As soon as Frank came onboard, I was mad that I wasn’t playing any more because I’ve been begging for this my entire career. Training is my profession now. I’ve studied up on techniques and theory and kept up with all the new science, and I feel Frank and I have the same philosophy of training. —Jordan Pendleton, on Frank Wintrich
It’s been six long months since Bronco Mendenhall escorted BYU’s football team off the field at the Miami Beach Bowl, defeated and in a nasty brawl.
This week he will trot out his staff and players for their annual media day as an independent program, one of the earliest peeks at college football in the country. What are the big story lines? Three rise to the top, the return of quarterback Taysom Hill, Mendenhall’s challenge of rebuilding his defense, and the offseason conditioning led by new hire Frank Wintrich, director of football performance.
It may be the work of Wintrich that has the greatest immediate impact since Miami, say both current and former players.
One of the true believers is former linebacker Jordan Pendleton, who now owns Pendleton Performance, a licensed strength and conditioning personal coach business. Pendleton was a workout freak in his own right, lifting and running impressive numbers before injuries and surgeries ended his playing days.
Pendleton, whose brother-in-law is NFL/CFL receiver Austin Collie, makes a bold claim. He says BYU's hiring of Wintrich is the biggest development in BYU football in decades.
I met with Wintrich Friday. I’ll break down his thoughts in coming days. For today, Pendleton shares some strong thoughts on the hire from North Texas.
“As soon as Frank came onboard, I was mad that I wasn’t playing any more because I’ve been begging for this my entire career. Training is my profession now. I’ve studied up on techniques and theory and kept up with all the new science, and I feel Frank and I have the same philosophy of training.
“His belief in not doing Olympic lifts — not saying Olympic lifts are bad because they have their place in training — but taking that away and going towards more functional, explosive training and speed work is what I teach and believe works.
“Having him come onboard is one of the biggest hires and changes in 20 years in my opinion. I think we’ve been outdated for a while.”
Pendleton credits Mendenhall for opening his mind and accepting what Frank does. “Frank still has to show data, show lower injury percentages, but once he does — and I believe it will happen — it will be evident and clear.”
Pendleton said it was a courageous and innovative move for Mendenhall to make, that he would trust Wintrich to change and rearrange the entire conditioning staff as well as change almost everything in that training area of the football program. “People need to credit Mendenhall for the change,” he said.
“I love coach Wintrich,” defensive end Bronson Kaufusi said Friday after a spirited workout. “He’s brought in new things, everyone has bought into what he’s teaching and are excited about the workouts. It’s all about speed and power, and we love what’s going on.”
Another linebacker, Fred Warner, echoed the sentiment. “I think his program is great for our team. We’ve been going fast and hard for the last couple of months now. The program he’s instilled is to not just get us faster and stronger but to avoid injuries, which was a big issue for us last year. As a person I love his intensity and love for the game. He comes to work fired up every day ready to get into it. He comes into the meeting room with a loud voice and intensity and is juiced up. He makes sure we get the message.”
Pendleton gives a little wiggle room to his enthusiasm, but not much.
“I’ve been around to a lot of places to see all kinds of training,” said Pendleton. "There’s no perfect training method, not with Frank and not with what I do, but this is headed in the right direction. I’m excited about it.”
Pendleton said results of Wintrich’s work won’t take a year, a season or even months to see. There is already proof of short-term impact.
Taking Wintrich’s shared philosophy, Pendleton points to results he had with BYU’s graduated safety Skye Povey. Although BYU’s leading tackler last year, Pendleton said many considered him slow and not athletic enough, he didn’t close fast enough in coverage. But in three months with Pendelton, Povey tested in the 99th percentile in the SPARQ rating for NFL pro days for college athletes and had the fastest shuttle run and three cone drill times in the nation.
“He also had the best vertical jump of anybody at BYU’s pro day, and that included very athletic receivers Ross Apo and Jordan Leslie.”
Pendleton admits Wintrich is unable to put in the personal focus on 100 BYU roster athletes that he did individually with Povey. “I had only six or seven guys to train for pro day, Wintrich has a whole team.” But, he says, the theory and science is the same.
But Pendleton does not waver in his prediction that Wintrich will get results immediately for the Cougars. He is certain BYU’s change of direction in training methods during the winter and summer of 2015 will bring big dividends in games.
“You will see it on the field, you will see it in performances and you will see it in fewer injuries this season. There is no doubt in my mind,” said Pendleton.
With Mendenhall’s September schedule, he’ll need all the help he can find.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at [email protected].