Jim Radcliffe is intense and meticulous, maybe the most energized, fit 55-year-old on the planet.
Two-point stance, on-point teaching: "Coach Rad" brings intensity and focus to the Ducks training and development. His methods have been crucial in forging Oregon's winning edge. (6magazineonline.com photo)
He's written two books, including the definitive text on plyometrics, the science of building flexibility, power and explosive movement in athletics. He trained 5 athletes for the 2012 Beijing Olympics and has a masters degree in biomechanics from UO.
A Duck strength and conditioning coach for 28 years, he's such an innovator and an authority that when Chip Kelly was named Oregon head coach, one of the first things he did was ask Radcliffe if there was anything he wanted to change about the way Oregon practiced.
Ice baths, Radcliffe said. Get the players in ice baths right after games to speed recovery. Go hard and fast on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, back off on Thursday for recovery, then ramp it up on the Friday run-through, not a slow-paced walk-through the way most teams do. Radcliffe explained the change to John Hunt, then of the Oregonian:
If you’re backing off on Friday, you’re really downloading when you want to be your fastest and quickest and strongest and most explosive. We want to be working back up to our peak on Saturdays.
Every year the Ducks hold a team banquet at the end of the season, and when the seniors speak, they thank their mom and dad, their position coach, and Coach Rad. In fact, former Duck offensive lineman Darrion Weems told David Melo of fishduck.com,
If you ask anybody about who is THE most important person in Oregon Football; they’ll say Jim Radcliffe.
Weems isn't alone. Duck players who've gone on to the NFL are effusive in their praise of the 28-year dean of the Oregon coaching staff. LaMichael James credits him for his strength and flexibility. Nick Reed said Radcliffe's infectious intensity and revolutionary methods got him to the NFL. Punter Josh Bidwell, who played 12 years in the league, with stops at Green Bay, Tampa Bay and Washington, tells the story of how Radcliffe helped him rehab and recover after surgery for testicular cancer. Anthony Newman's face lights up when you ask him about Coach Rad.
Nobody wears red in the Oregon strength and conditioning facility. Radcliffe address athletes by their first names, never nicknames, and insists they come dressed to work in Oregon green, yellow, gray or black. The training room is organized and impeccably clean. A team of seven strength coaches works with players, usually by position, one coach for 5-8 athletes.
Walk-ons or future NFL superstars get the same treatment. Radcliffe believes in participation, enthusiastically demonstrating techniques with a hands-on approach, with tremendous attention to detail and insistence on proper form and movement in every exercise.
It's the emphasis on flexibility and explosive power that sets the Oregon program apart from traditional methods and other schools. Rather than merely teach lay-flat exercises like the bench press, Radcliffe gets athletes moving, rotating, working with power and quickness. He employs a variety of innovative methods to training like running through a sand pit or rotating and exploding with a medicine ball. There's emphasis on balance, variety, and proper nutrition and rest.
The author of dozens of articles on training methods and philosophy, Radcliffe is a respected guest lecturer at clinics and classrooms around the country. In an article he wrote for trainingandconditioning.com entitled "Trench Warriors," he talked about the special challenges of training offensive and defensive linemen:
Players who man the line of scrimmage are a special breed requiring their own unique conditioning approach. At the University of Oregon, that means a year-round regimen focused on explosive power, strength, speed, and agility.
For the players in the trenches, being more powerful means getting out of a stance more quickly, accelerating, forcefully engaging an opponent, and finishing that engagement efficiently. We break our long-term goal of developing explosive power into three components: functional strength, directional speed, and transitional agility.
One major challenge to training our line players is their larger bone structure and greater body fat. Since athletes with leaner body mass tend to improve at a faster rate and with a lower volume of work, planning a schedule of activity, rest, and recovery days must be approached differently than for running backs, defensive backs, and other traditional skill positions. For instance, we have found that linemen adapt better to a two days on/one day off/two days on/weekend off schedule, while skill position groups can handle five consecutive days of work.
In the summer, by NCAA rules, the football coaches aren't permitted to organize or participate in workouts, so Coach Rad and quarterback Marcus Mariota lead the drills and conditioning. He'll have the lineman push his beloved 1966 Chevy truck up hills, or personally lead the entire team in sprints. Near the end of every summer the coach and his staff conduct testing to measure each player's progress, including a "L" run to measure agility, a "speed endurance" test that involves 10 40-yard sprints with 20 seconds of rest in between, and Olympic lifts like the squat, clean and bench to assess their strength gains.
