Coach: Chad Dennis
Position: Strength and Conditioning Coach
Alma Mater: University of Texas
2000-2002: Westfield High School, Strength and Conditioning
2002-2005: Texas A&M, Strength and Conditioning
2005-2006: Connecticut, Strength and Conditioning
2007-2011: Houston, Strength and Conditioning
2012: Texas A&M, Strength and Conditioning
I think the timeline above is accurate, although I admittedly had a tough time trying to piece this together. Dennis has his undergraduate degree from Texas, where he also played football, and his graduate degree from Texas A&M. Dennis obviously has spent time with Kingsbury at Houston and then last year at Texas A&M.
I have such a difficult time thinking about strength and conditioning and how that relates to injuries on a team, so I won’t go there too much in discussing former S&C coach Joe Walker. I don’t think that he was totally at fault for all of the injuries, that seems too simplistic, but I understand if you do think this way. It just seems that this is one of those spots that is the easiest to blame if something goes wrong. I’m a Dallas area resident and so I see and hear about the Cowboys on a regular basis. There are seven players on injured reserve by the end of the season. This post from Blogging The Boys says there were nine players on IR. The Cowboys supposedly have the best strength and conditioning coach in the business in Mike Woicik. Woicik had worked for a number of years for the Cowboys and then moved on to New England for their incredible run and is now back in Dallas. I didn't see anyone blaming Woicik in the comments from that BTB post and I haven't really heard anyone talking about Woicik despite the huge number of injuries.
This is me trying to wrap my head around who is to blame because I honestly don't know. Was it easy to blame Walker because he wasn't a "known" guy or because he wasn't Bennie Wylie? Is this something that is dependent on the particular fanbase? This program went from having zero injuries reported to having injuries reported each week, so is this a case where because we as fans went from one extreme to another it was too much to consider? We couldn't judge Wylie on injuries because they "never happened", right?
I have a really difficult time figuring out the right amount of blame and/or credit that a strength and conditioning coach should get. I really don't know.
I can't say that I understand the science of strength and conditioning and I can't say that I know what Walker was all about and what Wylie was all about. Most of the time, we can say about a coach, "Well, he believes in X, Y and Z." I can't say that I really know about Walker or Wylie. I have no idea what Wylie preaches, but I'd guess that it is similar to Walker and it will be similar to Dennis. Perhaps it is all in the technique.
It’s also tough to find out what a S&C coach is all about and the only thing that I could find was some stuff from Texas A&M S&C coach, Larry Jackson, who had also spent time at Houston with Sumlin and Kingsbury and they obviously brought Jackson and Dennis with them last year from Houston. There’s also a fairly lengthy interview with Dennis there, but Dennis doesn’t really get all that much into his beliefs as far as a S&C coach other than the thought that these players need to be football players. Jackson spoke a bit about what he wants and I would guess that Jackson and Dennis do a lot of the same things:
When you’re excited and the game is just starting, any team can be good in the first half, but when that adrenaline wears off the training you’ve had must carry you through the second half in order to be successful. He takes pride in not working athletes out, but developing football players. It would be easy to just bring the guys into the weight room and just work out, so in order to be the best they have to develop them as football players and not just weight lifters. That means that he has to break the workouts down and make sure that guys are getting what they need to be successful on the field. When it gets into the third and fourth quarters, he expects his players to outlast the other team. What the players are laying out on the field is a reflection of him. He always tells the players, ‘Don’t embarrass yourself and don’t embarrass your team’. At Houston the third and fourth quarter dominance they had was so important because his guys were so much smaller than the teams they were matching up against and they knew that they had to hang with them as long as possible and then take over once the other team was tired.
So my biggest thing that I took away from Dennis and Jackson interviews are that they want the team to be as strong in the fourth quarter and I don’t think that’s revolutionary. I would think this is the goal of most S&C coaches, to have endurance and to be as strong at the beginning of the game as they are at the end of the game. I think that was the intent with Walker, but I don’t know if it stuck.
I also found this video of Jackson and he talks about how he believes in strengthening the core and having strong hips. I seem to recall Walker talking quite a bit about having a strong core too, but obviously so many things go into that, including the actual exercises and things of that nature.