The Sooners' seven-week offseason workout program is over and they will do their final testing next Monday after taking off for spring break. This upcoming week will be the first time in a long while that OU strength and conditioning coach Jerry Schmidt will get a little time off before they are back to the grindstone with the start of spring football practice.
Schmidt has always been very kind to this reporter and to OUinsider.com, and before he took some time off he sat down to give us the rundown on how the Sooners are shaping up as they get ready for spring football.
JH: First off, congratulations on all the great things people say about you, your staff and your strength and conditioning program.
JS: "Well thanks James, but you know the type of athletes that our coach's recruit here just creates a good atmosphere. They are easy to coach so it kind of makes things run smooth. You have to give credit to everybody that works here."
JH: Several scouts told me that your Pro Day was one of the best they had been to and that your athletes were in tip-top condition. You have to feel good about those kinds of comments, don't you?
JS: "The main thing is that scouts this time of year are trying to collect all the information they can get and they are making a number of stops along the way. I think the smoother you make it the more efficient they can be. I have to give our athletes credit. They are very cordial to everybody and they give them what they want. They know what drill they are going to do and they are very efficient and on time as far as getting things done. They help the scouts, because most of them are going to fly out to the East or West coast or wherever they are going. So, to get them in and out with good work behind them is the main thing."
JH: How did you think Pro Day went for your players? How did you feel guys like J.D. Runnels and some of the athletes did?
JS: "I thought they all competed and I thought they all did a great job. I thought that the guys who went to the combine even improved themselves from there. Chris Chester did so well at the combine that he didn't have to do a whole lot here. I think it is very important that our athletes understand that when they do get invited to the combine they go compete in that arena, because to me it is just like playing in a big game. It is like playing against Texas or USC, or somebody like that. They need to go compete and compete at a high level against those guys and show all the head coaches that they can do that. All they had to do at our day was position drills, or just polish up some drills or tests that they didn't feel they did real well on. I thought that Chris Chester and Davin Joseph really improved.
"Then the guys that didn't go to the combine, like Eric Bassey, who ran a 4.3 and drew some attention to him, the Pro Day was a great day for him. J.D. Runnels really got himself in tip-top shape. We all know how J.D. competes anyway, but for him to really focus and have in one day to turn out like that was really special for him."
JH: Are you shocked that J.D. Runnels ran a 4.5 forty 40 at 238 pounds and then threw up 225 pounds 28 times? Yet he didn't get a chance to go the combine?
JS: "I think we all knew how important that J.D. was to our program here, but the NFL is kind of tied into needs right now or what the latest hot formation is, and sometimes the fullback doesn't get a lot of attention. He definitely got attention at our Pro Day, but we all knew how physical he was at blocking. We knew that he could catch a ball out of the backfield and we knew that he could do everything around here. However, it took something like his impressive performance at our Pro Day to prove to everybody else what kind of athlete that he is."
JH: You have to be proud about how well Dusty Dvoracek and Chris Chester performed at the combine?
JS: "When Chris Chester first got here he was a tight end that couldn't move very well and he moved to the offensive line, and that has been the best that thing that has ever happened for him. He has always had a great attitude and he always played his tail off. He played the season at about 288 to 290, but he went into the combine at 303 last week. He really opened up a lot of eyes, but they can see the potential in him in games through the year. In the games he didn't play, he was banged up. But when he did play he was real explosive, real athletic, and he really turned a lot of heads. In Clint Ingram, we all knew that he had a nose for the football. He went and played at the senior bowl along with Dusty and really showed the scouts what they could do. It was good to see them do well."
JH: You always said that Dusty and Davin (Joseph) were two of the best you have ever had in your offseason program and in the weight room. Now that they are gone, who are the new leaders in your offseason program and in your weight room?
JS: "I give the entire team credit first off for what they have done. We had our problems during the summer, but these guys have really stepped up. I think, offensively, you have to look at a guy like Adrian Peterson, Chris Messner, Branndon Braxton and Paul Thompson. On defense, Rufus Alexander and the entire secondary stepped up and did a great job. (Calvin) Thibodeaux has really taken a leadership role and some of those younger guys have really stepped up and we have had a really good six-week program. I have really been pleased with it, but everybody has stepped their level up, which we need."
JH: A lot of people are shocked that Adrian Peterson is just as good of an offseason guy considering his status in college football and his God-given ability. But you always mention him when talking about your best workout guys. Talk about his work-ethic during the offseason workouts.
JS: "Everybody responds to him. Nobody understands how important that offseason is to him. Everybody knows how great of shape he is in, and just like his name ‘All Day'. He can run all day. He is a guy who cares and loves to win. He cares about other players. Then you have Allen Patrick. People over look Allen Patrick, who is really competitive, but he has AD in front of him. He loves the game and he is a good chemistry guy toward the offense. Allen does a great job of leading too. With Adrian, winning is important to him, but seeing his teammates do a great job is important to him too because he cares about people."
