Sophomore DL Markell McKinley
Have you lost weight since last fall?
"Everybody has, basically, lost weight because they have stricter rules compared to last year."
What do the coaches want you to weigh?
"First, it was 296. I came back at 280-something. Now they want me at 290."
What did you weigh when the new coaching staff came in?
"I was about 313 to 315."
I guess the coaches, after seeing how much you weighed, definitely wanted you to lose some weight.
"When (Coach Croom) came in, he said they were going to check our body fat. I knew my body fat was going to be horrible because I didn't do anything the three weeks we were off (for Christmas) except eat."
What do you now weigh?
"When I came back (for the summer session), I weighed about 285."
From what I understand, you guys don't do a pure max bench press and squat.
"We don't do a one-rep max. I've never done repetition (to determine my max in the bench and squat). It's basically endurance because you have to do it over and over. They come up with the maximums based on a percentage."
What did Coach Nowell say your maxs were?
"Mine was 400 (on the bench). I did 470 before Coach Nowell got here. Now it's more true technique. You have to let it hit your chest, then explode it up. My maximum squat was 595. That was also, basically, rep-max or endurance."
What has Coach Haley told you he wants you to work on this summer?
"Coach Haley, at the first part of the spring, told me that I was lackadaisical. At the end of spring ball I was doing real good and he said, 'this guy can really play.' Coach Haley won't tell you everything, but bits and pieces. Coach Croom called me in and told me that the D-Line is going to have to be the most dominate part of this team. Because of that, we are going to have a rotation, so we don't lose a step during the game. And we only have one senior while the rest of us are, basically, sophomores, except for Willie (Evans) who is a junior."
What do you think you need to improve on this summer?
"Mine is just conditioning."
How is that going?
"I've been working hard. When I went back home to Detroit (between the spring and summer), I didn't have a gym to work in because there's not one where I used to live. All I did was go to the park every day and play (basketball) until my legs hurt. I played in every tournament there was. Then, when I came back here, everybody told me that I had lost a lot of weight."
Were you ready for Coach Nowell's routine?
"His is more like football because after you do a drill, it's only a matter of seconds and you are back at it just like in a football game. Then we run hard after practice. He's trying to get it so that the games will be a whole lot easier than the practices are. The games are going to be a lot easier, a lot easier."
Senior TE Ty Freeman
You always seem to be smiling no matter how tough the drill. Are you in that good of condition?
"I'm not sure about that because the running hurts, but I know that it makes us better. It really doesn't bother me at all."
Since they moved you to tight end, have they asked you to gain weight?
"I've tried for the last two years to gain weight, but haven't been able to gain any. It's hard because you sweat a lot due to all this running. I eat and take protein but I don't think my body will allow me to gain weight."
How much do you weigh?
"I've weighed about 225 for three years. The most I've ever weighed is 230."
What do they want you to weigh?
"About 235 to 240. I would like to get up to that weight and will continue trying."
What was your maximum bench and squat?
"I benched about 285 and squatted about 420."
What did your position coach tell you he wants you to work on during the summer?
"Blocking. I run fine and am pretty mobile, but blocking is the main thing."
You were a wide receiver your first two years here. Now you are a tight end. With your speed and size you are really what I would call a tweener.
Because you are a tweener, what do you have to try to do to offset that?
"Since I'm now at tight end and not receiver, I guess I have to gain weight and get stronger."
Once you get through with your workouts on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, what do you do the rest of the day?
"If I have time, I usually go home and cut grass back in Oxford to make some money. Other than that, I'll go to the pool and rest after going through the workouts. I don't have too much energy after this."
Do you have any classes in the mornings?
"No, I graduated, so I'm not in any classes other than the workout class. I'll be in grad school in the fall."
Senior SLB Chris Swain
What's it like to work out at 6 a.m.?
"It's not that bad for me because I'm a morning person. Normally I get up about 5 a.m. or 5:30 a.m and I'm here at about 5:40 to 5:45. Once you are done, you have a good day because you are awake and better prepared to go to class."
What do you do once you are through with the morning workout?
"I have two classes right after my workout from 8 to 10 and 10 to 12. Then I go straight to study hall from my classes. I'm there until about 2 o'clock. Then, I'm through. Normally, we spend time together. We'll play video games, maybe go to the gym and play basketball, even though we know we can't play. What we are really trying to do is build team chemistry. That gives us a chance to sit down and enjoy being with each other."
What are Tuesday and Thursdays like for you since you don't have to run until 5 in the afternoon?
"Normally I sleep in and maybe do a little upper body workout."
You also do Karate on Wednesday. What is that like?
"We've only done it once, but from the day we did it, everybody came in the next day relaxed and really focused. The stretching gave us relief somehow. I don't really know why."
From what I heard, the ab work was really, really tough on you guys.
"Oh man, it was tough. The way he did his ab work was really tough. At first it was ok, then we did other stuff that made it really tough."
Did your position coach give you a goal to reach as far as your weight is concerned?
"My coach told me that my weight is fine. I think they want me to be at 205, which is what I weigh."
Since this is a new defensive system, did the coaches tell you there were some things they want you to work on during the summer?
"Honestly, if I'm going to play linebacker, there's a lot that I need to work on because I have never played linebacker. I need to get my footwork down, read my linemen to see where they are going. It's one thing to play ball, but it is another thing to know the game of football. If you know the game, even if you aren't that athletic, you can outsmart the person in front of you. While I'm always been athletic, you need to outsmart your man on this level."
Gene Swindoll is the owner/publisher of Gene's Page, the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.