Growing Pains

CLEMSON – When Ricky Sapp first arrived on campus a year ago, the first order of business by the coaching staff was to put him on a program that would make him gain weight.

And now that he's no longer a defensive end trapped in a wide receiver's body, Sapp is having a little difficulty adjusting to his new physique.

Even though he was one of the most highly recruited defensive players in all the country, college programs throughout the country knew Ricky Sapp was going to have to add muscle and mass to his slender 220-pound frame.

That may not seem slight at first glance, but considering Sapp stands 6-foot-4, it's not exactly a muscular look. And as a Bandit, he's usually lined up against offensive linemen that weigh in the 320-pound range, so every extra pound helps him with leverage.

So, Sapp was put on a program where he eats six times a day and it has worked wonders. He now weighs 248 pounds, but that added bulk has come at a price. He's having a harder time getting into shape, which has in turn hurt his progress on the practice field.

"I put on a quick 30 pounds and I haven't been able to get in shape as fast," Sapp said. "Usually, getting in shape wasn't a problem for me, but this extra weight has made it harder."
It's difficult to imagine gaining nearly 30 pounds in one year and even more difficult to comprehend moving with the same agility as a 220 pounder.

"I put on a quick 30 pounds and I haven't been able to get in shape as fast," Sapp said. "Usually, getting in shape wasn't a problem for me, but this extra weight has made it harder."

Obviously Sapp is stronger, but what about his greatest asset, the one that helped him to four sacks a year ago as a freshman? Does he still possess that deadly speed that enabled him to zip around offensive tackles last season?

"I still feel fast," Sapp said. "The biggest thing is just getting used to the extra weight and how to use it."

Because conditioning has been a problem, the coaching staff has been pushing him extra hard during practice. They want to see him use proper technique with his hands instead of solely relying on pure athleticism.

"He's got to get into better shape and he's just cut his missed assignments down," Bandit coach Ron West said. "That's it in a nutshell. I don't think anybody is down on Ricky. We're just pushing him. He misinterprets somebody pushing hard as being mad. We're not made. We're just pushing hard and he's responding. He's getting better."

West understands that this new body has taken a while to get accustomed to for Sapp. But he also says it's something that is absolutely necessary. In fact, West has said he'd like to see Sapp closer to 260 pounds by the time he leaves Clemson.

"The biggest thing is conditioning and being able to hold that weight," West said. "It's hard for him now, but it will help him in the long run."

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