KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee football is finishing up the first block of its summer conditioning program, preparing to take off the 4th of July week before returning for the final three weeks of weight room training leading up to fall drills.
Rock Gullickson, the Vols’ first-year strength coach and a 17-year veteran of the NFL coaching ranks, says it has been a team effort in the weight room.
“If your head coach is behind you, and the position coaches support you along with the coordinators, you can get a lot done,” Gullickson told SEC Country. “It takes a whole village to make this thing happen, and without all those pieces in place, this job wouldn’t be going anywhere.”
Gullickson said Tennessee coach Butch Jones has been easy to work for, in terms of giving his strength coach the freedom to run the program as he sees fit and interacting with him regularly.
“Butch has given me full support. He recognizes the guys are improving,” Gullickson said. “He’s been really hands off, and really, he just wants to know how each of the guys are doing.
“We’ll go through the list and he’ll have a couple of names he wants to discuss each time, so the communication is open.”
Gullickson said he talks or texts with Jones most every day, including the head coach coming down to the weight room for visits.
“When we first started this job, it was about strength and size and power and explosiveness,” said Gullickson, who was hired on Jan. 10. “That’s been my approach each day, and so far, so good.”
Carson-Newman strength coach Johnny Long, a former Tennessee strength coach and highly regarded training center owner in Knoxville, said he has heard nothing but good things about Gullickson.
“He knows what he’s doing over there, and he’s been able to get the team to buy into him,” said Long, who remains well-connected to the Vols. “They’re always going to judge a strength coach by wins and losses, strength in the trenches and injuries — but I think people need to give Coach Gullickson time to get his program going.
“Coach has been there four months, and if you think about it, he’s only had them for three or four workouts a week for three of those months, and that’s really not a lot of time.”
Tennessee players are allowed eight hours of supervised work in the weight room per week, by NCAA rule.
Gullickson said it typically takes about two years to get a strength and conditioning program up to speed, in terms of players getting the full benefit of the system.
The Vols, however, are intent on being up to speed for the Sept. 4 opener against Georgia Tech in Atlanta.
“This will be a discretionary week (July 4) that coming up, and it will be up to the student-athletes,” Gullickson said. “We won’t be in charge of them that week, it’s up to them to work out.
“So it’s an ongoing process, and I’m really enjoying getting to know these guys.”