Above all, Radcliffe demands effort and attention. Mark Asper, a four-year starter at guard for Oregon, now with the Jacksonville Jaguars, told Hunt,
He was at every summer workout, he was at every winter workout. He’s the kind of guy you don’t want to let down. He’s got a look, an ‘I’m not angry at you, I’m disappointed in you’ look.
Fans who are concerned that the Ducks might have a let down in intensity with the more laid-back Mark Helfrich in charge are forgetting the incredible influence the 5-7, 150-pound Radcliffe has on the spirit and soul of Oregon football. He builds confidence, instills power and flexibility, and demands excellence and constant improvement.
Player after player will tell you Jim Radcliffe helped them get the most from their athletic ability. For incoming freshman like Thomas Tyner, Torrodney Prevot, Cameron Hunt and Danny Mattingly, the dynamic and charismatic plyometrics expert is the key to getting on the field early and making a successful adjustment to college football. He'll get them ready physically and dramatically increase their chances of staying healthy.
In spite of his enormous contributions to the success of Duck Football, Radcliffe's base salary is just under $100,000 a year, less than half of what position coaches make. Mike Bellotti, Aaron Fentress reported, offered Radcliffe raises numerous times and each time the principled and driven fitness expert insisted they be split among his assistants.
Our football program will endure for years to come because of Coach Radcliffe. I just hope he stays with us. I hope he does not follow Kelly to the pros.
How dare you do an article that's not about practice, a recruit, or the progress of construction.
I have to agree with the others one of the best articles in a long time. Now we all know how puddles can do so many push ups.
BTW...I heard that Chuck Norris was trained by Coach Rad! before that he was Carlos :)
Great read! Oregon football will endure for years to come because of guys like Coach Radcliffe and company. I wonder how many other programs out there might adopt some of UO's ideas. Seems to work well for our system.
Okay guys give him a raise!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! IF he is that important to the team give him a raise!!!!!!!!!!!!
We owe a huge vote of thanks to CK for not only for bringing Oregon to prominence but for not "raiding the cupboard" and taking all the coaches with him, when he left. I believe he has very deep feeling for the Ducks and did whatever he could to see that we would survive after he left. My favorite quote CK ever was at halftime in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl when Holly Rowe said " I saw Kenjon Barner come over and talk to you, what was he saying"? CK's response, "That we love each other."
Great story on Coach Rad. He is definitely an underreported but talking to the players and other coaches, not unsung hero of the Oregon Football program.
Ducks seem to have a lot of injuries than other teams, could it be that this great coach, and he IS a great coach, may be emphasizing too much speed and agility and not enough strength? Just wondering. Or maybe speed causes more injuries. Why all the injuries??
A couple weeks ago while talking about how much stronger a lot of the Ducks looked, we discussed Coach Rad and his ability to get the most out of the players and turn them into dynamic athletes. Dion Jordan didn't always have 3% body fat. He was always an extremely gifted athlete, but with the help from Coach Rad, he turned into a freak. I'm glad you wrote this! Great article about an absolutely essential cog in the Oregon Duck football machine!
This caused me to create an account, after following you for quite a few years. I have wondered what (pixie dusts) might be behind the emergent Ducks capability. This submission is the first "click" in the inquiry I've seen. Interesting, and nice article.
Great article Dale, I have always felt Coach Rad is a huge part of the Ducks success and your article does a great job of bringing that to light. Also loved the video, thanks to Uncle Phil Oregon's facilities are unmatched in college sports. Keep up the great work Dale and good luck with your new writing endeavor!!
I think most people outside of the Duck family really don't understand that one of the most important parts of the Duck machine IS coach Rad. He definitely does things differently than other trainers. I was very concerned Chip was going to make him an offer he couldn't refuse to leave Oregon. Thank God he didn't go.
Great article Dale......... Again
We are blessed to have such a fantastic group of coaches. I beleve they are the difference between the Ducks going to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl and the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas or going to the Rose Bowl Game presented by VIZIO or the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, is the coaching staff. "Rad" is a huge part of that.
Always wanted to know more about this magic man, now I do. Great read, Maybe a part two? An interview? That's the Duck these days, controlling what they can control. And that means everything down to the details. That's how a team with an average top 15 to 25 annual recruiting class (my guesstimate) beats teams with top 10 classes.
Wow, you have certainly outdone yourself on this one. You have answered every question that I have been wondering about for a long time. One of the top pieces I have read in quite a while.
