Assistant athletic director for speed, strength, and conditioning Rob Glass brought the idea with him when he came from Florida to join Mike Gundy's program. It has proven to be a popular and critical ingredient in building competition and team chemistry.
The players take it serious and Team Walsh and Team Seales were about to compete really hard over the next hour and half.
"They need to start to develop that identity," Gundy stated as he watched from close up in the beginning and at midfield later where he could see all eight teams competing. "Team chemistry is very important and we have a number of players that won't be in spring ball that were competing for us last season, even in the Cotton Bowl.
"The younger players have to step up and be ready because they are going to get quality reps. They need to take one step at a time and this competition is one of those steps. I've always said it is really good for our team. We have to try to get better each day and every day counts and the competition day is a major part of all of that. I've enjoyed this since Rob (Glass) brought it with him when he came into our program."
The two teams started on the sled drill. What had been a strong event for Team Walsh throughout the tournament was anything but on Tuesday afternoon.
Walk-on tight end/fullback Blake Jarwin, a special teams contributor last season, started it out right as he won impressively over fellow walk-on Ryan Lester of Team Seales. It was 1-0 Team Walsh, but Team Seales would win six of the final seven heats on the weighted sled pull.
Defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah, offensive guard Jack Kurzu, defensive end Victor Irokansi, defensive tackle Beniah Harrigan, running back Raymond Taylor, and linebacker Dominic Ramacher all pulled the sled the 40 yards faster than their opponents from Team Walsh for a 6-2 lead.
From one explosive event to another, next up was the two-man tractor tire flip. Walsh led his team off with wide receiver Brendan Fagan and they won going away. Jarwin joined newly arrived freshman tight end Jordan Frazier to win a heat. Speed over size as running back Caleb Muncrief and wide receiver Nate Miller beat a pair of linemen from Team Seales. Each heat counts two points in the tire flip and Team Walsh made it a sweep as wide receiver Ra'shaad Samples and walk-on fullback Bryan Shanklin won a close contest.
After two events Team Walsh led 10-6, but the 20-yard shuttle and the 5-10-5 drill were both close. On the 20-yard shuttle, Miller, Samples, Jarwin, and the freshman Frazier were all winners as Team Walsh won 5-3. One of the wins for Team Seales had Raymond Taylor just edging Walsh. Now that is a small running back beating a quarterback, but that quarterback is the very athletic Walsh.
Team Seales flipped the result on the 5-10-5 drill as Dominic Ramacher, Emmanuel Ogbah, cornerback Miketavius Jones, walk-on safety and former Team Competition MVP from a few years back Elliott Jeffcoat and Seales were winners as they took the event 6-2. That had the teams going to the tug-of-war events, team and one-vs-one with Team Walsh leading 17-15.
The team tug-of-war has two pulls, each team uses four guys and in the first Team Seales conceded to Team Walsh which threw out Blake Jarwin with offensive linemen Zach Hargrove, Jesse Robinson, and Chris Grisbhy, about 1,110 pounds of mass and force. Team Walsh did the same on the second pull when Seales sent out defensive ends Ogbah and Irokansi along with defensive tackle Harrigan and offensive guard Kurzu. Each pull last less than 20 seconds.
Team Walsh still had a two-point lead but the one-on-one tug-of-war using the plastic saucer devise with handles was where the separation took place.
Jarwin won the first for Team Walsh and Ramacher the second for Team Seales. But then the skill guys put on a show in what would seemingly be a linebacker's favorite event. Samples and walk-on receiver Jaren Colston-Green went at it and it seemed like it would never end. Colston-Green had Samples within a few yards of defeat but Samples stayed in it with dogged determination. They each hit the turf at least three times as the tugging continued until Colston-Green let go just a few yards away from losing. Letting go constitutes a win for the other competitor.
Team Walsh kept it up as Fagan won the next battle and Hargrove made it three in a row. Team Walsh left the tug-of-war having doubled their lead with the next events, bag drills and obstacle course were two of their favorites. Team Walsh won by a 36-28 count to take the championship.
Glass will have the rest of the week with the players and then next Monday it is back to football with the first day of spring practice. Gundy appreciates the way his team is turned back over to the coaching staff.
"Rob Glass could very well be the most important person in our program," Gundy added. "Our strength and conditioning staff have hands on with our players year round. Coaches have limitations with how much we can be with our teams. The discipline and structure that he instills in our team is what gets the ball rolling. It creates an identity with our team in the offseason. Rob starts that with our team and our players."
Competition day on Tuesdays and the enthusiasm with which the players compete has been a constant sign of that.