A Q&A With Mark Melichar

Mississippi State junior offensive lineman Mark Melichar, who is now 6-5, 303, talks about working out under MSU head strength coach Matt Balis.

As a player, what are the Friday workouts like? I talked to Coach Balis earlier and he said they were very, very intense and tougher than any other workout.
"They are tough. I think the thing that makes them so intense is the unknown. They are different every time. When we first started out in January they were something that we had never experienced before. Looking back on it now we are working so much harder than we did in January. Our work capacity has grown so much and we have gotten in such better shape than in January. Our endurance has grown. Coach Balis is not only training our bodies but our minds as well. Whatever he is going to put in front of us, we are going to find a way to get it done. And I think we have done that this summer. We have gotten better each and every week. Everybody is getting bigger and stronger."

How tough has it been under Coach Balis, not just the Friday workouts but everything?
"This has been tougher by far. And I've had three strength coaches in four years. So, I've seen a little bit of it all. (Former strength) Coach (Ben) Pollard had a great program but Coach Balis takes it to another level. Our normal workouts here are tougher than any hard workout that we have done in the past. Everything is so intense. You know he is going to be the same way everyday - intense and give you his all. And that is all that he wants from us, to work as hard as we can and know that we got better that day."

What makes it so much different under Coach Balis
"Coach Balis' workouts are so intense. They push you to the edge everyday. I really think they are going to make us more mentally tough. Once you have attacked it and know that you have gotten better from it, it will make the game situations easier than they have been in the past. Now it seems like anything he will throw at us we can do it now because we have been through so many tough times together.

"My hat goes off to (Coach Balis and his staff) because they have trained our minds so well that we will do whatever they ask us to do and we will do it 100%. It is amazing how much work we have done."

What pushes you to complete the workouts when you feel your body simply can't go any longer?
"If I'm tired who cares because I have 80 other guys who I can't let down. If you are feeling bad on a rep or you don't think you can go anymore, you know you can't let the coaches down, you can't let the other players down. You have to hold up your end of the bargain."

They really seem to be emphasizing team unity. When did that start?
"They started that when they got here in January. They told us you have to suck it up and know that you have guys who count on you, just like in a game. You have to do your job. They have been preaching that since day-1 and everybody has bought into it."

I've seen you guys as a group at the Starkville theater quite a bit. Is that part of the team unity attitude also?
"Yeah, it started out a few guys were going to the movie. And it has expanded from there. We get a good weeks work in on Friday, then we go to celebrate it by grabbing a bite to eat then go relax at a movie. We get a little down time away from the complex but we are still together because these are the guys you are going to go to battle with on Saturday. We are even bringing some of the freshmen boys with us."

What is your size? You seem to have gained some weight and it looks to be muscle?
"I weigh 303. I weighed 290 last summer. One of the great things that Coach Balis brought was an individual meal plan. It shows you what to eat to get your body right. When you look up and down our roster it has been total body transformation since he has gotten here. I think we have some of the best numbers this summer that we have ever had here."

Speaking of numbers, what improvements have you made number-wise?
"My vertical has gone up. And my legs have gotten a lot stronger. My core has also gotten a lot stronger. That was one of the areas that Coach Balis sat down and talked to me about. He said I had to get my core stronger because that would help my stability, help my lower body strength, help me on the field."

If a player has something special he needs to work on like you did with your core, when do you do that?
"We have this thing called a weak link card that you pull out once a week. On it are things that you need extra work on and you come in and get extra work on. Coach Balis will find what is wrong with you and tell you what to do to fix it."

I know how you have improved individually, but how much has the team improved overall?
"Just to show you how far we have come we did the hill in January. And we actually did it again in June. (That time) we did the hill, plus about double the work. Our minds and bodies were so much more well trained that it seemed like (it was) nothing (to run the hill). That really proved how far we have come."

Coach Balis stresses a lot of things, but what one thing do you feel he stresses the most?
"I think Coach Balis stresses more than anything that everyday is important, everyday counts toward something. We are trying to build something special here."

What are the fans going to see when they see you guys run out onto the field before that first game of the season?
"I think the fans will see a much better looking team this year - both physically running plays and physically just looking at our bodies."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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