"He'll get them ready physically and dramatically increase their chances of staying healthy." This is, I believe, the number one reason we have a "strength and conditioning" coach. His primary focus, other that beefing up, has got to be preventing injury to the player. I did not realize he works with lady Ducks. I "assumed" (there's that word) he was here just for the football player.
I also was amazed at his willingness to "share" a raise with his staff. It is apparent he garners train loads of respect from his players and staff. How many people would do that? Zero people comes to mind.
Coach Rad is such an amazing gentleman. We are fortunate to have him as a Duck.
Thanks ever so much Dale.
Go Ducks WTD
@Oldduck Coach Rad has the knowledge and credentials to coach anywhere he wants, but he's an Oregon lifer, an institution here who has trained 1000s of athletes and developed a cadre of other trainers steeped in his methods. He's highly likely to retire here, and when he does, they ought to name the weight room after him, put him in the Oregon Hall of Fame and put up a wall-sized mural, statue with a video loop.
@zaneandersson Zane, thank you very much. Coach Radcliffe gave toughness lessons to Chuck Norris.
We try to cover Duck football from as many angles as possible, keep it interesting and entertaining. Coach Rad is an excellent subject and an important part of the Oregon story.
@Edmo1 My sister went to Pacific University. Made all-league in 3 sports there.
@Krsmqn Thank you Krs. Coach Radcliffe and his staff have given the Ducks a powerful model and foundation. Oregon's strength and conditioning guru is widely published and respected in the training world, so his ideas are used all through organized sports at all levels.
@Oldduck Most recent update I can find on assistant coaches' salaries at Oregon is July 2012 by the Oregonian's Aaron Fentress. At that time he reported that Coach Rad had an annual base salary of 98,889.00. The other assistants got raises last summer totaling 460K.
@duckified Kelly did take defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro, nutritionist James Harris, and three members of the support staff. But you're right that he left in place a legacy, a staff and a way of doing business that should sustain the Ducks for several more years. His stamp is deep upon the program in terms of the players he brought here and their uncommon motivation and attitudes.
Kelly had a gift of creating belief and understanding of that the team was doing. Everybody bought in, and they're still buying in today, echoing his principles. It's a tremendous foundation for Helfrich to build on, and Helfrich is intuitive enough to preserve what needs preserving and only tweak where necessary.
The affection between Kelly and his players appeared genuine and deep. As gruff and terse as he could be to outsiders, he was a father figure to his players, commanding an impressive level of love and respect among them.
The core of the Oregon staff, Greatwood, Aliotti, Radcliffe, Pellum, Campbell, have such strong roots at Oregon, all with 20+ years of service. Hard to think CK could have uprooted any of them, particularly since Aliotti and Greatwood had been to the NFL rodeo before.
I WAS surprised Kelly didn't take Scott Frost with him, an NFL player from 1998-2003 who played under Bill Walsh, Tom Osborne and Bill Parcells during his career.
The Eagles are opening training camp this week. Here's a link to the coverage from the Philadephia Inquirer: http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/eagles/Philadelphia_Eagles_training_camp_2013.html
@goducks58 Appreciate it, gd.
@8packabs Impressive abs, by the way. You probably don't injured very often.
@8packabs Not sure if the Ducks have "more injuries" than other teams, but it's certainly a good question to ask. One factor would be that Oregon values speed and agility over size. The Ducks philosophy of "next man up" help them respond to injuries with good success.
@8packabs I dont think that is a fair assessment. I think that most (if not) all of the major injuries are the type that simply cannot be helped. Look at Avery Patterson last year, he's the type of player that is extremely strong, and he goes down with a knee injury. These injuries are a matter of luck. Especially on defense. Because the D is on the field more than any other defense, there are more chances for players to get injured. I don't think it has anything to do with how much or how little strength is emphasized in the weight room. They don't focus only on speed, because olympic lifts like squats and bench and all those don't really improve speed all that much. It's a blanced attack.
@Duckbill DB, With the shape he's in Rad can probably coach effectively into his 70's. He's an athletic marvel, and he still has all his hair (which is overrated, in my opinion.
The mobility and agility he incorporates into linemen training really complements what they do in the spread offense, delivering blows at the second level and on the move.
@Mahunashizzle Thank you Mahuna--it's a tribute to the Coach that this article has over 200 "likes."
@dddupree DD--thanks for your comment. Glad the article clicked with you.
@puddlesforpresident P for P--thank you very much. The facilities ARE dazzling, and The Black Tower, the $42 million football operations center, is nearing completion.
