Bigger, Stronger Marquardt Helps Cougar D

Defensive end Michael Marquardt bulked up over the off-season and came to spring camp with energy and a deep desire to play. Marquardt is a major contributor on a defensive line that is one of the Cougar's strongest units heading into next season. He talked with TBS about his development and hopes for the team.

While many players work to keep their weight down from Moa Peaua, who had to drop from 310 to 292 just to practice, Michael Marquardt has worked very hard this off season to gain weight. So far the returns have been good as he looks to establish himself at the defensive end position.

"I gained 35 pounds in the off season," said Marquardt. "It's really helped me in the physical aspect of the game, taking on blockers and stuff like that. I'm still learning to play at this weight, but I think I'm doing okay so far."

"Michael has had a solid off season," said Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I think he added a lot of strength and a lot of size. He's learning to carry that weight here in the Spring. I thought Michael needed to be more physical in taking on blockers to be more effective against the run at the end of last season and so far he's responded very well."

Playing defensive end in Mendenhall's 3-3-5 scheme is of course different than being a rush end in a 4-3 scheme which was what Michael Marquardt was recruited as out of high school. "I think it's more demanding in this scheme, you have to do a bit of everything," explained Marquardt. "You have to be more physical in taking on offensive linemen while maintaining good speed to chase guys outside and get to the quarterback. It's more demanding I think, but I love it."

So what is Marquardt doing to gain and then maintain weight? "I'm just eating a lot," answered Marquardt with a smile. "I'm eating more than I ever ate in my life. I'm not really watching what I'm eating or how much. I just eat every day until I can't go anymore. I'm 275 right now, but I've been as heavy as 280."

Of course eating is just one part of gaining weight as Marquardt has hit the weight room hard to build more body strength, "I've really been pushing myself hard in the weight room," he said. "I'd like to tell you that all the weight gain was muscle, but it's not. I sort of have a gut now which I've never had and some love handles. None of my old clothes fit me anymore in my closest, so it's been an adjustment."

But the adjustment is coming along smoothly at least on the football field and so far Mendenhall has noticed as Marquardt has held steady at one of the defensive end positions with the first-team all Spring long. "I like what I've seen in Michael so far," said Mendenhall. "His level of activity has decreased a bit I'd say, but he's a lot more physical at the point of attack. His effort level is up, I feel, and he's finishing now with that weight. He's worked very hard in the off season and he's continued to work hard this spring and I'm seeing very positive things from him. He'll be a big help to us this year."

Marquardt attributes some of his improvement this year to seeing more time in live drills and scrimmages on the practice field. "Getting a chance to have so many reps has been a good thing for me," he said. "Adjusting to my new weight has been challenging and I'm sure it will just get better and better and more natural for me with every rep I get, so I've been thankful for the chance to get the amount of reps I've had so far. I want to make the most of them. I'm slower now, but I can take on blocks a lot better. It's all just about learning how to play best with my new weight and I feel if I can get that during the Spring that I then can really do some good things to help our defense this coming fall."

Another adjustment Marquardt and the defense as a whole has had to make this Spring are the new wide splits employed by Coach Anae's new offensive line alignments. "It's different," said Marquardt regarding the challenges presented by the wide splits. "You have to adjust to it for sure. It makes it more difficult to get to the quarterback. When you beat the tackle you still have another 4 or 5 yards to get to the quarterback than you otherwise would, and that's if you beat the tackle. So it takes more time."

What does Marquardt and the rest of his defensive end teammates do to compensate for this? "You just have to squeeze off your angle more in your pass rush," said Marquardt. "You just have to make sure you're working a really tight edge in the path you take to the quarterback. It's challenging."

Michael Marquardt feels that he's adjusted well and that he's finally becoming comfortable with playing defensive end in Mendenhall's 3-3-5 system. "I'm just so much more used to playing in this system now than I was last year," explained Marquardt. "It's one thing to do it and understand it, but it's another thing to really play it and internalize it and I think that's where I'm at right now. I've really come to internalize it, being converted to it and really becoming it."

Marquardt is excited about the team's prospects, particularly those along the defensive line. Michael's brother Daniel Marquardt along with Manaia Brown, Vince Feula and others lead at the point of attack. "We have a good defensive line," boasted Marquardt. "We're powerful, quick and strong. I'm just so thankful to play with the guys that are here. I learn from everybody every single day, so it's really been a blessing to play with guys like my brother Dan especially, a stud like Manaia and all the others. I feel that we have the guys to dominate and that's what we aim to do."

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