read: MacIntyre) wants his best players playing regularly - which more often than not was the case when both were at San Jose State.
In 2010 - MacIntyre's first season at SJS - 80 "player games" were missed due to a variety of injuries, a "player game" being the four-quarter absence due to injury/illness of a player on the two-deep chart. Said Forman, who joined MacIntyre's staff in January of 2011: "Eighty is insane . . . they were starting third- and fourth-string kids. Or true freshmen who weren't ready to play. You do that you take your lumps."
The lumps were large and plentiful on a schedule that included Alabama and Wisconsin in non-conference play and traditional WAC heavyweights Nevada and Boise State. Good players missing a lot of games don't always equal bad results, but San Jose State finished 1-12 in 2010.
In 2011, Forman's count had dropped from 80 "player games" missed to 41. The Spartans' record improved to 5-7. In 2012, those totals were 28 and 11-2 (counting the Military Bowl win against Bowling Green).
CU also knows something about injuries; the Buffs were decimated over the past two seasons. In 2011, which yielded a 3-10 finish, CU lost 115 "player games" to injury. In 2012's 1-11 disaster, the lost-game count was 71.
An accompanying figure that Forman cites is how often San Jose State's starters started. "Last year we were about 95 percent and the previous year at about 92 percent," he said. "Your best players are playing. They're your best players for a reason - they win games."
Forman often reminds players that, "I'm not going to make you a better defensive lineman - coach (Jim) Jeffcoat is.' But if you're hurt and you're missing practice, you're not getting better.' My big thing is to reduce the incidents and severity of injuries. By doing that we're going to use a lot of different assessment tools and maybe see where there are some predispositions or imbalances in muscle groups."
Borrowing from Michael Jordan's philosophy, Forman noted that athletes who only work on their strengths find their weaknesses only become more glaring. "Work on your weaknesses and improve on them so that they're your strengths - then you're awesome and everything has gone up a level," Forman said. "Sometimes that's difficult for guys because I'm asking them to do something that's difficult. It's hard and challenging and doesn't come so easy."
FORMAN, 33, PLAYED FOOTBALL - he was a defensive back - at James Madison from 1999-2001 and graduated in 2002 (kinesiology) before earning a master's in exercise science from Ole Miss in 2006. A native of Glendale, N.Y., he joined MacIntyre's SJS staff in January of 2011, coming from Stanford, where he was an assistant strength and conditioning coach for three years and worked primarily with football and wrestling.
Forman said Stanford "has done a nice job of finding experts in their own backyard and involving them and evolving the program." He hopes to do the same at CU, and recalled one of his worst regrets from his days in Palo Alto was not meeting more faculty and other staffers outside of athletics.
The Cardinal strength and conditioning facilities were in a basement, he said, "And I didn't leave the basement much." At San Jose State, "I was getting there - trying to build bridges - after two years. I don't anticipate it will take that long here."
When then-head coach Jim Harbaugh left Stanford for the San Francisco 49ers after the 2010 season, the Cardinal had co-directors of strength and conditioning. (The school has since gone to a Director of Sports Performance, as has San Jose State.)
Forman didn't know if either or both co-directors would accompany Harbaugh to the NFL, but he did know MacIntyre was shopping for someone to head the strength and conditioning program 20 minutes away in San Jose. Forman applied, MacIntyre interviewed him twice and hired him. It wasn't a case of having worked together at a previous stop; they were strangers, but MacIntyre liked what he heard from Forman and liked what he saw on the field in the muscular Cardinal.
Arriving in Boulder last month, Forman kept two members of the former strength and conditioning staff - Steve Englehart and Troy Ramsey. He also hired Kerry Johnson from Duke and former CU volunteer Isiah Castilleja, who had worked with the track and spirit programs.
On a number of fronts, including what he's seen physically from returning players, Forman said his starting point in football at CU is "much better" than what he walked into at San Jose State. "I feel like they want to work and that's a great thing . . . I really feel like they're giving great effort. That's great. The worst player in the world, the slowest, baddest athlete can give great effort.
"Maybe he can't run a 4.2 40, but he can run as fast as he can. We need to do the things than anyone can do really well. We'll get into being the biggest and most explosive. We'll get to that. The easiest thing to do right now is overdo it and crush them on day one. It's a delicate balance of knowing when to push, when to pull back."
THE BUFFS' WINTER SCHEDULE includes three days of lifting (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) and two of running (Tuesday, Thursday). Lifting usually is done in two groups, but everyone runs together. An evaluation process of each player is on-going, as well as an evaluation of injured players and those who have had off-season surgeries.
But for now, Forman's emphasis is on building MacIntyre's foundation and having each player "give great effort, line up correctly and have a great attitude," he said. "That's a decision you make every day, it's a choice you make whether it's conscious or not."
That likely explains why the Buffs found this Merlin Olsen quote in their lockers when they began their winter conditioning work: "You can take the best team and the worst team and line them up and you will find very little physical difference. You will find emotional difference. The winning team has a dedication, it will have a core group of leaders who set the standards and they will not accept defeat."
Forman declined to compare or contrast his approach with what was done under the former strength and conditioning staff. "I don't know what the other was about," he said. "I'm not knocking what they did, because I don't know what they did. This is what I'm about and this is what we're going to do."
With an eye on the start of spring drills on March 7, Forman is having the Buffs do "high volume" weight work, which he said would correctly imply "more repetitions" with varying intensity. "We're slowly introducing things; it might not be entirely new, but the priorities are new. Stance and technique are being taught. I don't want to get sloppy.
"I've told them what they can control is their effort, their attitude and their coachability - and they've been great about it. They're working hard and I'm sure their legs are sore; it's a little different. But they're not using excuses to not give great effort. That's all you ask of them."