JH: Hasn't Adrian done some amazing things in the weight room this offseason?
JS: "We have a 48-inch box and he grabbed 70-pound dumbbells and he jumped up on that 48-inch box from a standing start, which is freakish. However, so is weighing 223 and running a 4.3 40. I mean, the guy is just incredible. He doesn't actually know what he can do. If he tries something, it is just unbelievable."
JH: Do you have to watch him to make sure he doesn't try something that he can hurt himself on?
JS: "He is pretty sharp on that because he doesn't want to get hurt. It is just one of those things that you challenge him, but you can challenge him to a point because he will try anything. His balance is incredible. He has great speed and he is a great team player."
JH: Is Adrian one of the best pure athletes that you have ever worked with?
JS: "No question. He is a guy that just has those kinds of work habits, and that is the main thing about him. It is just his competitive drive and toughness. There is nobody that is tougher that I have trained, and that includes Barry Sanders, Fred Taylor and some of the top-notch guys that I have been around. That includes Tim Brown, as far as a guy who was just mentally tough who is going to find a way to win. Adrian is that kind of player and he is something special."
JH: Those are some of the greatest players in football history, and you have trained them all. You also trained Jevon Kearse, right? Having all those guys on your resume is incredibl,e and I am sure they all had not only great athletic ability, but great drive to work hard?
JS: "That is right, but I think the mental thing sets them apart. It is the biggest thing in the game at this level, and even at the next level. It comes down to how mentally tough you are. A guy's mental toughness comes through and they find a way to win. That is the whole thing."
JH: You mentioned Branndon Braxton earlier, but how are some of your other offensive linemen coming along? Do they have the weight you want on them and how are they coming along in the weight room?
JS: "Our offensive line is doing a great job. Brandon Braxton and Messner are the leaders. Messner is at 290 right now and he played the season anywhere from 279 to 282. He is up about 10-pounds, which he needed. Branndon had to actually take some off. He was up to 335 and he is down to 322 right now. He is just bending and moving a lot better. Those guys have really done an excellent job."
JH: How is Duke Robinson doing in the weight room?
JS: "Duke is doing real well. Duke was up to 355 and he is down to 328 right now. He needs to keep maturing, but the guy has lost some weight and he moves around better, has a great attitude and he is a great chemistry guy."
JH: I saw Ben Barresi the other day and I couldn't believe how much bigger that he is.
JS: "Ben has always had good strength, but he has really stepped it up. Ben just needs to get himself on the field and get some confidence there. He has all tools that he needs, but he just needs to continue to work and get on the field and get some playing time. He is about 303 right now. Ben does a great job in the weight room. He just needs to get consistent on the field and he needs to carry over his work in the weight room to the field. I think he is going to do a good job playing this year."
JH: Do you have anybody that is close in the bench with Davin on the offensive line?
JS: "No, we don't right now on the offensive line. Offensive line wise we are just decent right now, but we are not great. We need to make some improvement there because we really don't have anybody up around 500 (pounds) right now. We don't have anybody at that level."
JH: Do you on the defensive line?
JS: "No, we really don't. We have a few 400-pound guys that are at 410 or 420, but nobody up around Dusty's level."
JH: I understand that DeMarcus Granger has lost a bunch of weight?
JS: "Yes, he has lost about 26 pounds. He is at 295 right now. DeMarcus is a 430-pound bencher. He has great strength and he is going to do a great job. He has good feet, quickness and his weight loss is really going to help him."
JH: I also understand that Steven Coleman is having a great offseason?
JS: "Yeah, really good. Steve has always worked really hard for me and here is a 300-pound guy that carries it well. He is real explosive and he is a really mentally tough player that doesn't say much. He just comes in works his tail off. We are very excited about Steve and hopefully get him out there this season."
JH: What is the status of Carl Pendleton?
JS: "Carl is up about 10 pounds. He is about 283 and I would like to see him about 295, but we will just continue to develop him through the summer and hopefully he will be at 290 or 295 when we go into the season. He had a knee injury at the end of last year that he is cleaning up right now. But he has done a great job developing his upper body."
JH: You have so many great defensive ends, so how is that group holding up?
JS: "Really good. They have done a good job. They need to continue to develop, but C.J (Ah You), Thibodeaux and (Larry) Birdine all do a great job. We need to get Birdine back into the flow and he needs to keep getting better on that. They need to keep pushing each other. Alonzo Dotson has really had a great offseason. Auston English has good explosion for a young guy."
JH: I think a lot of people don't realize how big your defensive ends are?
JS: "C.J. weighed in at 271 and you don't realize how big he is. Birdine is 262 and Alan Davis is about 255, and he runs well."
JH: How about John Williams and his rehab?
JS: "John Williams has done a great job and he is gotten bigger. He played at 253 to 254 and he is 265 now. He has great upper body strength and he is doing a good job along with our trainers with his knee. John Williams has a lot of talent."
