Q&A with OU strength Coach Jerry Schmidt

Oklahoma's strength coach talks about his summer camp and the Sooners' results in the weight room

NORMAN, Okla. — Bob Stoops has often said that once the season is over he turns the football team over to Strength and Conditioning Coach Jerry Schmidt. Stoops says that Schmidt is in charge of the team and they better answer and perform for him just like they do for the head man during spring ball and the season.

Schmidt is considered one of the very best in the country at his craft, and he is offering a real opportunity for coaches and athletes to come in and learn what he teaches by hosting the first annual ‘Jerry Schmidt Sooner Strength and Speed Clinic', which runs Saturday May 17th at the OU strength and conditioning complex. Former Sooner greats Roy Williams and Josh Heupel will both participate in the clinic.

Schmidt and his staff just completed their most recent testing of the Sooner football team and now the players gear up for a rigorous off season. I recently had a chance to talk with Schmidt about the clinic and about who tested well among the football team.

JH: You are right in the middle of your off-season workouts, so how are things going for you?

JS: "We went through spring football a little bit earlier this year and we just wanted to go back after spring ball and have them get their strength back. We wanted to get them back into the routine that we will be heading into in the summer. What we will do is workout with speed training and lift for two weeks. Then during finals week they will continue on a daily basis depending on their test schedule. What we will try to do is get their strength levels up and get their work habits squared away heading into the summer.

JH: You have always been somewhat secretive about your training secrets, but now you are holding a clinic to demonstrate some of your secrets. Why the change of heart?

JS: "I think every year strength and conditioning gets more important and I think people realize that. It is not only football, but it is every sport. Coach (Kelvin) Sampson and coach (Sherri) Coale and I can go through the entire athletic department and they will tell you that strength and conditioning helps them win games during their seasons. The first thing that Bill Parcells does when he takes over the Dallas Cowboys is talk all the time about off-season conditioning for his team. Joe Jurasik runs that program and Parcells is one of the top NFL coaches who says that he doesn't want to talk about mini-camp or the draft, but he wants to talk about the off-season. So, you can see how important speed training and weight lifting is no matter the sport. We just want to provide an opportunity for young athletes and coaches to take a day and learn how to do it right. My staff and I will coach whoever wants to get involved and I think it is going to be a good thing for all those that are interested."

JH: Give us an idea what you have in store for everybody who is trying to get involved in your clinic?

JS: "Any athlete or coach that is interested in foot quickness, speed training and weight lifting is who this clinic is for. We can't draw a line on what we want or don't want. It is important for every athlete to know the importance of flexibility and speed, plus the number of the things that we are going to hit on. Roy Williams from the Cowboys and Josh Heupel will help us out. We want to provide an opportunity for athletes who want to get faster and want to improve themselves over the summer to come and learn for a day exactly what we are doing. We are looking forward to all the athletes and coaches to meet my great staff. I get a lot of great compliments for what we do, but my staff does a great job and we can reach out and help other athletes to."

JH: You will be hands-on at the clinic won't you, because I don't think you and your staff know any other way do you?

JS: "We are just going to take a day and get into it. At a lot of camps the athletes come in and it only last a couple of hours. We are going to get after it and take the whole day to go through more of a learning process. We are going to show them the drills and be hands on. Roy and Josh will be there to demonstrate the different drills and how it has helped them. I just think it is going to be good to provide an opportunity for every athlete to get better."

JH: You recently tested your football team. How athletic is your current football team?

JS: "We were real happy with the team and how they tested. Coach (Bob) Stoops, year-in-and-year-out, talks about the importance of how everything is a phase. We go through the season, then the next phase is winter conditioning, and then we go into spring football, which was a week earlier. That effected my testing period, so we just waited to after spring. I wanted to keep working them and wanted to keep getting them better, so I wanted to try out a new process and test them at the end of spring. We were real happy with the results that we got at this point.

"We definitely need to get better, but speed wise this is the first time that we tested on that new turf indoors, which is kind of soft right now. You have been on that turf and it needs to get a little more traffic on it so that it will firm up a little bit. However, we were real happy with the forty times that we got off of it and it just gives in indication how athletic and how hard our guys work.

JH: Bob Stoops says this group is his fastest football team since he has been the head coach at OU. Is he right and can you give us some times to substantiate that statement?

