Players tend to groan at the mention of it. The strength coach? He can’t suppress a smile.
It’s just a simple sand pit. But Dwight Galt loves the thing when it comes to getting Penn State players ready for the season.
The Nittany Lions’ new strength and conditioning coach dubbed it “the best sand pit in the country” — and, hey, who’s in a position to argue with him — because of its size.
“Fifty-by-20 yards?” Galt said at Penn State’s annual Lift For Life fundraiser. “I’ve died and gone to heaven.
“With your foot absorbed into the sand, you’ve just got to work so much harder to get out of it. And the sand’s become not only a great athletic improvement, but a toughness thing for us, too.”
That’s the general gist of Galt’s program, which institutes creative ways to train players. If it sounds similar to the philosophies of Penn State’s last strength coach, Craig Fitzgerald, it’s because Galt served as a mentor to him when both were at Maryland.
“It’s pretty much the same as we had been doing under Fitz,” guard Miles Dieffenbach said. “Just different personalities is all.”
One of Galt’s biggest goals for the summer is to work on improving players’ durability given the Lions’ depth issues this season.
To that end, he has focused on exercises and routines that help develop flexibility.
“I’ve never done more flexibility with a group,” Galt said. “We all know what our scholarship situation is now. I want to make sure that the guys we have — we don’t have as many as a lot of other programs — we’ve got to keep them on the field. So I’m doing a lot of flexibility to make sure that decreases injury.”
Right at the top of the list is keeping quarterback Christian Hackenberg in top shape.
“I want him to be able to take a hit,” Galt said. “And not that it’s gonna happen, but I’m trying to make him as durable as possible in the shoulder region, elbow region, wrist region.
“So we do a lot of stuff with shoulder strengthening and with rotator cuff, things like that to make sure he stays as bulletproof as possible. … And I try to get him a really strong upper body, too. Just to make sure he can take some abuse if he had to.”
That’s a distinct possibility given that the Lions have just one healthy returning starter back on the offensive line — left tackle Donovan Smith.
Dieffenbach, who has started the past two seasons at guard, suffered a torn ACL during spring ball but said this weekend he hoped to be able to play late in the season.
A first for Franklin
Discussion of injuries has generally been taboo for new coach James Franklin. But with both Dieffenbach and linebacker Ben Kline (Achilles) discussing their situations over the weekend, Franklin broached the subject publicly for the first time on Wednesday.
“Dieffenbach I think is healing much faster than typical because of his attitude,” Franklin said while speaking at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry’s Educational Foundation Event in Hershey. “I mean, he’s so positive. He’s a spiritual guy, he’s positive. You go down in the training room and you’d never know anything happened to him.”
Kline is not expected to be able to play in 2014.
“It’s almost impossible for him to be able to come back with that type of injury, that late of when it occurred,” Franklin said.
Home opener kick set
The debut of the Franklin era on American soil was announced Wednesday. Penn State’s Sept. 6 home opener against Akron at Beaver stadium will kick off at noon, with ABC carrying the broadcast locally.
Penn State will honor the 20th anniversary of the undefeated 1994 team at halftime.
Another laurel for Hack
Hackenberg was named to the Davey O’Brien Award watchlist Tuesday for the nation’s top quarterback. A Freshman All-American a year ago, Hackenberg is just one of five true sophomores to make the list.
He previously was named to the Maxwell offensive player of the year award watchlist.