Lichter, Staff Prepare Buckeyes For Tests

Not only does the Ohio State football team get top-notch strength and conditioning help during their Buckeye careers, the players also get free help from the Eric Lichter and his staff while preparing for NFL predraft workouts. Lichter discussed how they're getting the former Buckeyes prepared for this week's combine as well as the upcoming OSU pro day.

For every Ohio State football player who has elected to train for the upcoming NFL combine in Columbus before posting an eye-popping performance, some of the credit can go to Eric Lichter and his staff.

The third-year director of football performance has put together a group that has helped a number of Buckeyes perform well in predraft workouts over the years. This time around, every Buckeye eligible for the draft except for offensive linemen Alex Boone and Steve Rehring has elected to stay in town to work with that staff in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Considering those players are basically working for a paycheck, that's a high complement they're paying to Lichter's crew as they get ready for the combine, whose workouts start Saturday in Indianapolis.

"I think that they put their trust in us," Lichter said last week. "They know that we know them. We know what their limitations are. We know what maybe some of the injuries they have following a bowl season or an entire season. We've incorporated some of these drills and getting them the knowledge and the preparation consistently year-to-year so I think that they know that we know how to prepare them for the draft."

Lichter noted that his staff has tutored about 50 guys who have been drafted in the NFL, including a number of first-round picks.

This year's group of seniors – as well as juniors Brian Hartline and Donald Washington – are spending most of their time with Doug Davis, an athletic conditioning specialist for football on Lichter's staff.

The training they are receiving has been part of their work at Ohio State for years, but it now simply is emphasized. The most important workouts a player must ace, those involving burst and strength, are focused on during the lead up to the combine and Ohio State's early March pro day, in which scouts from NFL teams are welcome to work out the Buckeyes on the OSU campus.

Because NFL scouts are evaluating players based on their abilities to nail certain drills like the 40-yard dash, short shuttles and leaps, those are the events the Buckeye strength and conditioning staff have taught in-depth.

"You zero in," Lichter said. "You know that training of the vertical and the broad and the 40 is all very similar. There are exercises that are going to help all of those, but you have to get out here and you have to do the vertical. You have to do the broad. You don't waste time doing multidirectional jumps when all you have to do is have one great jump going that way and one great jump going that way.

"So you do that and you work it seven straight weeks, you build it into your program. You don't have time to do a bunch of other stuff."

Despite what would seem like plenty of time to ace the drills – there will be between six and seven weeks between the bowl game and the combine to do them over and over again in training on a daily basis – the staff actually can fall short of the required time needed to get the players to peak levels because of the fine nature of each drill. Frustration can build when things aren't going well.

"They say, you know, ‘Well, this isn't football. What does this have to do with it?' " Lichter said. "But it's just one of those things where they have to press at it and improve it and they just have to keep working at it."

To illustrate the kinks that must be worked out of each player's form, Lichter looked at a sprint event such as a 10- or 40-yard dash. To start, the players are put through work in the weight room with plyometric exercises designed to work on fast-twitch muscle fibers to help with burst.

"But then you also get out here and you work on their start technique, aligning their body so they get the most power out of the start, things like not allowing their back round or their spine flex," Lichter said. "You work on their footwork and their mechanics when they run, not letting the foot land too far out in front of the body or you'll actually break the body's acceleration rather than continue to accelerate the body.

"So it's a lot of technical work, it's a lot of film analysis. You film guys from a profile, you film them from a frontal view and you try to show them. You try to change their body mechanics. Some guys when they take off on a 10 they skate and that's not efficient because instead of running a 10 you're probably running an 11½ yards. So maybe you make a track that's very skinny with cones so you force them to run. There's all different tricks of the trade."

Adjustments such as those are done on all of the events in order to get the former Buckeyes to perform at their best, and they receive the instruction in a number of events from the Ohio State coaches for free.

All of the work done is undertaken with the hope that the players involved can, with the right amount of work, make a positive impact on the professional scouts in an effort to move up draft boards and maximize their earning potential.

"If you flop at the combine or you don't perform well at Pro Day, the negativity and the buzz goes south on your real quick," Lichter said. "It's hard to turn that back around, whereas if you go to the combine and you light it up, you're the talk of the town, and that will just steamroll and keep going. The draft thing, I've done it in the NBA and I've done it in the NFL, and a lot of the time it's about the buzz. It's about keeping the buzz going and keeping people talking about you."

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