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Longo center stage for Irish this summer

One of the best parts of the Notre Dame Fantasy Football Camp was spending time with the new head of Notre Dame’s strength program, Paul Longo. We had around a half-hour with Longo and his two lieutenants, Jacob Flint and Lorenzo Guess, where our small group poked and prodded the three men in charge of transforming the Irish football team into a group that can play in the high-tempo style that Brian Kelly and company plan to play.

Recently, both Bruce Feldman and Pat Forde of ESPN spent time on campus, getting to know the new regime in charge of Notre Dame football. Forde focused his time on Longo, and he put together a nice article on the man who plays the most important role for the Irish this summer.

Here are a few key snippets from Forde:

Watch the short, bespectacled 51-year-old with the salt-and-pepper crew cut work, and one thing stands out: the sound of silence.

The Haggar Fitness Center comes with a state-of-the-art sound system, satellite radio and multiple flat-screen televisions. None of them was on when the Fighting Irish players reported for the first day of summer conditioning earlier this month.

No thumping music. No ESPN. No distractions or artificial stimuli. And no barking by Longo.

This runs counter to the Screaming Wildman strength coach stereotype and to the reputation of the weight room as a den of noisy intensity...

According to the Irish players, Longo doesn’t have to do much to prove himself or sell himself. They know the fourth-quarter stats. They know that he has a direct line to the head coach. And they know that they came up short several times last year in the fourth quarter under Charlie Weis.

“Last year they did their best to prepare us with their philosophy,” sophomore linebacker Manti Te’o said. “Coach Longo has the record to back his up. I don’t want to degrade the other coaches, but it’s more efficient now. It makes sense.”

One of the things I found most fascinating was the simplicity of the workouts. The Irish will spend the majority of their time working on platforms, strengthening their bodies as a whole. While Manti Te’o’s comments probably speak volumes, one of the best tidbits that I heard while at camp was on the continued transformation of Chris Stewart. At 358 pounds, Stewart is the largest player on Notre Dame’s roster. When Longo and his staff came to town, Chris was able to do one pull-up, which is pretty impressive when you consider the weight he’s carrying. Fast-forward six months, and last week Stewart ripped off 20 pull-ups in a row. That’s incredible.

With Longo Beach built and a full slate of strength and conditioning work already being tackled, this will be one of the most important offseasons in recent Notre Dame history. Longo was careful not to give away any trade secrets during our visit to campus, but after a few days it was pretty obvious that he’s got a system and plan in place that’s one of the very best in college football.