BATON ROUGE, La. — Strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt is one of the most venerable faces at LSU, recently signing a three-year contract extension to continue his already 17-year-old stay with the program.
But even an old dog can use some new tricks. Moffitt is making a slight alteration to LSU’s workout plans this offseason. Though the Tigers are doing virtually all of the same drills as they have in the past leading up to spring practice, players will be actively competing against one another to put up the best numbers.
“It’s not that much different,” Moffitt told SEC Country. “But we’re going to have a winner versus guys just performing drills. We’re going to keep score so there’s a winner. So if there’s a drill with only one person going, now there will be two or three or four to be able to to determine a winner.”
In other words, Moffitt is making the potentially mundane art of offseason training a bit more exciting for players.
“It makes it more competitive versus just running your butt off everyday,” he said.
The tweak was one discussed by Moffitt and head coach Ed Orgeron before the workouts got underway last week. Orgeron is in his first offseason leading the Tigers. But Coach O’s first job at the FBS level was as Arkansas’ assistant strength and conditioning coach from 1986-87, and Moffitt thinks that background will make their relationship a unique one. A head coach working his way up from the weight room is akin to a corporate CEO starting in the mail room.
“When talking about certain things, I anticipate him having a better understanding of some stuff that we do (in the weight room),” Moffitt said. “I’m not saying Coach Miles did not. But it should be better when discussing some things (because of his background).”
How LSU monitors overwork
Moffitt’s profession made unexpected and unfortunate headlines earlier this month when three Oregon football players were hospitalized following workouts. The incident led new Ducks coach Willie Taggart to suspend strength and conditioning coach Irene Oderinde without pay for a month.
The players were treated for rhabdomyolysis, or “rhabdo.” The syndrome occurs when soft muscle tissue is broken down to the point where some of it leaks into the bloodstream, with the most dangerous result being kidney damage.
Multiple cases of rhabdo are rarely reported — according to The Oregonian, this was only the third such incident in college sports since 2010.
Moffitt pushes players to exert maximum effort, as strength coaches are expected to, but said knowing each player’s history helps a coach understand their limits.
“We have trainers at every workout. We’re the ones responsible for it,” Moffitt said. “Hydration is a factor. Their present level of fitness is something to consider. You have to think of the volume and intensity of the work.”
The key to monitoring overexertion is essentially a circle of trust between coaches, players and the medical staff.
“There’s not a lot more we can do except having our sports medicine staff there to say ‘Those guys have had enough,’” Moffitt said.
The Oregon incident may have been a perfect storm, as unexpected disaster or near-disasters often are. Thanks to missing a bowl game, the Ducks hadn’t worked out as a team in more than a month. And as a new hire, it was difficult for Oderinde to have an intimate familiarity with each player’s limit.
Moffitt was careful not to criticize the situation at Oregon, saying it wouldn’t be right to do so without full knowledge of all the details. But as a coach and parent — his son Aaron is a member of LSU’s expected signing class — he has empathy for all sides.
“It’s terrible that it happened. I feel bad for him and for the kids and parents involved,” Moffitt said. “Nobody wants that. I know when he went out there that day, it wasn’t his goal. It’s unfortunate.”