STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The man in charge of making Mississippi
State's football players bigger, faster and stronger is most
concerned with making them better.
"I was a football coach before I was a strength coach," said
Jim Nowell, the Bulldogs' new head man in the weight room. "The
only thing that matters to me is winning games. We want the players
strong, but we're not going to push the envelope so far that we
risk an injury seeing if a kid can squat 800."
The Jackson native returned to his home state after two
successful years as an assistant strength coach at West Virginia,
which won 12 of 14 Big East games during his time there and made
two bowl trips, and two years on LSU's staff.
Upon his January arrival in Starkville, he found strength in
numbers. He added a third full-time staff member, three graduate
assistants and a collection of interns from the school's exercise
Linebacker Clarence McDougal says the bigger staff makes a
difference compared to Nowell's predecessor, Mike Grant, and his
"Coach Grant was a good coach, too, but he didn't have a lot of
help," McDougal said. "Everybody's getting coached on lifting
[technique] now, not just spread out on their own. There's a lot of
attention paid to detail. You can't cheat yourself or Coach Nowell.
Everybody's just doing what they're supposed to do."
Nowell is glad new coach Sylvester Croom is giving him leeway to
run the strength operations as he sees fit.
"If he were to come in here today and say he wants to do
jumping jacks every day, we would do them," Nowell said. "But I'm
fortunate that Coach lets me do what I think is best from a
strength and conditioning [standpoint]."
Nowell is using the summer to make the Bulldogs quicker and
lighter on their feet. While former coach Jackie Sherrill preferred
heavy linemen to unclog holes for State's running game, Croom would
rather have quicker linemen in his West Coast, pro-style passing
More importantly, Nowell said the Croom era has morphed the
Bulldogs players' attitudes and physiques.
"We've been here almost six months and our guys aren't the same
people that they were back in January," he said. "They've changed
mentally and physically. If you have winning people, that's
hopefully going to translate into winning games, winning bowl games
and winning championships."