JS: "It is kind of scary how fast we are. You look at our defensive backfield and our best time was turned in by Mark Bradley at 4.38. However, the defensive backs were competing so hard that I can't give enough credit to our players for the way they competed on testing day. Antonio Perkins and Eric Bassey were all in that area of 4.40 or 4.42. From top to bottom, at wide receiver Mark Clayton was in the 4.42 range as well. JeJuan Rankins is a young guy that showed great speed in that range and Travis Wilson at 220 pounds is running a 4.42. At this point I think we are set pretty good heading into the summer. We just have to get everybody to keeping working hard and not rest on their testing times. We need them to keep getting better so that we can get better as a football team as we head into two-a-days.

JH: Bob told me that when I look at the speed of the team that I shouldn't look at just the speed guys, but I should also count the big guys as well, and that it is there overall speed that makes the Sooners a very fast football team. Is Teddy Lehman considered a big guy or is it just Tommie Harris and his group?

JS: Teddy is coming off a bad ankle and he is a little discouraged because he can't push off right now. During the spring he nicked an ankle and he still isn't ready to test, but we know what he can do as he is a 4.4 guy every time. You can wake him out of bed and he would run a 4.4. He is definitely a freak. But so is Tommie Harris, who ran a 4.68 at 293 pounds. That is scary. Dan Cody is right there at 4.67 at 268 pounds. You can go right down the line as Wes Sims and Jamal Brown test well. Jamal is 320 pounds now and he ran a 5.12. That is impressive for an offensive lineman. All of our guys do a great job and we just want to continue to get better."

JH: Your staff does a great job of determining which is the best exercise to improve each individual athlete. Is that the key to your success? Another key seems to be that you figure out the best weight to get the best speed out of each player, so how do you do it?

JS: "What we will do, and we will show this at our clinic, is that we help each player with his footwork and help him with his quickness and speed. We determine what the best weight is for each player that is going to help him at his position, instead of grouping them all together. At our clinic, what will help the athletes there is that they will get a chance to work with my staff, who are really good in this area. We will be able to break down all the age groups and each one of my staff members will be helping them through."

JH: You are experts at evaluating what weight and speed an athlete should play at, don't you agree?

JS: "Right, I think that it is strength of our staff and our coaching staff. Take Tommie for instance, we want him to report to camp at 298 to 300 pounds, because all the players are going to lose a little bit of weight during fall camp, when it is so hot. We definitely want our inside defensive tackles to play at a little bit bigger and we want Tommie to keep his speed. We don't want to lose speed by putting excess weight on him, so we will really keep an eye on that."

JH: What do you do when you have a coach like Jackie Shipp, who wants his defensive tackles bigger to handle double teams?

JS: "We just continue to test them throughout the summer as they put the weight on. We put the weight on gradually, and if we see that a player is slowing down or he is not changing directions very good we will cut back on what he is doing and level him out. By July we will know what his ultimate weight can be and we will head into camp at that weight."

JH: What do your defensive tackles weigh right now?

JS: "Dusty (Dvoracek) is about 289 right now and he will be 292 or 293 going into camp. Lynn McGruder is 301 and Tommie is 293. Kory Klein is always at 283 or so and that is about high as he can get. We are sitting pretty good weight wise and now we just have to firm everything up and make sure that everything is good going into the camp."

JH: Jonathan Jackson also appears to be another outstanding athlete on your team?

JS: "Jonathan really is a great athlete for us. He is a mid-4.5 guy and he runs well. He is one of those guys that is kind of a long strider and he doesn't look like he is running that fast, but then you look at your watch after he runs through the forty and you say ‘wow' because the time is so good. Jonathan just has to get more physical. He is about 240 right now, which is up for him about six pounds. We would like to go into camp at about 245 pounds with him. I know I keep saying that I want guys to go into camp a little bit heavier, but the Big 12 is such a long season and you get pounded on every game. You lose weight during the season, so we are trying to keep that weight on them during preseason camp to keep them healthier and stronger."

JH: Quentin Griffin was such a leader for you at the running back position, so who has taken over that role now that ‘Q' is with the Denver Broncos?

JS: "Renaldo Works is kind of the quiet athlete on our squad, but he is steady in his work habits and has his weight up to 225 and running high 4.4s and low 4.5s. Renaldo is just a real physical player and real smart. I wish everybody would work like Renaldo works, because he does a really good job. KeJuan needs to put some weight on and get more physical if he is going to play a bigger role and handle a full Big 12 season. Donta Hickson is the same way. He needs to mature the same way. They must have a great summer. Renaldo Works is ready for the season right now and he has really worked himself into shape right now. He is more mature than those other guys and they need a good off-season program to get them prepared for the season."

