When former Alabama strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran was announced to be leaving the Crimson Tide and heading to Athens to join the Georgia Bulldogs, many fans wondered if his absence signaled the end to Alabama football as they knew it.
It certainly did, but not in the way that anyone really expected.
Alabama senior running back Najee Harris took the time to give Cochran a quick shout-out during his time with the media on Wednesday.
“Yeah, so obviously coach Coch left us to go to Georgia,” Harris said. “It was his time, I guess. Shout out to coach Coch who was a great mentor to me for the years that he been here mentoring me.”
Soon after Cochran’s departure, Alabama announced the hiring of David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea, with Ballou serving as the Crimson Tide’s director of sports performance and Rhea as the director of sports science.
Combining the duo with the new a brand-new Sports Science Center located at the Mal M. Moore Athletic Facility, the Crimson Tide sought to reduce injuries and improve recovery time among its athletes, all while conducting more refined strength and conditioning practices tailor-made to suit each athlete’s needs.
The results have been nothing short of outstanding.
Immediately after giving Cochran a shout-out, Harris took the time to credit both Ballou and Rhea on their work with the team this season.
“[…] We got Dr. Rhea and Coach Ballou, and they came in here and they've brought different things that they had with the program that was out,” Harris said. “Like you said, the velocity things, measuring how explosive you are, different type of workouts to complement the athlete that needed to get worked on that specific thing.”
Harris then went on to detail what Ballou and Rhea worked with him specifically to better himself heading into the 2020 season.
“For me it was a lot of speed and explosiveness, agility, I guess you could say,” Harris said. “I work with Dr. Rhea on tat a lot still to this day. He helped me out a lot, though, like I say, still to this day. He has a workout specifically for that athlete, and that's what you need, because not all athletes are the same.
“So you need a program that will help that athlete in what he needs to improve on, and that's what they do a good job of finding out. They know all their players, so they know, okay, this person needs this, this person needs that. So that helped out all of us really this whole off-season.”
Heading into the 2020 season, the Crimson Tide had zero major injuries heading into the season — far different than in years past, where it almost seemed like an annual tradition for a key Alabama player to go down just days before the start of the season.
On top of that, few major injuries occurred throughout the course of the regular season, barring the season-ending injuries suffered by Jaylen Waddle (who might return on Monday, but that is still to be determined) and center Landon Dickerson. However, both of those injuries suffered were not due to poor conditioning and, unfortunate as it sounds, would have likely happened anyways given the nature of how the injuries occurred.
Ballou and Rhea have turned Alabama into a college sports science powerhouse in under a year. Combining the new Sports Science Center with the nutritional facility that opened back in 2018, and the duo are set for success at the program for years to come.
Reducing injuries is always a priority among college athletics, but adding individual workout regimens and other means to benefit each individual athlete adds a whole new level to athletic performance.
Harris remarked on the impact that Ballou and Rhea had on the team in this season as well as what they might have on the future.
“So being no spring practices we didn't really get to see their whole program, but the little stuff they had, it helped us out a lot,” Harris said. “So I'm excited for what they have next year for other guys to see what else they have to provide to better the athlete.”