Head coach Luke Fickell has undoubtedly changed the outlook of the Wisconsin Badgers after a 6-6 season that resulted in the firing of Paul Chryst and the decision not to retain interim head coach Jim Leonhard for the full-time role.
Not only has he brought recruits and transfers upon his arrival, but Fickell has brought in his own staff, which includes well-revered strength and conditioning coach Brady Collins, who has been seen by analysts as Fickell’s No. 2.
Sources: Luke Fickell will bring strength coach Brady Collins with him to Wisconsin. He’s been Fickell’s most trusted aide since he began at Cincinnati. He helped nine Bearcats develop into NFL Draft picks last season. A key hire, as Wisconsin will be a developmental program.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) November 28, 2022
Speaking to local reporters for the first time in the new calendar year, Fickell shed light on Collins’s training program that has kept his teams in contention throughout his coaching career.
“I think that we got to find a way to make sure we can come together and there’s many different ways of doing that. That’s what a lot of our winter conditioning is about. It’s a lot of what our weight program is about, about competing and doing things together and finding ways to that iron, sharpens iron to battle with each other, but get the best out of each other,” Fickell said.
The goal is certainly to get bigger, stronger, and faster for when the real action begins in September, but with the work comes a certain mindset that Badgers coaches are instilling in their players.
“[I] wanted to just give them to Coach Brady [Collins]. Hey, this is a time for you guys to train, get bigger, get faster, get stronger, focus on those things. A lot of that health comes from how you train and getting your body right even going into spring football,” said Fickell.
Collins himself alluded to the “iron sharpens iron” mentality as a daily mantra that he enforces, understanding its value in allowing everyone to be the best version of themselves in competition.
“I think first and foremost [my training program is dependent on] the relationship I have with Coach Fick. He knows how valuable training the way we do is for our young men. It’s the backbone of who we are,” Collins said. ‘We’re going to get bigger, faster, stronger-if not I wouldn’t be here! But more than anything, we’re developing and instilling our culture daily. Not by any quotes or videos, but by our effort, attitudes, and competitive spirit. Fe2-Iron Sharpens Iron—the only way to be the best version of myself is if I am doing everything I can to maximize myself physically and mentally, while also pushing and holding my brothers around me accountable. [I] want to be pushed to my limits and then keep going, not for myself, but for my brothers around me!”
However, when talking about getting faster, Fickell and Collins both understand the concept in a particular way: it’s not about track speed, but rather game speed that can correlate better to on-field results.
“People probably looked at me like I told them, well, Coach Brady worked on the speed,” Fickell said. “No, that’s not the speed I’m talking about. I’m talking about the speed of how you play when you know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, you play a lot faster.”
Collins affirmed the sentiment, understanding the difference between the concepts, which has allowed players to be more prepared when the pads come on.
“There’s speed, then there’s game speed. Anyone can be fast, but when the lights come on, and it’s in a violent intense environment—4th down stop, need a 1st down, seeing the formation and recognizing it fast—there’s a difference. When you know what you have to do, your assignment, and recognize that fast, you play fast [and] you play free! You’re not overthinking. You’re confident and now you’re out there playing with confidence and flying around making plays,” Collins told Bucky’s 5th Quarter.
Many have been accustomed to the videos that the football team has posted on social media, sharing Collins’s intensity, which he reverts back to the preparation to best suit his players for gameday.
“We mimic that [game speed] by the intensity and tempo at which we train. In the weight room and on the field.”
The improvements have already been seen in several players, as 16 players have seen an increase in weight of 10 pounds or more heading into spring ball, based on the roster provided by Football Communications.
Collins has preached the idea of getting stronger, which in return allows players to get faster and play with more of a purpose, adding to the idea of forming football players, not weightlifters.
“Big-time benches and squats are awesome! But, if I’m just solely worried about numbers, I’d be cheating these kids. We’re developing and enhancing football players, not weight lifters,” Collins shared. “The #1 way to get physically faster: GET STRONGER. Don’t just run to run, have a purpose [and] have intentions. Make it translate to their specific position and transfer to the field! Again, [we’re] building football players, not weightlifters.”
That sentiment has already been seen with star running back Braelon Allen, who has come into camp at 240 pounds, but feels much stronger and faster compared to where he ended the season.
“[240 pounds] is kind of where I plan to stay,” Allen said, via Jesse Temple of the Athletic. “I feel good. I’m faster than I was and definitely a lot stronger than I was. I think that’ll be a good spot for me to play.”
Collins and Fickell have been tight-knit over the past eight years, with the strength and conditioning coach sharing an appreciation for the way his head coach operates, as the former reportedly passed up more lucrative opportunities to remain alongside the former the latter.
Collins turned down numerous more lucrative opportunities to stay with Fickell at Cincinnati over the years.— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) November 28, 2022
That relationship has allowed the coaching staff to build a synonymous plan for their athletes in the offseason, which has ultimately resulted in players developing into NFL talents.
“[Our training program] is a product of the relationship I’ve been so fortunate to build with Coach Fick these past 8 years. We speak the same language. We’re like-minded, always working together on the plan, and he knows the way we do things not only ultimately makes them better football players, but also better men that represent this program, this university, this state, and their families the right way.”
Clearly, the program has done some early dividends with the Badgers, and it’s primarily due to the people working behind the scenes, with Collins anchoring the charge.
The No. 1 priority is now to translate the training to the field, but the Badgers are on the right track, with Fickell and Co. proving their results over his career at Cincinnati.