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Huskers like early results under new strength coach Philipp

Huskers like early results under new strength coach Philipp

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Get up early and bring yourself to the ground to build the first bricks. That's how it's been since winter conditioning began in early January, the true beginning of Mike Riley's first Nebraska football team.

For the first time since junior defensive tackle Maliek Collins has been in the program, players have been doing their power lifts from the floor, under the direction of NU's new football strength coach Mark Philipp.

"They feel like coming from the floor, for any lift, it's more explosive," Collins said. "It's something that kind of directly translates to football, especially with offensive linemen, defensive linemen, who are coming out of stance with powerful movement."

Philipp's methods have been working for Collins. He's gained 8 pounds — now measuring in at 6-foot-2 and 311 pounds — yet gotten faster in his speed and agility testing.

"I made a lot of gains personally," he said.

A lot of guys are quicker and stronger in their testing, according to junior quarterback Tommy Armstrong. "The vibe in the weight room has been incredible."

Senior offensive tackle Alex Lewis has noticed a heavier focus on building lower-body and leg strength.

Junior Nate Gerry said the lifts focus on adding explosion, and the team is clearly running more than in the past.

While this is the time of year when players always talk of being faster and stronger than the year before, there's no denying the strength and conditioning approach at Nebraska has changed under the new staff.

"Last year, we did a lot more power things. This year, we ran a lot more than we did last year. A lot more," Gerry said. "And the type of movements we did in the weight room, we did a lot more mobility, athletic movements, where it can benefit us on the football field. We did a lot more Olympic lifts. One thing we wanted to emphasize this offseason was our mobility."

The early results have been beneficial. Gerry believes the team is in better condition than it was for the bowl game.

The 32-year-old Philipp has maintained a low profile publicly since being chosen by Riley to lead the strength and conditioning efforts.

But inside the program's walls, his enthusiastic nature has been welcomed by players.

"It can be 5:30 in the morning but he comes in like it's 3 in the afternoon; he's ready to go," said junior wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp. "Love this new strength staff."

It falls in line with what Riley said in December. When asked why he chose Philipp for the position, the coach said: "The way he can motivate kids to work, which I think is almost the No. 1 ingredient with that job, he is great with young people."

And while players have seen the benefits from their work in the weight room and in conditioning drills, it's understood why they're eager to take that and apply it to football when spring practice begins Saturday.

"You train six weeks in the winter time and everyone's talking about spring football. Now it's here and now it's time to roll," Lewis said. "Emotions, they're going to be all over the board. But what you can do is look forward to knowing that you get to put that helmet on, buckle up the chinstrap and start hitting again."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.

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