LINCOLN — It’s a training camp ritual for players, fresh off a summer of lifting weights and running sprints, to boast about their strength and conditioning coaches. Nebraska players did last year and the year before that and the year before that.
And they did Thursday, gushing about Zach Duval in ways surpassing the habitual praise given to him by Scott Frost.
Only this year, outside linebacker Luke Gifford was willing to compare and contrast Duval to NU’s previous strength and conditioning staff, led by Mark Philipp.
“Coach Duval brings a whole new level of intensity,” said Gifford, a fifth-year senior from Lincoln Southeast. “He just pushes us much more than we’ve ever been pushed. I think in the past we’ve been able to kind of slack if we wanted to.
“This is nothing against the past staff, but if you didn’t want to do a weight, you didn’t have to do a weight. But with Coach Duval, he’s going to put it on there and you’re either going to get it or you’re going to fail. And that’s the way it should be. You don’t have a choice. That’s the only way you’re going to get where you want to be.”
Husker players competed to see who could lift the most. Senior Tanner Farmer seemed to take the honors, squatting 765 pounds.
“He never would have gotten there if he didn’t put on 600 (pounds) when he was only squatting 500 pounds last year,” Gifford said. “You don’t know you can do it until you do it.”
Defensive lineman Khalil Davis said Duval put emphasis on overall health and eating better. Some players were on meal plans. More meals were eaten at the training table. Davis carried around a milk jug of a water/Gatorade mix for daily hydration.
Players gained considerable weight — good weight, it appeared — as a result.
Center Cole Conrad said players lost a lot of muscle mass between the end of last season in late November and the start of winter conditioning in mid-January.
“Maybe some guys let themselves go a little bit,” Conrad said. “Now we’re bouncing back and throwing a bunch of good weight. You have to look at this strength staff and realize there’s a reason why UCF was good and there’s a reason why Coach Duval gets the praise that he gets. He knows what he’s doing.”
Eat your meals here
Newly hired director of nutrition Dave Ellis is already impacting the Huskers.
The team is now required to eat all three meals at the training table inside Memorial Stadium. That did not used to be the case.
Davis said some players used to eat off campus or away from the training table. It was strongly encouraged you eat at the training table, but not required.
Now you have to sign in to eat, and those signatures are checked to make sure everyone is eating there three times a day. Nebraska also gave players instructions to buy produce and better food for their homes.