FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Standing between the columns of a Smith Machine with a blue resistance band tied on each side, Qadree Ollison waited. The Atlanta Falcons backup running back had one goal: Push the band up with the front of his quads in rapid motion.
When his trainer, Kyle Meadows, yelled "drop!" Ollison paused -- mid-movement -- before starting again in quick repetitions for 10 seconds, part of Meadows' training plan inside the Fusion ATL gym.
This was their first year together after former Falcons receiver Mohamed Sanu, one of Ollison's mentors, recommended Meadows' work. In their first meeting, Meadows realized what he needed to do: Ollison had to relearn how to run.
"A lot of mechanical and technical kind of things," Ollison said. "That's the type of stuff that really helps."
When Ollison, 24, showed up for his first session with Meadows, it did not go well. But Ollison, who ran for 2,859 yards in college at Pittsburgh, was a willing student. Meadows is a tough trainer with a proven record of success from clients such as Sanu and Giants receiver Darius Slayton.
A former athlete -- Meadows was part of the United States bobsled team --he transitioned into biomechanics. Meadows consults for the equipment manufacturer of the treadmills he uses in training.
When he got Ollison on a flat treadmill, what Meadows saw "was gross." Ollison's foot came all the way to his butt. He lost acceleration and power.
"You've seen the movie ‘Men In Black,' when they took the mind eraser and they purged every thought that was in the brain?" Meadows said. "That's what I had to do to Q. I had to break him down and get rid of all that misinformation and build him back up.
"But Q was a good pupil."
Ollison's natural gait made it a longer process, as did his size at 6-foot-1, 232 pounds. The power and athleticism were there. But Meadows needed to fix Ollison's first four steps, how he accelerated. That, Meadows said, is most important for a running back, where plays are short and reaching top speed is rare.
Meadows helped Ollison create "low heel track" -- or low heel trajectory. Instead of his heel coming up to his butt, he wanted it to stay closer to the ground, similar to how sprinters come off blocks. Meadows didn't want toe drag -- that's too low and limiting. He wants Ollison's feet kept low so they return to the ground faster and create more force.
It created more power, explosiveness and speed in three seconds or less.
"Applying force horizontally as opposed to vertically and that's what the biggest change was," Meadows said. "I'm teaching Q negative acceleration and how to apply force in a greater angle, a greater leaning forward angle so now we're running forward instead of running up and down and that takes strength to do that.
"So not only now am I putting him in a situation to force him to do what I want, I'm also increasing his strength at the same time."
Every suggestion Meadows made came from quantitative analysis. He had Ollison train on a curved treadmill which measured watts produced and mph against resistance.
He did this while also working with Ollison on the basics of his start, from foot placement to how high his legs should go. The rest of Meadows' pupils -- Sanu, Slayton and Kenyan Drake among them -- experienced similar versions of what Ollison was attempting and offered advice.
Meadows also used film to explain the approach, having Ollison watch world-class sprinters Justin Gatlin and Marvin Bracy. In doing this, Ollison could see what he was being asked to do and how it could happen.
"Just trying to run like them, you know," Ollison said. "I'm not fast enough to be in the Olympics, but if I can get the mechanics like them, the lean and the explosion and the 45-degree angle in the shin and all of those type of things, those are all different types of mechanics as far as running."
Meadows taught Ollison about angular velocity -- how fast the rate of an angle changes -- and how it correlates to running. He changed the positioning of his feet and toes to create dorsiflexion (bending his toes toward his shin) and have his foot act as a spring. How this created more power, making him more difficult to tackle when a defender inevitably made contact.
Ollison learned a different way to create deceleration, which assists with separation as a runner and a receiver. It all works in concert to alter how Ollison runs, along with their main work on his starts and transitioning to upright running.
Meadows stayed on him. If Ollison's hands weren't in the right place on his stride, he'd let him know. If the shins were off, Ollison heard about it. This went on, two hours a day, for months.
"Everything matters," Meadows said. "This is the first time Q has ever worked in a system where it was so specific and the coach was so anal about it. That's why all my guys excel and that's why we're able to move the needle and that's why we're able to move the needle measurably."
On April 23, almost two months after his first workout with Meadows, Ollison showed true improvement. He kept his foot low, separating and driving. Meadows had him first bound with a bungee cord attached to his waist. Then he had him run with the bungee cord. Then he released the cord and had Ollison run on his own.
His running style had changed. So had his power.
In February, when Ollison started, he created 1,235 watts on the curved treadmill. Before minicamp, he was up to 1,592. His mph against 100 pounds of resistance -- something Meadows does to mimic potential fatigue throughout a game -- also jumped dramatically. When he started, it was 9.2. By minicamp, it was 12.8.
"Heaven forbid the guy who tries to take him on head on," Meadows said. "He can now stick that foot in the ground and deliver force in the correct manner."
Desmond Kitchings hadn't worked with Ollison before. Atlanta's running backs coach, Kitchings had seen Ollison in clips -- limited film since he had one carry last season and 23 in his career.
Then he saw him in person.
"His body, he's leaner," Kitchings said. "So he's showing a little more explosiveness in this training camp. He's a physical runner anyway, so these padded practices, he's been able to show that."
Kitchings saw how Ollison ran in short bursts. He saw the things the player had trained for in the offseason in order to try and see the field consistently for the first time in his career. Throughout camp, Ollison has worked between the first and second units, getting looks along with Cordarrelle Patterson to be the primary backup to Mike Davis.
He has looked good, both when the Falcons have had pads on and when they've practiced without them. He has shown potential and how much one change can make a complete difference.
"My burst may be a little bit better than it was," Ollison said. "It's very small, but small things matter."
Kyle Pitts is 6-6 , 246 lbs. We talked about this when we drafted him.. The dude is perfectly made to be Fast and Furious ... And is taller than Julio Jones.. Nuff said . Get back with me after a couple of games after you get finished cheering for his play.
Dude, that ranking is terrible. Brandon Staley is the only one I won't argue with. He puts Meyer 2nd, Dan "We're Gonna Eat Their Kneecaps and Crap On Their Freshly Capped Teeth (TM)" Campbell fourth, Nick "I've Literally Never Heard Of This Guy" Sirianni third.
We know about AS fifth, but then Saleh is sixth? I won't quibble too much with Culley, except to say he edged out Urban Meyer's true spot.
This list is hilarious. La Canfora is a joke.
I'm not sure how Urban Meyer is a better choice than AS. AS has extensive pro experience, and with his ability to make the running game much better, it improves the whole team. Running the ball effectively, should make this team able to compete consistently.
AS was a great hire.
everyone would have liked more in trade compensation but, I am sure Fontenot did the best he could - everyone in league knew Julio was available for 10 weeks - sure Fontentot did the best he could here - probably didn't want this to hang over team for next 60 days trying to get "just a little more in compensation" - maybe he could have but now the Falcons can move on - more than likely, had we waited we still probably just end up with a similar deal as this one.