UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The differences are cosmetic. Penn State strength and conditioning coach Dwight Galt IV has little to introduce or change from Craig Fitzgerald’s previous strength and conditioning program.
They used to work together at Maryland. Fitzgerald was Galt’s protégé. Most of the ideals he spread at Penn State are Galt’s ideals. One of the biggest differences is actually 100 percent cosmetic, coming down to the sartorial.
Galt plans to wear warm clothing during games. Not shorts and not even a short-sleeve shirt, like Fitzgerald would wear no matter the temperature.
“Back in the day, I never did shorts, but we used to do the T-shirt thing at Maryland, no matter how cold it was,” Galt said. “And, to be honest, I started getting cold.”
Galt graduated from Maryland. He worked first as the assistant strength and conditioning coach for four years before becoming the lead strength and conditioning coach from 1993-2011. Fitzgerald was his assistant from 2000-05. Also on the Maryland coaching staff at that time were Penn State coach James Franklin and former coach Bill O’Brien.
Galt used to be a power lifter. He wasn’t very good, he insists, but the attitude shaped the way he used to think. He would stress power and strength.
In the early 2000s, he and Fitzgerald began to rethink some fundamentals of their program. Sure, they wanted their players strong, but they wanted their players to have better movement, too.
They made appropriate changes. Galt said he thought Maryland was doing as good of a job as anyone of stressing a movement-based weight program. And he plans to keep it similar at Penn State.
“We learned how to develop power, speed, agility, balance, quickness and transition, all those things from the weight room to the football field,” Galt said. “We know strength without speed is not going to cut it in today’s football.”
When Fitzgerald arrived at Penn State, almost everything changed. The previous staff had the players using machines rather than free weights. He installed an entirely new regimen, one that several players credited with keeping their bodies fresh later in the season, particularly at a time when the team had little depth. Other players credited him with better preparing them for pro opportunities.
Galt said changes at Penn State from Fitzgerald will be limited to a couple of small things.
“I think it’s been a really good transition for the kids,” he said.
This week, they began testing in which the Penn State staff will see each player’s baseline in the bench press, 40-yard dash, shuttle run, squat and similar drills. Monday, they did the 40-yard dash and the bench press.
When they complete everything, Galt and his staff plan to grade each player from 1-100 on each particular drill. The score will be averaged out. He said top players have scores above 75. Those who are solid NFL prospects have scores above 90.
At Vanderbilt, Galt said six players graded above 75 his first year, 19 the second year. He expects Penn State to have many players’ grade above 75 given the program’s talent level and their work under Fitzgerald.
Monday, as Penn State’s players bench-pressed, Galt stood over most of them, yelling and encouraging. It looked like something Fitzgerald would have done, perhaps slightly toned down.
But Galt might not be as different from the Fitzgerald the players would have seen this season had O’Brien not left. They’re still good friends and often text each other. Galt said that after the Nebraska game last season Fitzgerald texted a particularly interesting tidbit: He said the cold was starting to get to him. He was thinking of giving up the shorts.
Mark Dent: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-439-3791 and Twitter @mdent05.