JH: What does KeJuan weigh right now?

JS: "KeJuan is about 187 pounds and we would like him to play at 198 next season. He played at 193 to 195 last season and held up pretty well."

JH: Are all the running backs running in the 4.5 range?

JS: "Yes, they are all about 4.5 to 4.57. They are all right in that range there and hopefully through the summer we can get them a little bit faster and get them down to 4.49. We just want them to get faster in the off-season and they are capable of that. We just need to keep plugging away at it and keep plugging away at the drills."

JH: Your football team has been a stronger team since you arrived at OU. What is your philosophy there?

JS: "The biggest thing on that is the fact that the lifting part is the backbone of your program. It develops your power and develops your speed. Anybody that wants to improve in those areas and wants to get faster, the first thing they need to do is get some good core strength. They need to have a good baseline strength and that comes through lifting. We will show at our clinic the basic program that will help you no matter the sport that you are participating in. We are going to help you with a general strength program that will help you toward your running speed or your jumping ability. We are going to go through all that and help them with their technique on different things."

JH: Who are the strongest players on your team?

JS: "When you talk about strength, you have to talk about Tommie Harris. Also, in the defensive line, you have to talk about Kory Klein, who is another guy that shows up all the time and is really durable. Wes Sims is very impressive and Dan Cody is improving his strength. Among our defensive backs, you look at Eric Bassey, who continues to get stronger. Kelvin Chaisson continues to improve his strength and Renaldo Works is a 400-pound bencher. Here is a running back weighing 225 and he is bench pressing 400 pounds. Renaldo is a real physical guy and those are really good numbers for him. They have done a real good job and they just need to keep working to get stronger.

JH: If I remember correctly, it is always Harris, Sims and Dvoracek pushing each other in the weight room right?

JS: "Kory ended up at 460 on the bench, with Tommie right there at 450. Tommie has a shoulder that was nicked up a little bit and that held him back just a little, but he will be fine. Wes had a little problem with his shoulder so he didn't test. Those guys have always been heading up everything with their strength and it is always around 450 to 460 pounds.

JH: You said Eric Bassey was one of your top bench press guys in the secondary, is that somewhat surprising?

JS: "He definitely has concentrated this last year on getting stronger and really improving himself in that area. All of our defensive backs continue to get stronger and need to, because of the strength that they take back there. We are not where we need to be back there, but we are getting better."

JH: How good are your linebackers during the off-season?

JS: "Teddy Lehman is the total package. He is a 410 pound bench presser who runs a 4.4. Teddy has always been great in the off-season. Lance Mitchell was banged up a little bit and he tested, but he didn't have quite the levels that he normally would have. They are normally pretty good. Russell Dennison is a 385 pound bencher and by the end of the summer we hope to have him up to around 400. All of our linebackers are at the 365-400 range. Coach Venables group always does a great job in strength training."

JH: Is your goal is to make sure they are playing extremely hard in the fourth quarter?

JS: "We will show this at our clinic as well, but we will show our approach to attacking the workout, just like we would want our players to be attacking in the fourth quarter. We are always trying to challenge each other at the end of the workout to be strong, and to be the best they can be late in the contest. That also means to be mentally strong at the end of the workout or the game, because the body follows the mind. If the mind believes that the body is tired then that player will react as if he is tired. However, if the player believes that he is strong then that player will play strong. We want our guys to be pushing hard at the end of a game, when everybody else is slowing down."

JH: How are some of the guys who are working through injuries doing?

JS: "They are coming along really good as most of those guys are back in the fold. Jason (White) is just now getting back into it as he had his knee cleaned out, which went really well. This is one of those things that we try to keep a team concept. No matter if you are injured or not, you still go through workouts like the other guys. You may have to use just one arm or one leg or whatever it is, but we still try to keep everybody as a team. We try to put some different things into the workout to concentrate on the areas that he needs to work on going through rehab. We try to keep them as a team and we try to keep them all in the fold and keep pushing them in the right direction. There are always things that you can do even if you are hurt."

JH: Your clinic is May 17th and Roy Williams and Josh Heupel are going to participate. Bob Stoops is behind it as well, am I right?

JS: That is correct. The cost is $115.00 dollars for student athletes and coaches. If people want more information they can call us at 325-8330.

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