OU Head Football Coach Bob Stoops makes no bones about the key man among his staff during the Sooners' off-season. And that is OU Strength and Conditioning Coach Jerry Schmidt.
Once the season is over, the Sooner coaches hit the recruiting trail or hole themselves up in a film room dissecting their own team and tendencies. That leaves the team in the hands of Schmidt and his great staff of Corey Edmond, Corey Hill and Steven Goatmaker.
The Sooner players are led through a grueling eight-cycle strength and conditioning program that has been the catalyst to the Sooners rise to elite status in college football.
Schmidt never has much time during this period, but he took a few minutes to talk with OUInsider.com.
OUIN: Because of your success many program are trying to duplicate many of your techniques that you use at Oklahoma. However, you keep a pretty good lid on what it is exactly that you do, don't' you?
JS: "I think there are a lot of things out there and a lot of people who do different things. We try to stay on top of what everybody is doing. Our players believe in what we are doing and that is the main thing."
OUIN: Your day gets busy very early doesn't it?
JS: "Our day starts at 5:45 AM every morning. Our players have early classes and we try to get a little work before they have to go to class."
OUIN: Didn't you test the team right before your current cycle started?
JS: Right, the first thing we always do when they report back to school is test them to see where they are at. That first week we sit down with them as a team and as individuals, and went over everybody's goals and then sat down with my staff and try to figure out what direction we need to go with different players.
We determine what body fat we want them to have when the cycle is over and what weight we want them at. The second week we actually start the program.
OUIN: Who posted the fastest time during that timing period?
JS: Jared Estus posted a 4.38 and that was our fastest time. We had a lot of guys in the 4.4 range and really ran well like Eric Bassey, who ran a 4.41. Jonathan Jackson was fantastic as he ran a 4.53 and he is a defensive end. He is young, but his potential is enormous. Jonathan is a great kid and really works hard. It was good to see him test well early.
OUIN: Didn't Jackson run that time at 240 pounds?
JS: "Actually he ran it at 238 pounds. Jonathan has really put on some good size after the bowl game. He did a good job when he went home after the bowl game and started his program at home. He knows that he has a great chance to do some things next year and he is working hard to make sure that he is ready."
OUIN: If Jackson is already at 238, what weight do you want him at for the upcoming season?
JS: "Our goal is for him to play at 243 in the spring and see how he feels. Then we will take it from there. He has the frame to put more on, but we want to make sure that he is still running well when he puts the weight on. We will just take it slow now and watch him put it on, and make sure we put it on right."
OUIN: Who else really ran some good times?
JS: Jowahn Poteat is a 4.4 guy, and the thing is when a player runs a 4.4 right out of the break that is really good. Most of those guys went home after the bowl game and we want them to take a little time to themselves to rest their bodies. They have had a long season and most of the time when we time these guys just coming back it is nothing more than their raw talent taking over. The players get an opportunity to show just how great they are athletically. Take your guys like Poteat, Antonio Perkins and Bassey, who are low 4.4 guys. We have some good young players who work hard and who are really doing a good job in our off-season program.
OUIN: Players are getting bigger in your program, but they will maintain or increase their speed as well as they continue through the program, is that right?
JS: "Sure, like Bassey who is going to play safety. He is going to have to get a little bigger. He weighed in a 188 and he is going to have to play at 195 to 200 next year. He is running a 4.42 or 4.43, but our goal is to get him in the 4.43s, but get him even bigger. Eric is a guy who needs to put weight on, but normally after the holiday season they are going to come back a little bit lighter. They are not like you or I who try to eat the whole turkey, but these guys are real active when they go home. They are out seeing all their friends, or playing basketball and some of these defensive backs have a hard time keeping their weight on. They get back and get in our strength program and they are consistently eating in our dining hall over the there, where they do a good job. Guys are going to put some weight on. That will really help Eric, to be in our program here, so that he can get bigger and stronger.
OUIN: What kind of progress are your running backs making?