JH: You mentioned Rufus Alexander, so how are the linebackers coming along?
JS: "They have done a great job. Rufus has really done a great job leading this group. In fact, with the whole defense you have to put his name up there as far as leadership wise on the defense. He has had a good offseason. He is up to 230 now and he is doing a great job. Curtis Lofton is having a great offseason. If you looked at all his numbers across the board, nobody has better numbers than Curtis Lofton. He has just got to mature mentally as a player and learn how to handle the workload that Coach Venables gives him. But he will be fine. He is at 245 pounds, benches over 400, runs well (4.7) and he has a great vertical jump (35). Curtis, across the board for a linebacker, is one of the tops. Demarrio Pleasant has made some progress, but he needs to keep coming. Ryan Reynolds has had a good offseason. He has his weight is up to 228. There is a young guy who is really competitive, doesn't say much, but who is a blue collar guy and works hard."
JH: I saw Reggie Smith the other day and I can tell he is bigger, but he says he wants to run a better time for you on your next testing period. It appears that the secondary guys are working hard and trying to get better?
JS: "We were just talking this morning about that whole group and how competitive there were, and how they were always pushing each other. Guys like Reggie, Darien Williams and D.J. Wolfe have all had really good offseasons. D.J. has really matured and he has really become a leader on this football team. You look at a guy like Nic Harris, who needs to continue to develop. Keenan Clayton is a player that they (coaches) want to see some good things out of him at safety. He is a real physical guy, a Roy Williams type guy, who weighs about 215, but who benches close to 400 pounds. He is just a physical guy that has to carry it over to the field. Also, a guy at linebacker that we forgot to mention was Lewis Baker. He is a guy that works his tail off every day and he can't go unnoticed. Lewis weighs 211 right now, so he has put on 11 pounds, but he does a great job day-in-and-day-out. There is a not a guy who comes in who is more competitive than Lewis Baker, so we have to give him credit."
JH: You mentioned that D.J. has become quite a leader. How so?
JS: "He is at 205 now and he played the season at about 200. He does a great job. He is a guy that has really matured, but all these guys have to continue to get better. They can't be happy with where they are at, but we feel pretty good about what we have done so far."
JH: What does D.J. run in the 40?
JS: "He has always been a 4.4 guy."
JH: Another guy that you have always had trouble putting weight on is Joe Jon Finley, but at the Pro Day he said that he now at 246?
JS: "Yes, he is at 246 and we are shooting for 250 by spring ball. That will really help him, because he runs well. However, that weight will help him be more physical on his blocking. He always does a great job. He is a guy that always comes prepared and he does a great job. Brody Eldridge is another guy who you have to throw in at tight end. He changed positions, but has done a great job. He is like Joe Jon in that he doesn't say much, but he really works hard. Joe Jon has good speed as he is in the range of high 4.6 to 4.7."
JH: Before the offseason started you sounded a little concerned about the young wide receivers, because you wanted them to realize that they were still young and could improve so much. Are you happy with how your wide receivers have worked?
JS: "They have done pretty good, but I can't say they have been great. They have work to do, and they understand that. Paul Thompson, of course, is going to work his tail off and he is going to be the leader of that group. However, everybody else has just kind of worked if you know what I mean. They have done a decent job, but we can do better. From this day forward, we need to just keep getting better and step it up all the way through the summer. Again, they have done a decent job, but they just need to keep getting better and maturing because they are just young guys."
JH: Are their weights OK for you? Are they running some good times?
JS: "They are all good and they run well. We just have to get more physical as a group, become more mentally tough. Running wise, that is not going to be a problem for that group. They are going to run well. Almost all of them are 4.4 guys who run well, but who need to get more physical and mentally tough."
JH: You have always said that Rhett Bomar is a great offseason guy. Has that been the case during this offseason?
JS: "Rhett always comes in to work. He is a big, tough guy who runs well. He has done a great job. There is nobody that works harder day in and day out. He is like Adrian Peterson, as far as guys who are going to come in every day and work. Joe Jon and guys like Reggie are going to come in and work hard every day. He needs to continue to lead and that is good, because that is tough for those guys to come right out of high school and have to lead. It is hard to do. I have also been really pleased with Joey (Halzle). He has good work habits, is a good kid and he is going to fit right in."
JH: What does Rhett weigh and what has he run for you? It sounds like you can't wait to start your summer program to see how far these guys advance?
JS: "I always look forward to the summer, but it will come soon enough. You always look forward to see these guys to compete in the spring and then see what you got. It is interesting to see how it carries over to the field, and then you reset your goals and go back into the summer. Bomar is a guy who is 6-2 ½ and weighs 210. He is just a physical guy. People don't really realize how big he is and he can really run. He is a high 4.5 to 4.6 guy, but he does a great job of working hard. We are pleased with everything, but we just have to keep going. We will see how it goes in the spring and then get back after it again."
One-on-one with Jerry Schmidt
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