I think Kurt Hester has done a phenomenal job," Holtz said this week. "I started my press conference with that yesterday because I don't think we can minimize the job that he has done with this team in not just their physical training but their mental training as well. He pushed them to the edge this summer and I think a lot of guys really gotten mentally tough."
Defensive coordinator Blake Baker echoed Holtz's statement. "In my opinion - and this isn't just blowing smoke or coach speak," explained Baker, "I think we have one of the best strength coaches, if not the best strength staff, in America. We were just talking about it as a staff in the locker room, on both sides of the ball. If we can put this together in 27 days with the speed we play with - and not everything was perfect - but with the speed and strength of our guys, my hat is off to the strength staff. They did a phenomenal job."
Louisiana Tech turned heads last year, as they went into the season as underdogs. Then they beat a few bowl teams by large margins and now things are a little different. Tech beat ULL 48-20, UTEP 55-3, Western Kentucky 59-10, and Rice 76-31. Some of that is coaching, some of that is recruiting talented players, and some of that is a tribute to the strength staff.
Holtz talked glowingly about his team and his strength staff at his opening press conference. "I have to keep pinching myself to try and bring down the energy level" he admitted. "There is a lot of energy right now. There is a lot of excitement. We had a lot of success last year against bowl teams. With the way Kurt Hester is helping them change their bodies; they feel like they are getting better. They are in the same offense and defense for two years in a row, which is the first time any of them have done that. There are just a lot of things to help build that morale. It is creating a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. We are getting a lot of attention with the amount of players who are being placed on national award watch lists. We got votes pre-season for the first time in a very long time. There is a lot of excitement and energy."
Just like he did at East Carolina, Holtz has transformed his team into a defense-minded and run oriented team, which wins with toughness and athleticism. With so many teams around the country going to the spread offense, Holtz went the opposite way - big linemen and fast athletes flying around - and he showed he can win that way too.
Kenneth Dixon was listed by NFL.com as one of the strongest players in the country. The senior running back squats 615 pounds. His power is obvious when you watch him run.
Kurt Hester came in with tons of experience, both at LSU and in private business, and he really has done a fantastic job with the Bulldogs in a short time. A ton of their confidence comes from Hester and a lot of the credit for their success is going to him too, and rightly so.