Georgia Tech players give their approval to new strength coach A.J. Artis



In the words of Georgia Tech quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke, Tech strength-and-conditioning coach A.J. Artis came highly recommended to coach Brent Key, both from himself and numerous others.

Guard Jordan Williams had another review.

“That junk is crazy,” Williams said Friday, following the team’s third practice of the spring.

That was meant as approval. Williams went on to call Artis consistent in ensuring that players are going through the same workouts as their teammates and that everyone is giving full effort.

“I’m going to have to shout out coach A.J. because that really changed the mentality of the team,” Williams said. “Toughened everybody up, got everybody pushing past their limits when they’re dead tired. I’m going to have to give my props to him.”

It is one of the enduring phenomena of football – the new strength coach is doing wonders. Yellow Jackets players raved about Artis’ predecessor, Lewis Caralla. It certainly can be possible that both are effective in their craft, and Artis received his plaudits Friday from Williams and running back Dontae Smith.

Artis was hired by Key in December after he dismissed Caralla, who came to Tech with former coach Geoff Collins. (Caralla now is the head strength-and-conditioning coach at Charlotte.) Given how much time they spend with the team and the influence they can have, strength coaches often are culture-setters in college football, and in Artis, Key has his own.

“I think that position sometimes is overlooked,” Weinke said. “Maybe the most important staff member in an organization because of how much he’s with those players.”

Artis came to Tech from his position as the director of football strength and conditioning at South Florida. He was recommended to Key – highly recommended, even – by Weinke, who had worked with him at Tennessee from 2018-20. Weinke was running backs coach and then quarterbacks coach while Artis first was the No. 2 person in the weight room before ascending to the top spot in 2020.

Weinke called him young (Artis is 29), energetic and smart. Married with two children, Artis played college football at Campbell, earned a master’s degree in exercise science from Appalachian State and worked at Duke before he was hired at Tennessee.

“I think A.J., our strength coach, and his staff have done an outstanding job of setting that mentality in the weight room, which has carried over not only in our meetings, but into practice,” Weinke said.

To Smith, Artis and his staff of four are vocal and get players cranked up. Smith said that he liked that they explain the rationale for workouts and the speed and explosiveness training that they incorporate.

Smith also was high on technology that has been implemented that measures the speed at which the weightlifting bars are being raised and lowered on repetitions.

“So week in, week out, you can see how fast you’re moving the bar so you know if you’re getting stronger or you know if you need to bump it up or something,” Smith said. “Week by week, you can tell you’re getting stronger doing the same weight over and over.”

“He brought technology with him; I think the kids see it,” Weinke said. “We’re seeing the results, so that’s a huge bonus for our program.”

Smith commended Artis and the staff for helping running backs Jamie Felix and Antonio Martin drop weight.

“They had a little bit of weight on ‘em,” Smith said. “So we got coach A.J. and his strength staff to come in, and those boys dropped weight. Jamie dropped a lot of weight and got faster. So when you see that, we just see that growth from (Felix and Martin).”

Another plus for Smith. Artis and his staff (Byron Jerideau, Jordan Diaz, Tyler Smith and Sean Boyle; all but Boyle are new) all played college football.

“So you can talk to them about strength and conditioning or you can talk ball with them,” Smith said. “So that’s always a blessing. They’re cool. They’re cool people, and they’re real direct, too. I appreciate them.”

Credit: Georgia Tech

Credit: Georgia Tech