Bigger, Stronger, Faster

Bigger, Stronger, Faster

The strength and conditioning coach is as crucial of a hire for an athletic program as there is. In Mark Smith, Southern Miss has found a guy who brings over 20 years of experience to the job, and he is ready to do what it takes to move this program to the next level.

Coach Smith comes to Hattiesburg from his position as assistant strength and conditioning coach at West Virginia. He's also been the head man at South Carolina, Kansas, Florida, and NC State.

He is anxious to get this program up and running again, and so far, it has been a seamless transition.

"Things are going well so far, and I'm just waiting for the kids to get back so we can get started next Monday morning," he said in a morning interview with GoldenEaglePride.com.

"I am just trying to get everything together, get situated here, and make sure all the staff is on the same page. Monday morning, we'll be ready to roll."

For fans that might not know anything about Mark Smith, I asked him to recap how he found his passion in being a strength and conditioning coordinator.

"It started years ago when I played at NC State," he detailed. "I was always a guy who was in the weight room and always was working hard. I had average talent, to be honest with you, but I really worked hard as a player.

"The assistant position came available at NC State, and the Coach asked me if I'd be interested in it. I said sure, I'm always in here working out, so the guy I started working with, William Hicks, who is an excellent strength coach, (currently at Syracuse) was the one who really got me started."

It didn't take long for Coach Smith to get noticed as one of the leaders in his profession.

"I was hired on at Florida with Coach Spurrier for four years, and I leared a ton from those guys," he added. "It just went on from there. I had the opportunity to work at some great Universities and great organizations. I am on my 21st year coming up."

With that amount of experience in hand, what was it about the Southern Miss job that attrachted Coach Smith?

"Well at the present time I was working under Dana Holgerson's staff at West Virginia, and I was the assistant director there," he said. "The strength coach at Oklahoma State contacted me and told me Coach Monken was in the running to get the job at Southern Miss, and if he was hired, would I be interested in being the strength coach?

"I told him, oh yeah, absolutely. So, one thing led to another, and I got the opportunity to come here."

The Golden Eagle program is not one that unfamiliar to Smith, as he went on to explain.

"I've always known about Southern Miss," he said. "Great program. Great tradition. One of my best friends in the business, Tyrone Nix, who played here and was the defensive coordinator here, just talking with him I knew all about the tradition here.

"Just looking at the opportunity to work with Coach Monken, who I think is an offensive genius, was to good to pass up. I think we are going to come in here and do some wonders and surprise some people."

The role of a strength and conditioning coach is much more than just building muscle, stamina, and getting the athletes in shape. In fact, as Coach Smith explained it, he has the chance to impact every facet of a student athlete's life.

"Most people look as strength coaches as the guy who just develops them physically, makes them strong, and gets them in shape," he said. "Obviously, that is what we do, and we are going to push them to do the right thing.

"I am going to preach discipline, and challenge them to be better each day physically."

That's just a part of his role, however.

"The other thing I look at is that I'm not just the strength coach, but I am there for a kid if he has a problem," he said. "I want them to always come and see me, my door is always open.

"I am not only a coach, but I want them to be successful on and off the field. I want them to grow mentally, physically, and to be successful in everything that they do. When they leave Southern Miss, they are going to be productive people.

"Not only is it about what gets done in the weight room, but I want to see them develop as young men. Once they leave, I want to continue that relationship and make sure we stay in contact. I want to be a father figure to them as well."

Shifting gears to his philosopy on a strength and conditioning program, Coach Smith detailed what will be the staples of a Southern Miss program.

"First of all we will be a free weight oriented team," he said. "We are going to lift free weights. We will also include olympic movements.

"Football is a an explosive sport, so you have to train to be explosive. We are going to do the things that will make them more explosive.

"The biggest thing is you'll see a lot of single work for us. Single leg, single arm for isolation purposes."

One thing you won't see, however, is a team that will give out in the 4th quarter.

"I'm a huge conditioning guy," he said. "We are going to run, run, and run some more and we'll be in top physical condition. That will also help us cut down on our injuries as well.

"We are going to work a lot of speed. The speed you'll see from us is lateral speed and quickness. A lot of people get tied up in the straight ahead speed but how many times in a game do you see a guy run 60-70 yards?

"Change of direction, quickness, you see that every play. We are going to focus on that and we're also going to focus on training that lower body. Football is a lower body sport. Yes, you have to be strong on top, but you have to be strong in your core and lower body."

As the Eagles prepare to get started Monday, Coach Smith has several things that he's going to lay out for them as a foundation.

"We try to just get the kids to work as hard as they can," he said. "My model for this winter is going to be hard work and effort. Hard work, and effort.

"You don't have to be a talented guy to give great effort, but I promise you, our guys are going to give the effort. Each and every day, they are going to give their greatest effort.

"If each individual will buy into working hard and giving that effort, then we will be successful as a team."

Coach Smith said the part of his job he loves the most is seeing the hard work for the players pay off on the field. He is rewarded when he sees the blood, sweat, and tears equate into wins for the Golden Eagles.

"The opporutnity to come in every day and see the kids work hard is what motivates me," he said. "Together, to see the guys come in with one goal, to win the championship, seeing them sweat, seeing their bodies change as they get stronger and faster, and put on 15-20 pounds, that is what really motivates me."

He gave two examples of guys that, under his program, made it to the NFL and validated all he and his staff were working toward.

"Jared Cook, who is now the tight end of the Tennessee Titans, and Lemuel Jeanpierre, now with the Seahawks," he said. "I had both of these guys at South Carolina.

"Cook was a receiver about 200 pounds, and when he left from South Carolina as a junior he weighed 245 pounds, was a tight end, and was a 4.5 guy who had a 40 inch vertical leap. Lemuel was a defensive lineman about 245, and then he switched to offense. Now, he's about 300 pounds and is in the NFL and playing well.

"That is what its all about for me. Seeing these guys go through our program, get bigger, stronger, and continue to improve, man that is what it is all about. I'm glad to be here at Southern Miss, and I can't wait to see our players go through those same transformations.

"I'm just ready to get started."

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