By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor
Brian Johnson agreed to become the Cal head football athletic performance coach in January. Johnson has spent the previous 11 seasons on strength and conditioning staffs at FBS schools and in the NFL. Most recently, he served as director of strength and conditioning at Arizona (2018-20), where he heavily implemented sports science while also working as a liaison between the football program and the Center for Innovation in Brain Science.
Johnson and his staff don’t have set testing days on the calendar. Instead, he tries to keep the players peaking at all times.
“I’m not huge on saying, ‘Circle this date for a one-rep max.’,” Johnson said. “I take the approach that if you stay ready, you never have to get ready.”
Johnson tests players using force plates, jump mats and GPS wearables to determine their readiness for exerting themselves in the weight room or on the field.
“If they’re feeling good and want to hit a PR after practice, they know they can come in and do that,” Johnson said. “We know we’re preparing them to play every Saturday. We don’t want them to be good for one day. For us to be successful, we need to be good 12 days. We need to peak all of those days.”
The two speed tests that Johnson prefers are 15- to 20-yard acceleration sprints and 30- to 40-yard measures of max velocity.
“In high school, those skill kids should probably be running track,” Johnson said. “At the high school level, they should be exposed to all kinds of stimulus. Soft tissue injuries happen when the body shuts down because it hasn’t been exposed to that level of exertion. Limit the time you spend pushing the athletes, and don’t just take pride in kids crawling off the field on the field day of practice.”