OFD Strength: The Combine Primer Pt. 2: The Speed Tests / Getting to meet Paul Longo.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports


OFD’s Resident Strength Coach, Jason Chrapek provides insights on the drills and tests that each potential NFL’er participates in at the NFL Scouting Combine

NFL Scouting Combine 2014

February 22-25, 2014

Lucas Oil Stadium. Indianapolis, Indiana

Combine workout schedule:

" Saturday, Feb. 22: Tight ends, offensive linemen, special teams

" Sunday, Feb. 23: Quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers

" Monday, Feb. 24: Defensive linemen, linebackers

" Tuesday, Feb. 25: Defensive backs

In Part 1 we looked at the strength tests that the 335 NFL prospects will be subjected to including the Bench Press (Upper Body Strength-Endurance), Vertical Jump, and Broad Jump (Lower Body Explosiveness). In today’s Part 2 we will look at the all-important speed tests. Speed, acceleration and agility are crucial to the success of every single play In a game of football. I'll talk some about my experience meeting and learning from Coach Longo this past weekend.

There is a saying that "speed is something you just can’t teach. Either you have it or you don’t." I can’t say that I completely disagree with this statement. A good Strength and Speed Development Coach can make a player faster, but will they turn a slow guy into a fast guy? Probably not. BUT, they can teach the athlete how to move, how to drive their legs and accelerate out of the blocks/their stance, how to restrict wasted movement, and how to minimize turn-time in multi-directional movements. They can also help build explosiveness throughout the entire body and help shed excess body fat, all of which will contribute to improved speed.

First up, the marquee event of the NFL Scouting Combine, THE FORTY!

40 yard dash


This test is about as simple as it gets. Get from point A to Point B as fast as you can. The 40 yard dash is measured electronically and starts upon the first movement on the athlete. Sprint times are measured at 10, 20 and 40 yards from the start. Scouts are looking for explosion from a static start and rapid acceleration. Though everyone focuses on the 40 times, some scouts will pay more attention to either the 10 or 20 yard interval depending on position. While you hear some pencil-necked talking head on tWWL or a twig-fingered goober at the office complaining about "how pointless it is for lineman to run forty yards," remember that a tenth of a second difference in a 10 yard interval could mean the difference between an OL getting to the second level and locking onto a linebacker to spring a long rushing touchdown and a 3-yard gain.

Combine Record (official time): Chris Johnson (East Carolina) 4.24 seconds.

20 yard shuttle


The 20 yard shuttle is a test of lateral quickness and agility. Also known as the 5-10-5 drill, this tests how well an athlete can accelerate, stop, turn their hips, and reaccelerate. They key is body control in and out of the stops. After each turn, the athlete is accelerating, and before he can reach max speed, he must decelerate, turn, and reaccelerate. This, of course, tests the speed of change-of-direction of the athlete as well. Proper stop-step placement at each cone is essential to having a good time. This is a very key test when looking at linebackers who travel more laterally than straight ahead.

Combine Record: Jason Allen (2006, Tennessee). 3.81 Drafted in first round with the 16th pick by the Miami Dolphins (Was considered a 3-4th rounder before impressing scouts at the combine).

Here is a video for comparison. This is ND’s own Mike Richardson performing the drill at 3.97 seconds - 3.97 20-yard shuttle!! (via joedefranco)

3-cone drill


Note: this picture from the NFL is mirrored. The athlete will turn right around the middle cone, not left.

This drill, sometimes called the L-drill, tests much of the same things that the 20 yard shuttle tests. This tests the athletes ability to accelerate WHILE turning corners and/or changing directions. NFL scouts look both the quantitative result (time) and qualitative results (body mechanics/control). This is a big test especially for positions such as a rush defensive end. Cones are five yards and in a 90 degree angle.

Combine Record: Jeff Maehl (WR, Oregon 2011) 6.42 seconds.

Could not find a video of Jeff but here is a great one explaining the drill.

Velocity NFL Combine Training: Mastering the Three-Cone Drill (via STACKVids)

60 Yard Shuttle (NFL’s pretty diagram was way off. Get it together, Roger!) So here is a better one that I found.


60-yard shuttle is similar to the 20-yard shuttle but with longer distances. It tests a player's speed, agility, coordination and conditioning. Run 5 yards, run back, then 10, then 15.

Combine Record: Arman Shields (Richmond, 2008) 10.87sec. Drafted in 4th round by the Oakland Raiders

*ND Alum David Bruton has the third best time in Combine history.*

Here is a video of the drill

So there you have it folks. The NFL Combine tests that seek to find the best athletes. With any one of these tests, you will find a high level of scrutiny. There are always examples of HOF caliber players who had a slow 40, or super fast 40 times turning out to be a bust in the NFL. In Part 3 we will take a look at statistical data from a scientific study correlating NFL Combine results to NFL productivity/success.

