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Husker strength coach Duval talks combining science and 'art of sport' in radio interview
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Husker strength coach Duval talks combining science and 'art of sport' in radio interview


Zach Duval likens the work done in his strength and conditioning program to souping up — or, in some cases, totally rebuilding — a car.

In a Friday interview on 1620 AM’s Sharp and Benning in the Morning, the new Nebraska strength coach provided extensive insight into how he and his staff go about figuring out where the body work needs to be done.

Duval told the Omaha show that NU brought in Dave Ellis, a former strength coach at NU and Wisconsin who now runs a sports consulting company called Sports Alliance, to help with the baseline analysis of the roster.

“He’s looking at 18 key different measurements — circumferences, depths, the whole nine yards — and … we always use the car analogy, so what type of an engine can this frame carry to move fastest? Because speed kills,” Duval said. “The cool thing about the human body is our engines are our muscles, it’s not our skeletal system. For us, we can change or overhaul the engine very rapidly via the (metabolic) circuit, via XYZ things we do that I’m not going to give away. We can add muscle on.

“Now, the key is, where does it go? Does it need to be upstairs? Does it need to be downstairs? Front side? Back side? Where does this lean muscle mass need to go in order for this guy to be really, really, really fast or quick or have a really powerful first step. Dave gives us all that data and there’s no one better at it, period.”

That conversation was in response to a question about Lincoln East graduate and NU redshirt freshman Chris Walker (6-foot-8, 275 pounds), who is reportedly moving from offensive line to defensive line. The metrics can help with such decisions before position coaches and head coach Scott Frost make a final decision with the player.

“He cannot hold the mass you’re talking about on the O-line unless we start giving him massive amounts of fat allowance. Fat doesn’t speed you up and it’s harder to slow down, right? It’s not an engine, it’s just adding mass to the car, which your engine has to work harder to move,” Duval said. “That’s Chris in a nutshell.”

Now two months of winter conditioning are in the books and spring practice is off and running. Duval’s worked at several schools since his days as an intern and assistant on the strength staff here, and said he’s developed something of a feel for how new groups are taking to his system.

“When I was at Nebraska (before), I really learned the science part and it was kind of void of art,” he said. “When I left here, I got challenged to, ‘Hey, kind of use your gut a little bit. Use the art of sport.’ For me, I’ve been through so many Year No. 1s that I have a kind of have a gut feeling of where it needs to be. My gut feeling (here) is pretty good. The guys are buying in, they’re listening and they’re doing it with more intent. There’s purpose behind their actions. From that standpoint, I would say it’s successful.”

A couple of other highlights from the interview, which is well worth a full listen:

* Duval, perhaps surprisingly, is not a morning guy.

“I hate getting up in the morning, actually, that’s something that a lot of people don’t know about me. I absolutely hate it. I have to have at least a Rockstar and a half before I get to work, otherwise I’m not working very well.”

* East Mississippi Community College transfer wide receiver Mike Williams deserves all of the credit for jumping from 160 pounds to 171 in four weeks in winter conditioning.

“That’s all Mike Williams. Mike comes with a tremendous attitude. All he knows is intensity. He’s a kid that you really can’t take any credit for that. He gets 100 percent of the credit for that. You’re just pointing him in the right direction and giving him some encouragement, but along the way, he’s the one that’s digging his heels in and going harder and harder and harder. … Ten pounds on him will only speed that dude up, and he’s already fast. Pretty cool. Him and Tyjon Lindsey, actually.”

* There’s no difference between training mentally and training physically.

“They’re one in the same. If the body ever controls the mind, you have a problem. It's always a mental issue. It’s never, ‘I’m not big enough, I’m not fast enough, I’m not strong enough.’ It’s always a mental issue. Where does the mental come from? It comes from the spiritual. You tackle all of those pillars of success all at once, all the time. You teach the kids to allow the mind to tell the body, ‘Hey, shut up, we’re not done here. We’ve got overtime. Get back to work.’”

Contact the writer at or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.


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Sports writer

Parker joined the Journal Star as the University of Nebraska football beat writer in August 2017. He previously covered Montana State athletics for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 2012.

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