Georgia Tech's David Curry addresses the media during the 2019 ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte, N.C., Thursday July 18, 2019. (Photo by Sara D. Davis, the ACC)
Photo: Sara D. Davis/Sara D. Davis, the ACC
Photo: Sara D. Davis/Sara D. Davis, the ACC

Georgia Tech players rave about strength gains, ‘Lew effect’

Lew as in Tech strength-and-conditioning coach Lewis Caralla, and effect as in the transformation that players’ bodies have undergone since coach Geoff Collins hired him from Buffalo in late December.

“There’s a lot of guys that, you take the before-and-after pictures, you’re like, wow, look at what just a few months (can do),” Tech linebacker David Curry said. “They’re already that much bigger and that much more cut.”

The strength staff has tweeted out a handful of those photos. Slot receiver Nathan Cottrell was one model. In “before” pictures taken in January from the front and back, Cottrell is broad shouldered with muscle tone. In the “after” pictures, while aided by him flexing, he shows off the definition of a body builder. His trapezius muscles rise out of his shoulders and his deltoids puff out of his shoulders like grapefruits.

“Once I see those pictures, that’s when I’m like, OK, I’ve made some improvement,” wide receiver Jalen Camp said.

At the ACC Kickoff on Thursday, Tech coach Geoff Collins provided a before-and-after statistic of his team’s physical development that is perhaps more meaningful than a set of photos.

When the team tested in January, there were seven players who could bench press 225 pounds 20 times or more. When the team tested again Monday, there were 32.

“I think we’ve got arguably the greatest strength coach in college football, Lew Caralla, who has been doing a great job,” Collins said.

Camp jumped from 18 reps at 225 to 28, and he has a ripped physique to match. It bears further mention that he already was considered among the stronger players on the team.

Photos of Georgia Tech wide receiver comparing his strength gains made with new strength and conditioning coach Lewis Caralla. The "before" photo was taken in January. (Photos provided by Georgia Tech)
Photos of Georgia Tech wide receiver comparing his strength gains made with new strength and conditioning coach Lewis Caralla. The "before" photo was taken in January. (Photos provided by Georgia Tech)

When the ACC releases the results of its preseason media poll, chances are the Yellow Jackets will be picked to finish at or near the bottom of the Coastal Division. A lack of depth along the offensive and defensive lines and the change in offensive schemes are among primary reasons that not much is expected from Tech in the coming season.

However, the improved strength of the team – while also standing as a testament to the changes that Collins has sought to effect in his first season – could be a factor in the Jackets’ efforts to surpass expectations. The roster may be the same, but the way in which players bring force to the point of attack, fight off blocks and fend off tacklers could well be different.

“It’ll help me in the blocking game, of course, and just kind of catching the ball,” Camp said. “Our hands are a lot stronger. When you catch the ball, you squeeze the ball, it’ll be harder to get it out. It’ll help you in your routes and things of that nature. Once you get tired, still being able to get in and out of your breaks with your legs.”

Curry and Camp both praised Caralla, who in January was named college football strength-and-conditioning coach of the year by the website Football Scoop for his work at Buffalo, for helping them give more effort in the weight room.

“Coach Lew is an unbelievable coach, and we love working out for him,” Curry said.

“Every exercise, you do it until you can’t go anymore,” Camp said, describing what is known as training to failure. “So once you push your body that much, that many times, you’re going to make gains.”

Training to failure is a staple of Caralla’s methods. But it is most effective when the lifter is actually doing so, and not merely giving in. That perhaps is where Caralla has offered his greatest value, keeping players motivated with a high-energy style, mixing up the workouts and trying to keep the environment fun. For a workout just before Independence Day, players wore red, white and blue attire to the weight room, including tight end Tyler Cooksey’s star-spangled brief-cut swim trunks.

The workouts begin as early as 5:30 a.m., “but I don’t dread it,” Curry said. “Nobody on the team is dreading it. The coaches make it fun. Coach Lew is unbelievable in hyping everybody up and making us want to do that, make us want to push past our limits.”

Players have taken inspiration from his energy and passion, Camp said.

“When you see how much somebody cares about you, it’s real easy to kind of give your all for that person,” he said.

The players’ effort also is driven by an environment in which virtually everything is a competition, with individual players recognized as champions of their respective position groups. It follows Collins’ maxim that “competition is king.”

“It doesn’t matter if we’re benching, it doesn’t matter if we’re wall sitting, it doesn’t matter if we’re running our team races – there’s a winner and there’s a loser in everything we do,” said Curry, a frequent position champion at linebacker. “And the more you win, the more points you add up.”

Should the Jackets’ points add up this fall, the Lew effect will have been fully actualized.

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