JS: "That whole running back group is doing a great job. They really don't have a choice, but they have a guy like Quentin Griffin who set the tempo for those guys. ‘Q' always has his normal numbers, as he is always going to run a high 4.3 or low 4.4, 36 ½ vertical jump and he will probably jump 10'4. He can bench press 380 pounds, squat 500 and that is what these young running backs have to try to keep up with. KeJuan Jones is about 185 to 190 pounds and he ran a 4.5 flat. He can definitely run in the 4.4s and he has a lot of talent. KeJuan is one of those guys that has great acceleration and he can get to his top speed really quick. He has a lot of talent and it is really good for him and these guys to go through this off-season so that they can handle the workload of the group and work toward getting in game shape."
OUIN: How has KeJuan done in the weight room?
JS: "If we would go over and run our agility stuff or consecutive reps with a little bit of rest a lot of those young guys are not use to that workload. It is a mental process that they have to go through and have to learn. It is like a game, if you are going to carry the ball 30 times a game you have to mentally and physically ready for it. Some of those younger guys haven't gone through an off-season yet and they are learning and they are taking on the responsibility of accepting that type of volume. Those guys are getting better every day and fortunately they have a great leader in ‘Q' who will help them reach their potential."
OUIN: It had to be very emotional for you when Michael Thompson lined up and was tested for the first time, running a 4.8 for you?
JS: "Going from visiting him in the hospital and then seeing him develop since then was incredible. When he just started out, it was fantastic just watching Michael walking through certain drills that our athletic drills designed for him. Our medical people did a great job with him and they didn't really turn him over to us until much later in his rehab. However, since that first day that he did join us until now has been amazing. I give a lot of credit to Michael, who really is great for the chemistry of our football team and our players love him. He loves the game and he just consistently keeps getting better every day. It has really been good for all of us to watch."
OUIN: How will he get is speed back to where it needs to be to help the football team next year?
JS: "He still has some problems with an ankle and we need to get his whole body stronger. He lost about 15 pounds during that whole process. Anytime you lose weight like that you are going to lose strength. He is putting his strength back on and we are brining him back slow just so we don't have any complications. We are going to keep him going and head in the right direction. Mentally, there are not many people tougher than him, so if it can be done he will get it done."
OUIN: Dan Cody is returning to the program and Lynn McGruder is transferring in, what kind of shape are they in?
JS: It's great to have Dan Cody back and we welcome him back to the team. It's amazing really what kind of shape he is in. Here is a guy that is 6'5 and the day we weighed in he was 252. Just a couple of days later he was already at 259 and had already put on seven pounds. We want him at 260 to 265 and since he has good height he could carry more than that, however we want him to be really fast. He ran a 4.7 and almost jumped 10 feet. Dan is pretty much ahead of schedule on his strength. It really turned out that it was really good that he had a chance to mature another year as he is up to a 390 on his bench-press. Dan is a guy who comes to work everyday, knows what our system is all about. He comes from a good high school (Ada) program and his system is running at full speed every time he goes through our stuff. Dan is a good person and we are really enjoying watching him workout.
Lynn McGruder sat out a year and that hurt him a little bit. He got a little heavy and came to camp at 304 pounds. I would like him at 285 for spring drills and he is at 294 right now. Lynn has done a good job at getting his weight down. Anytime you are inactive at this level of intensity, you are going to put a little weight on when you are a big guy like Lynn. He has done a good job in our camp. He has some natural explosiveness in his hips, is a 430-pound bencher and is a big, strong, explosive guy who really loves to workout."
OUIN: Your bench numbers seem off the charts. Wasn't Frank Romero your top bench-presser last year? And who has taken over that role this year?
JS: "Wes Sims is really hard to beat. He benches 450, but Tommie Harris is right there with him at 450 to 455. Who is better really depends on that day. They really challenge each other. Harris and Sims are guys that strength-wise are unbelievable. The bench numbers they post are tremendous and with them pushing each other they are only going to get better."
