- Max Olson, ESPN Staff Writer
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AUSTIN, Texas -- Two hours a day, four days a week, eight weeks. That's the Bennie Wylie summer conditioning program.
And that’s all the Texas strength and conditioning head coach is permitted by NCAA rules to oversee, though the Longhorns are voluntarily putting in a lot more than 64 hours during this period.
He’ll find players in the weight room putting in individual work on their Wednesday off day. He’ll typically see 60 to 80 show up on Saturday for more.
“It’s cool to know they have that much commitment to this place, the state, the university,” Wylie said. “Our players are ready to get back to those winning years of 10-plus games. That’s the standard.”
HornsNation recently sat down with Wylie to discuss his summer expectations, the progress he’s made entering his third year at Texas and much more.
HornsNation: Coaches have to be hands-off during this summer period. Do you enjoy that a lot of responsibility falls on your staff to oversee the players and bond with them?
Bennie Wylie: Oh yeah, that’s the joy of this job. You really get to be the head coach for two months. Coach Mack Brown trusts us to take care of guys the best way we know how. We’re the only coaches on the staff who understand the head coach’s stresses and woes sometimes, because you do have all of them and feel an ultimate responsibility for them every minute of the summer. When things go good or bad, we feel responsible.
HN: You’re really close with the players, and you know exactly what the coaches want. You have to keep a foot in both camps, don’t you?
Wylie: You’re kind of the uncle; that’s what I call it. You’re not the dad, you’re the uncle. You have to tell them the right things, but it’s a different relationship. They’re cool with you, but they understand you will get them in line when need be.
HN: You consider Jeff Madden a mentor. What have you learned from the assistant AD for strength and conditioning over these past few years? What has he taught you?
Wylie: That when you have thoroughbreds, there’s a certain way to train a thoroughbred. This place is different. These guys want to be good so badly. You don’t have to beat them down to get the best out of them. You tell them what you expect and hold them to that standard and don’t let off. They’ll normally meet it every time.
HN: What is your philosophy when it comes to summer conditioning? What has to be built in the summer?
Wylie: We have to build our team. This is when you build unity, trust and that competitive edge and nature. This is when all of that is built. You forge yourself a little during camp, but right now you’re not made to do any of this. This is all voluntary. They can go home if they want. For us, we want to provide them a great avenue to be together, hang out, see each other, work hard, sweat, puke. That’s what builds your team and chemistry and competitive nature.
There’s so much stuff that goes on – I’m going to write a book one day just on what goes on in the summer. There’s so many dynamics. You’ve got the incoming freshmen in; they’re trying to cut their teeth and figure out where they belong. You’ve got the old seniors who have their eyes on, ‘This is my last hurrah, I’ve got to give everything I’ve got.’ You’ve got guys in the middle who think they have a long time, but they don’t. You’ve got to put that all together and train. It’s a great time.
HN: Mack Brown has said a consistent issue in the past two seasons has been injuries. Where do you see your role in that problem? How can that be improved going forward?
Wylie: I put that on me. There’s a lot of that that I can control with our exercises and schemes. There’s a lot where I’ve got to teach our players the right thing to do. They’ve got to learn to take care of their bodies, hydrate and manage all of that. They’re 18, 19, 20 years old. There are a lot of variables when it comes to injuries. We’ve got one of the best training staffs in the country that gets those guys back on the field as fast as humanly possible. But I take a lot of that on myself as far as educating and flexibility and all the things we ask of them.
HN: These two months are huge for the incoming freshmen. From your experience, how valuable is it when a player enrolls early and gets that extra spring in?
Wylie: It depends on who you are, your maturity level, your position and a ton of things above my pay grade. But I think it does help a lot of guys. We’ve been fortunate that it’s helped everyone we brought in. For us it’s been a success. You watch Tyrone [Swoopes] and those guys and you see them explode. To watch Tyrone in the spring, just right in front of my eyes, kind of blossom ...
HN: You did post the video on YouTube of him squatting 500 pounds.
Wylie: Yeah, and the sad part is, with his 500-pound squat, he could’ve done five. But I don’t need him to do five today. He’s going to be one of those special kids. If you come in early and you have the right mindset, you’ll gain a wealth of knowledge and experience.
HN: Is posting videos of their lifts on your Twitter account basically a small reward for guys when they hit their goals?
Wylie: That’s just their generation. It’s social media. That’s who they are, and for us that’s also the joy of being a strength coach. You’re forever 18 years old. I’ve been 18 for the last, like, 16 years. That’s what we do. I just post it for them because it’s fun and they have pride in it. They can retweet and repost it all they want; I just send it to them to keep people abreast of what we’re doing. These guys are working hard. They’re putting in hard, hard work.