Nowell signs on as Bulldogs' strength coach
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 physiology department.
Linebacker Clarence McDougal says the bigger staff makes a difference compared to Nowell's predecessor, Mike Grant, and his smaller staff.
"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 offense.
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."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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