FALL CAMP: Rebuilding Rodgers

Junior inside receiver Richard Rodgers was as big as an offensive tackle this spring, and ran about as well as one, but over the past several months, he's rededicated himself to reclaiming the promise he held early in his career.

BERKELEY -- This spring, California inside receiver Richard Rodgers was the biggest he'd ever been. While former head coach Jeff Tedford wanted the 6-foot-4 athlete to get bigger in order to block defensive ends, just five months ago, he was too big. Rodgers played at 265 pounds as a freshman, and got over 270 as a sophomore. By this spring, he was 280 pounds, and running in sand.

Rodgers has always been a big kid, but fast for his size. When he injured a ligament between the bones in his foot with 27 seconds left in the third quarter against Southern Utah after catching just one pass, he only got bigger.

"With that, you can't really condition at full speed," says Rodgers. "That's a little bit of the reason, but I was playing tight end, also, so I had to block guys who were 300 pounds-plus. So, it was better for me to be heavy, but at the same time, health was a factor."

Over the past several months, Rodgers has become a new man. He has shed 30 pounds and is now down to a svelte – and cut – 250, and all it took was laying off the junk food.

"I've been working on it," he says. "I've been working with [strength and conditioning] coach Damon [Harrington], obviously. He's a great strength coach. He got me down to this weight, and I just stopped eating junk food. That's pretty much it. That's how I got down.

"Coach D's workouts are really hard, and we're in great shape. We can come out here and run practice without even being tired, really, so I think that's showing through everyone on offense. We're just coming out here, running nonstop, and that's exactly what we did this summer: We ran nonstop. It's definitely paying off."

With the new strength and conditioning program focused on speed, Rodgers had no choice but to drop weight. He had to get faster. He had to get quicker, or he would be left behind.

"We're a lot smarter in the weight room, with what we do, in terms of heavy lifting and stuff like that. We do a lot of speed stuff in the weight room, and a lot of light weight, but very fast," says Rodgers. "It's great. The coaches care about our bodies, and they really want our bodies to be healthy. That's how you perform. You perform when you're 100 percent, and you perform under the best conditions. That's exactly what they've done."

The newer, lighter Rodgers has looked completely different from the sluggish, plodding pass catcher from spring. His cuts are sharper, his breaks are crisper and his speed off the line is downright effortless through the first four days of fall camp.

"I feel a lot faster," says Rodgers. "When you're that heavy, you can only be so quick and so fast. I feel a lot faster, and hopefully, I can keep running fast for the coaches, because that's what they want: They want me to be faster and quicker out there."

Every day, he's looking more and more like the big wide receiver who followed his father's footsteps to Berkeley, coming out of Worcester (Mass.) St. John's.

"I put on a lot of weight to play tight end here, in my first two years," Rodgers says, "and now, I'm trying to get back down, as low as I can, because I'm going to be running as a receiver."

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