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‘We’re trying to make the fastest, most violent team in America’: Strength and Conditioning coach Derek Owings ready to start strong with Indiana football

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Director of Athletic Performance Derek Owings shared his philosophy for improving player performance on Under the Hood with Indiana Football. (Indiana Athletics)

“We’re trying to make the fastest, most violent team in America. Period.” Indiana Football’s new Director of Athletic Performance Derek Owings shared his philosophy for improving player performance during his appearance on the most recent episode of Under the Hood with Indiana Football.

Owings worked with new Indiana football coach Curt Cignetti at James Madison, where he was the Director of Strength & Conditioning for Football from 2020-2023 before following Cignetti to Bloomington.

“For me, everything starts on the field,” Owings said during his appearance on Under the Hood with Indiana football. “What are on the on-field demands per position and we’re going to reverse engineer backwards. Every single position has a specific demand.”

Owings looks at every position differently and builds a plan to improve performance for what each position needs, whether they need speed or strength, he is looking at their position first. He is looking to maximize the performance of every single player on the roster and his approach emphasizes that.

“It’s what works best for that student-athlete,” Owings said. That’s my staff’s job to get the most out of them and make sure they’re ready to go on game day.”

In his first year with the program, Owings emphasized the importance of culture and his goals for setting expectations from the beginning.

“We’re trying to set the foundation, set the standard, build the culture,” Owings said. “We’re going to take things slow, we’re going to make sure we don’t rush the foundation.”

That foundation for Indiana football consists of doing the “little things right all the time.”

“I tell those guys, ‘focus on you, it’s one rep at a time, it’s you versus you and how are you going to maximize yourself daily,” Owings said.

Both Cignetti and Owings recognize the importance of speed and Owings’ approach to player performance development emphasizes that belief, even while they are trying to improve in other areas.

“This time of year the focus is the weight room. We’re trying to add size, strength, robustness, but we’re always going to keep speed in,” Owings explained. “Speed is the fastest thing we lose in training. So Tuesday is always going to be a top-end speed day.”

Owings reiterated that point when expressing the importance of running full speed often while training.

“If you’re not running at least 90 percent … every five to seven days it’s proven in science we’re getting slower,” Owings said. “So if you train slow, you’re gonna play slow. I think that’s what coach Cignetti does a great job of, we practice fast.”

Owings added that this strategy has allowed players to hit personal records for speed later in the season, which helps them improve their performance as the season goes on.

Cignetti has praised Owings in the past and their relationship is a big reason why Owings followed him from James Madison this offseason.

“He’s been phenomenal to work for. The biggest thing that I love about him is he lets me do my job,” Owings said. “There’s a lot of coaches that want to micromanage, they want to have this, they want to have that inside the strength and conditioning department. He always tells me, ‘I hired you for a reason, go out there and do the best job in America’.”

Owings’ attention to detail and shared vision with Cignetti has contributed to both of their success at James Madison which they will try to replicate here with Indiana football.

“For me, our vision is right in line with fast, physical, relentless,” Owings said. “That’s how we train, that’s how we live, we talk about it. Every single day that’s what we’re trying to execute.”

SEE ALSO: New Indiana football QBs Coach Tino Sunseri shared his approach to coaching QBs: ‘Our way is being able to start from scratch each and every year’

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Drew Rosenberg is staff writer for HoosierIllustrated.com and hosts 'The Talkin' Bout the Hoosiers Podcast' covering Indiana University athletics. Drew graduated from Indiana University's Sports Media program in 2024.

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