In the world of research, there are two main types; Basic and Applied research. Basic research is done in an extremely controlled, laboratory setting in which the tester has maximum control of all possible confounding variables. NFL combine testing is in a VERY controlled, standardized setting. The idea is to measure all prospects under the same measurement criteria, using the same measurement methods, and in the same environment. Applied research involved studies done in real-life, real-environment situations. Though there are more accurate to the real-life conditions, there is a high level of measurement error due to inconsistencies in testing protocols and environments. The results from the draft give NFL personnel comparable measurables to decide which player they will look to draft in May’s NFL Draft. Each coach/GM/Executive looks at these results differently. Some put a lot of stock into the numbers and some don’t. In most cases, the numbers tell them what they already know. The numbers can also raise red flags, or cause the coaches to take another look at the game film to reassess a player that showed great athleticism at the Combine.

I had a great opportunity to attend a Strength and Conditioning Clinic put on by Hammer Strength this past Saturday. 8 hours of very highly respected strength coaches dropping knowledge bombs onto my brain-matter. I had the chance to listen to and learn from several strength and conditioning coaches including the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach from the University of Minnesota, Eric Klein. I really enjoyed listening to his speed development of front seven players (offensive and defensive lineman and linebackers). He mentioned that they know Minnesota is going to be outmatched personnel-wise so they try to maximize their own niche of being faster. I also got to listen to the S&C Coach from Noblesville (IN) High School (the site where it was held) and he was a very high energy guy. The Bears Strength Coach, Mike Clark, also spoke and did demonstrations. He has been in the business for over 30 years so he has a wealth of knowledge.

Then of course, I got to meet Coach Paul Longo of The University of Notre Dame. He did not go into much (any) detail about their programming as far as how he and his staff develop athletes but he did talk about HOW he coaches. I also got to talk a little bit with Assistant Director of S&C for Football, Jacob Flint. He is a national level Olympic Lifter at the 85kg weight class. Watching him demonstrate some lifts was amazing. I've never seen someone hoist heavy weight from the ground to overhead that quickly.

Coach Longo played this video in his presentation and I had to resist launching the table I was sitting at and ripping out some power cleans.

ND Strength and Conditioning (via insidendfootball)

Coach Longo’s coaching philosophy is right in line with what I try and do with my own clients/athletes. "I’m not a yelling, screaming, mad man. I don't even have the music in the weightroom very loud... Coaching is about taking your athletes farther than where they can go by themselves." He also had a great quote on why he is not the typical drill sergeant type. He said that "athletes are not gonna run far on MY gas. Of course, many times I have to get some energy into them but It’s important to get them to understand WHY they are doing this and then develop leaders."

Though he didn't speak on his programming very much, he made it point that he keeps the training simple, fast, progressive, and ground based. "Football, really any type of athletics, is about force into the ground. And you can’t have force without strength. So we do the majority of our training standing up, and putting a whole lot of force into the ground."

He talked about RESULTS. Since 2005, Notre Dame is 71-4 when leading going into the 4th Quarter. His job is to condition athletes to be able to put force production into the ground time after time after time. (He also made a comment about having to "wait for the damn NBC commercials" that made me audibly laugh). Since 2007, Notre Dame is 22-2 (I believe it’s actually 22-3 but I think the point was made regardless).

He put it plain and simple that it is the job of the S&C coaches to make their players better. He said, "There are two ways to win football games. 1) Recruit better players. 2) Make your average players better. If your average players are better than the other teams average players, you are going to win 80% of the time." His job, just like any other coach, is judged by wins and losses. Results.

To relate what he talked about in his presentation, he measures the results of his program using the drills tested in the NFL combine. Strength and Conditioning is one small piece of the whole puzzle of the development of a championship football team. For NFL Scouts, they are just trying to clear up that one piece as best they can. Then between combine results, interviews, game film, team dynamics, positional needs, positional tendencies based on the team’s personal offensive or defensive philosophy, and psychological/intelligence tests, they try to make the best selection of the players available to build what they hope to be, THEIR championship level team.

I hope you all enjoyed reading this information about the NFL Combine and athletic performance testing. I have a very busy week coming up so the gang here at OFD will be looking at the nine players from ND heading into the draft. I will of course be adding my 2 cents TREE-FIDDY in the comments section. Sometime next week I will be looking at the statistical correlation of combine results and NFL success among QBs, RBs, and WRs (I found a research article in the Journal of S&C so someone else has done all the grunt work for me). And also dissecting the age old question, "Is the SEC really that much faster than everyone else?"

Thanks for reading ladies and gents, be sure to comment or ask questions in the comment section.

Notre Dame Football Strength and Conditioning (via awasiele)

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