OUIN: Harris seems so incredible as an athlete right now, but in reality isn't his body is still developing
JS: "He is only 18 or 19 years old, but Tommie is mature beyond his years. However, his body is still developing and maturing. I am trying to get Tommie to the point that he can play hard on every snap. Younger guys come in and they can play really hard for a few snaps and then they have to have a blow. Our goal is to get them to where they handle the volume and the workload to where they are benching 450, but also doing it in every play. We want him to run his 4.7 on every play and broad-jump 10 feet on every play. He has that kind of ability. That is what makes our program so successful, guys who work hard and are able to give you 100 percent, and are able to run full speed on every play. What hurts you is a guy who can run a 4.4, but can only do that for about four or five snaps, then he slows down with everybody else. We want to be consistently the fastest we can be on every snap. No matter if you run a 5.0 flat or a 4.4, we want to be able to do that on every snap. Tommy is a 4.7 guy at 288 pounds. However, he is really quick and can jump the ball really well. He has great explosiveness and we hope we can just keep getting him better."
OUIN: The coaches feel like there is not going to be a better defensive line in college football. Just how good are they athletically?
JS: "It's amazing to watch how hard Jimmy Wilkerson, Cody, Kory Klein and the other guys are working. Klein has been the anchor, the blue-collar guy of that whole group. Our coaches do a great job of demanding that they play hard all the time and the players take that discipline and work hard with us. It's fun to watch them all together, because they are really quick and athletic. They have a lot of fun at what they do and it is just a good atmosphere and good chemistry on the team."
OUIN: You have Wilkerson up to 260, has he been able to keep his speed?
JS: Oh yeah, he is something else. He is coming off that corner at 260 pounds and is a real man. He is getting better every day and is still is a high 4.5 or 4.6 guy everyday.
OUIN: Kory's ability to play at his size and play as well as he does is amazing. What is his secret?
JS: Kory has developed and plays well because he is coached well. Coach (Jackie) Shipp with the defensive tackles and (Bobby Jack) Wright with the defensive ends instill in those guys to play hard and play physical. Kory Klein definitely plays that way. He plays at 285 to 290 and benches close to 450, but not many guys are tougher than him play-in and play-out. He comes to the field to play every snap and is really a workhorse for that defensive line. That all comes back to their coaches, as they teach that along the defensive line.
OUIN: OU has the best secondary in the country and it is loaded with athletes. Is it not?
JS: Our secondary does post some good numbers, but that is expected when you have Derrick Strait, Michael Thompson and Brandon Everage among the group. Actually, Everage doesn't always post good numbers, but he has a great feel for the game and is a good chemistry guy that will lay it all on the line with every snap. That attitude carries over to the rest of our players, to our young guys. They see how hard our veterans play on every play. They watched Roy Williams and how hard he played on every snap in the secondary and on special teams. It just carries over and they just get an idea that this is the way they are supposed to play and they do it. They try to emulate them and they end up posting some great numbers.
OUIN: Doesn't the secondary always post some good numbers in the weight room?
JS: Sometimes we just take this group for granted because they are so talented. There are not many guys around like Andre Woolfolk, who consistently runs a 4.4, vertical jumps 38-inches and can play both in the secondary and at wide receiver. Andre is a good person and is another great leader. Look at how many games over the last few years that he has been here that he has influenced in a positive manner for us.
OUIN: Woolfolk always says he wants to get bigger, but do you want him bigger?
JS: He is about 190 and we will try to get him to 195 to 198 for the season. Andre has a big frame and he should be able to carry that weight and still run very well."
OUIN: What is the game plan for the next three months?
JS: We have been going for six weeks now and it is amazing to think that we have already gone six weeks. We will test them at the end of this cycle before they leave for spring break. We will evaluate the numbers and see how they have progressed. Then they will come back and we will go right into spring ball. We will go into a maintenance type program through spring ball and that way they will keep their strength and speed, before we start our summer program.
Schmidt talks about OU's off-season progress
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