Tennessee’s strength and conditioning program has slipped over the last few years. In the days of Johnny Long heading up UT’s strength and conditioning program, the Vols were one of the strongest and best developed teams in the country. Before him, John Stuckey led the program and kept Tennessee’s athletes at the top of their game physically.
But those days are long gone, and the Vols’ program has suffered from a rash of injuries and poor conditioning over the last few years.
Butch Jones never had a premier strength and conditioning program during his tenure at Tennessee, and the head position of the program saw a large amount of turnover during his time heading up Tennessee’s football program. He had a different strength and conditioning coordinator for each of the last three years of his tenure at UT, and that turmoil boiled over to Tennessee’s results on the field.
When Jeremy Pruitt was hired as the Vols’ head coach, he elected to move on from Jones’ most recent hire, Rock Gullickson. Pruitt tabbed Craig Fitzgerald of the Houston Texans to be the leader of his strength and conditioning program, and he and new Tennessee Athletics Director Phillip Fulmer decided with that hire that they would completely renovate UT’s strength and conditioning operation.
And thanks to records obtained by the Knoxville News Sentinel, fans now see how serious Tennessee is about getting that program fixed.
According to those records, Tennessee’s recent renovation of the university’s weight room cost $659,309.91 in total. It cost the university $140,540 to rip out the old floor and replace it with a new one, and the new weight equipment Tennessee got from Sorinex Exercise Equipment cost them $518,769.91.
And Tennessee hasn’t been shy about showing off that new weight room that was finished in May. They’ve put out several videos and pictures of the new facilities to highlight the new direction of the program.
When you add the total they spent on the renovation to the $625,000 annually that Tennessee is paying Fitzgerald for his three-year contract and the $70,000 annually each of Fitzgerald’s four assistants are making, it comes to a total of over $1.5 million that Tennessee is spending on the strength and conditioning program this year alone.
That kind of money shows just how committed Pruitt, Fulmer, and the rest of the football program is to bringing Tennessee’s football program back to where it used to be.
In 2016 and 2017, the Vols lost several starters to injuries, and that decimated the team’s depth at key positions. Some of those injuries couldn’t have been prevented, but others could have or could’ve been treated differently/more effectively. Not only that, but Tennessee’s offensive and defensive lines appeared to be far less forceful and explosive overall than in years past.
Something had to change. And Pruitt and Fulmer have seen to it that things will be different moving forward.
Time will tell just how successful Fitzgerald will be as Tennessee’s director of strength and conditioning. But the early returns are already looking good, and the workouts he’s been putting the team through this summer hearken back to days of old at UT. Not only is Fitzgerald’s lifting program more dedicated to free weights as opposed to machines, but he’s also had players running up the 80-yard inclined ramp that leads up to Neyland Stadium and working on conditioning on the Haslam practice field.
Pruitt and Fulmer are serious about revamping the strength and conditioning program at Tennessee. And UT is putting their money where their mouth is.