As great as the facilities are, Radcliffe has done more to make Oregon a Top Five program.
@BigDucker BD--Kelly did lure away James Harris, the nutrition specialist and player counselor who played a vital role opposite Radcliffe. Fortunately Rad has roots deep in Oregon; his wife is an instructor in the physical education department.
@duckified Absolutely. Coach Radcliffe is an inspiring man with a remarkable dedication to giving athletes the tools to unlock their potential. In an article called "Sculpting an Athlete" he told Jacob May:
“Coaching is an art. It’s a science and it’s an art,” Radcliffe said. “It’s like a painter. How do you use the brushes and colors to paint a picture? And it’s the same thing for coaching. How do you get the points you need to get across to these athletes? I need to be a good enough coach that even if I was in a wheelchair, I could still coach and get athletes to improve at the same level.”
Like an artist, Radcliffe has to look at everyone and imagine the final product.
“There’s no magic number for each person,” Radcliffe said. “We assess everybody regardless of their sport or position, and from there we try to improve them so that they are a stronger, more physically capable person.”
@rgyle The way the Ducks evaluate prospects and develop their players has made all the difference.
@hoboduck Appreciate it, Hobo. Glad you enjoyed the story. For a glimpse inside Oregon training and facilities and a personal testimony by LaMichael James, check out this video:
The biggest injury concern in college football right now is concussions. Concern over head trauma may dramatically change or even antiquate the sport.
@Dale Newton @hoboduck Great video, best I've seen on the Casanova facilities. And what can I say about LMJ. I miss him. Lived alone after his grandma died and took care of himself his senior year in HS. Think about that. One strong young man. And what a great tour guide! He's a pro.
Looking forward to a similar vid on the new Ops center.
@Olmec_Ed Football stories are legend of players in a concussive fog after "getting their bell rung" and not being able to remember plays or what day it was and finishing the game.
Medical science now knows the serious consequences associated with concussions, even frightening long-term consequences of brain injury, and the safety of football itself is under serious discussion. The tragic deaths of Doug Duerson and Junior Seau brought it under sharper focus.
I've set aside Sundays for more serious "Outside the Lines" type pieces, and one day soon we'll tackle that issue in more detail.
Thanks for commenting Ed. I appreciate everyone for reading this blog and taking such an interest in it.
"The biggest injury concern in college football right now is concussions. Concern over head trauma may dramatically change or even antiquate the sport."
I agree. Back in the old days, concussions were never a problem.
Thanks for the Blount clip. One would almost think this kind of play is normal. This raises an interesting statistical question . .
How often does all of the following occur in a football game at least once. A player gets tackled, thrown on his back, yet does not hit the ground, and gets up and run for at least 8 yards.
Of course, I have no idea. But if it occurs once every hundred games, then what are the chances that you would be able to pick three random games from the past where this occured in each game? The chance odds are 1 in 1 million (100 x 100 x 100)
The Dyer run was arguably the most consequential play in Oregon football history, in that it may very well have cost us a national championship. And it was a freak play that meets all of these conditions.
Funny thing, how that also happened in the only two other times we played in the Fiesta Bowl. Just sayin'.
The Dyer play: No matter how good you are, you cannot beat dumb luck, or...
Three Fiesta Bowl appearances, each with a play where a player was tackled, thrown onto his back, yet managed to somehow not touch the ground, then get up and bust out for a gain of at least 8 yards (Morris, Dyer, Barner).
@Olmec_Ed @Dale Newton @secisSOFTfootball @SonomaDuck @hoboduck It was a great comeback. The two-point conversion to tie, Casey Matthews punching out the fumble, the loss pass to Maehl in the third quarter, amazing moments, amazing plays, and a lot of heart.
Love to see the Ducks return to an NC with Marcus Mariota operating the offense at full throttle and a full complement of weapons. Might turn out differently.
And I was at the game... and Oregon was the better team. Sorry, it's a fact. LSU and Ohio State were undoubtedly better. Not Auburn. The wrong confetti fell and the trophy is - without a doubt - in the wrong location right this moment. No calls went Oregon's way, and this ain't acting bitter. This is a sham we're all witnessing and we all sort of know it.
Credit is only due where it's logically due. Something stinks and anyone at that game knew it.
That's a strong statement, and a welcome contribution to this discussion.
Fact is, Auburn won, and the trophy is in their field house. We can dissect and speculate, point to errors in officiating or lost opportunities, but I was sitting in the section 123, row 25, seat 21. The field goal was good, and the confetti was Auburn blue, white and orange.