Hard work is noticed

CLEMSON - CUTigers.com sits down with Clemson strength and conditioning coordinator Joey Batson in the first of a multi-part series taking you behind the scenes of the football program.

Not just anyone can play college football, especially at the major college level.

First of all, you have to have talent. Not just anyone is born with the skills and athleticism of a C.J. Spiller or a Da'Quan Bowers.

Secondly, you have to be committed. There are certain foods you have to eat and a certain workout regiment you have to stick with.

And finally, you have to be willing to get better and go above and beyond in order to have yourself both physically and mentally ready to perform for the 60 minutes you will play on Saturday afternoons in the fall.

"It is just a matter of pointing them in the right direction," said Joey Batson, Clemson's director of strength and conditioning.

Batson had been doing that now for 13 years at Clemson. Since he took over the program in 1997, he has helped 15 football players be named strength All-Americans.

On Monday, he talked about getting this current group of Tigers up to speed before the 2009 season starts and highlighted what he saw from each player this winter and during spring workouts.

On the offensive line, he felt Antoine McClain, Mason Cloy and Landon Walker had a really good winter period and made lots of improvements. All three players will be sophomores this year and all three started as freshmen.

As for the tight ends and wide receivers, Batson was really impressed with what he saw out of Chad Diehl at tight end and Xavier Dye at receiver.

"(Michael) Palmer is always consistent, but Chad Diehl kind of had to come back from injury and was limited a little bit and last summer he did well, but I thought he made just as much improvement as anybody as far as strength gain and that stuff," Batson said. "Xavier Dye really had a good winter, but there are a lot of guys in that group that really worked hard and improved, but he improved his strength level."

It has been well documented this spring what running back Jamie Harper has done, and Batson said he deserves all the praise for it.

"Harper got in great shape and got his body weight down. You know when you're a freshman and you're not playing and having to travel, they are not getting as much training as a lot of the other freshmen do so he got a little bit behind," Batson said. "He dropped I guess a good 15 pounds and was down to 220 or 225. He knows it is his time and he knows he has to stay in great shape."

At quarterback, Batson was impressed with both Willy Korn's and Michael Wade's progress.

"Michael Wade and Willy both made tremendous gains in their strength levels," he said. "I think Willy and Michael Wade did more shoulder type work. Their workouts changed somewhat. We were just trying to get their shoulders a lot stronger with all the extra medicine ball work that they did.

"They responded to that and worked really hard."

No one works harder than defensive end Kevin Alexander. Batson said Alexander is the hardest worker on the team and is very seldom beat out by anyone.


"Harper got in great shape and got his body weight down. You know when you're a freshman and you're not playing and having to travel, they are not getting as much training as a lot of the other freshmen do so he got a little bit behind," Batson said. "He dropped I guess a good 15 pounds and was down to 220 or 225. He knows it is his time and he knows he has to stay in great shape." (Roy Philpott/CUTigers.com)

"Kevin Alexander is hard to beat. He continues to break records and his athleticism seems to be a lot better this spring. There is some good competition there with guys like Kourtnei Brown and (Andre) Branch and Da'Quan (Bowers) is in that group, but Alexander trains a little bit harder than most of those guys.

" Defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins joined Thomas Austin, Chris Hairston, Mason Cloy and Barry Humphries to name a few as part of a weight reduction group. This was brought on after several players gained weight during the season last fall.

"It is amazing," Batson said. "The activity, you think, would be greater during the season, but they ended up eating more on the road and stuff so I thought Thomas Austin, Chris Hairston, Mason Cloy and Barry Humphries were guys that just really needed to work on trimming their body weight.

"They worked with Dr. Loreto Jackson and did cardiovascular extra work."

Jenkins dropped his weight under 300 pounds for the first time since he was a freshman in high school, while guys like Jamie Cumbie used the program to put on weight this off-season.

"Jarvis Jenkins has really trimmed himself up and is committed to that and has done really, really well," Batson said. "Jamie Cumbie needed to get bigger so from the time of his injury to now he has gone from about 270 pounds to 290. We did a lot of four days a week lifting in season after he got hurt, plus his winter program, so he gained about 20 pounds, which he needed to do inside so we try to keep him there.

"I thought he did really well putting on some extra strength. He really got stronger in his lower body and put on some mass that he needed."

Speaking of lower body, linebackers Scotty Cooper and Brandon Maye also did a lot of lower body work in the winter.

"Scotty Cooper and Brandon Maye both needed to get their lower body a lot stronger," Batson said. "Both had been hampered with tendinitis. So we developed a little special program in addition to what they did with the team and I thought both guys did a really good job of incorporating that into their program.

"That was extra work they needed to do and they responded."

The defensive backs responded with a solid winter and spring as well and so did long snapper Matt Skinner.

"The defensive backs were a solid group. Kantrell Brown did get an award because of his improvement, but (Marcus) Gilchrist, (Chris) Chancellor and (Crezdon) Butler, all of those guys are really solid," Batson said. "Skinner has had to put on weight to be stronger and I thought he did really well. It is not body weight, he just got stronger.

"He still has a long way to go because he is so lean and long, but he has to be able to run and cover. We call him a 'Big Skill.' He is almost like a big linebacker. That is what he is, but he can see the field because he is so tall. He is a freshman and he has four more years so he will continue to develop there."

Stay tuned to CUTigers.com Tuesday afternoon for more from our interview with Clemson director of strength and conditioning Joey Batson.

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