Bob Stoops says it every year, and it is never going to change. According to Coach Stoops, one of the main reasons why the Sooners have returned to dominance in college football is because of the strength and conditioning program of Jerry Schmidt.
Ninety-nine percent of the football team went through workouts this summer, and as we do every summer about this time we sit down with Coach Schmidt for the first part in a two part interview for the OUInsider Member Extra.
JH: What kind of summer did the team have?
JS: "We felt good about it. I think with the maturity of the team helps us as strength coaches because guys like Dan Cody, Lance Mitchell and Mark Clayton have been through it and they know exactly what we want. Their commitment rubs off on the rest of the team."
JH: Those three, and Jason White, all talked to me this summer about players buying into the summer program. Have you been around long enough now that this is understood among your players and they are now passing it down from upperclassmen to rookies?
JS: "I think going into it everything just builds on top of one another. After the bowl game you go into an off-season program and you try to teach the young guys what intensity level you need them to work at. Of course, that means us, as strength coaches, have to get that point across and our seniors have to push it across as well. As soon as the Sugar Bowl was over with we knew which upperclassmen were going to be leaders in the off-season program for us. The demands placed on each player is really high, and we want to test them and make them realize what it takes to go into a season in great shape at a high level. That work ethic rubs off from the winter, goes into the spring and then into the summer, where the work habits build on each other."
JH: Did you have a great percentage of players working out, including freshman?
JS: "Yes, we had everybody here. We had a good number of freshmen. Rhett Bomar has excellent work habits coming in, but we just have to teach him how to handle the volume at a very high level. Adrian Peterson was outstanding. I can't say enough about all the freshmen who came in at a good level. We can build on that."
JH: What was your general impression of the athletic ability and general conditioning of the team this summer?
JS: "I think it was great, but we kind of say that every year. Still, this summer we went though a conditioning phase that showed what level these guys were at, and I was impressed with them. I don't think I have had a team since I have been in college football that has passed the conditioning test like these guys did. To be able to run the test (workout), recover and be mature enough to handle the demands that I have put on them during our conditioning period was very impressive."
JH: What is your assessment of the overall athletic ability of your freshman class?
JS: "I think it was really good. I had heard so much about guys like Adrian Peterson, Marcus Walker and Rhett Bomar coming in, but I was impressed by their maturity level and coming in and fitting in with our older players both mentally and physically. Marcus Walker is 5-10, 185 pounds, and he runs 4.4 the first day he is on campus. Normally, those guys have been traveling and they in an unfamiliar area so it is tough to test well, but he was great. I was so impressed with how those guys tested. It was just their mature attitude of wanting to fit in. Normally, a freshman will be behind physically, but these guys fit in with our older upperclass guys. I was really impressed with their mental toughness and their overall attitude all summer. It is a very good freshman class physically and mentally."
JH: Who became your team leaders in the weight room? I know you always graduate leaders, so who are the leaders in the weight room at this point?
JS: "They are familiar names. Of course, there is Jason White. And there is nobody that works harder than him. The things that Jason has been through, and yet he is not satisfied with the things that he has won in the past. He looks at it as a new year for him. Jason is getting himself in the best shape of his career, reducing his body fat, which is allowing him to stay healthy. Mark Clayton also stands out. And despite the success he had last year, has worked this summer to reach new levels, which have rubbed off on the rest of the receivers.
"I can't say enough about KeJuan Jones. He has been a little bit light in the past, but he did a great job this summer getting up to 203 pounds. He played about 188 last year, so this is really going to help him as far as his durability. That will really help the running back situation. Also, the fact that the young guy coming in (Adrian Peterson) has really helped all the running backs reach higher levels in their workouts this summer.
"In our offensive line, Jammal Brown had a great summer and all of those guys always do well. Offensively, I feel real good about where we are at. You hear the same names over and over again, but it is the fact that you have established players not being happy where they are at and working to get better.
"Defensively, Dusty Dvoracek, Lance Mitchell and Dan Cody do a tremendous job. A guy like Antonio Perkins had his best summer since he has been here. He knows that he wants to be a better player and the only way he can get better is to work hard in the summer. Cody and Jonathan Jackson kind of help me as a strength coach to set the bar a little bit high every year."
JH: Jason White says he is running sprints?
JS: "The thing that has impressed me was how smart he was about doing things. This summer I threw him in with DBs and wide receivers, which made him work a little bit harder during his sprints and run a little bit faster. That is something that he could always do, but we were all a little bit tentative early. We needed him to get over that and realize that his knees are better than they have ever been. That impressed me, because that allowed him to realize that he was ready to go and he was going to get through the summer as a better athlete. Jason has set himself up for a great year."
JH: Don't all the quarterbacks work hard?
JS: "Yes, they all work hard and do a great job in the summer program. Tommy Grady was a guy going into the summer that was a little bit behind, but he really stepped it up and did a great job. My hat is off to him. He knows there are a number of good guys at that position and he got himself in good physical shape to compete.
"And You can't leave out Paul Thompson, who has been here four years and has never said a word, and will do anything to help our program. We know he is going to be there. And like I told him, you never know what is going to happen. He always has to be ready to go both mentally and physically. He is a guy that has totally bought into the system and he knows what he needs to do to be ready. Like I told Coach (Stoops) the other day, 'Paul is in here every day, works at high levels every day, never says a word, and he plans to take OU to a different level.' He has really been impressive.
"Rhett Bomar has been impressive with his work ethic and his toughness. Usually, high school quarterbacks who have had success coming in think they don't need this or that and in reality can't train at that high level. He is like a Jason White as far as work habits, so he is an impressive guy. The whole position is one that I have felt good about.