David Traxler, the 6-6 290-pound sophomore offensive tackle from Jackson, MS, is normally sort of reserved.
But when you talk to him about the offseason strength and conditioning program the Rebels are currently going through and the spring training session that is creeping up on the team and will begin March 6, his eyes light up.
"This is really the first winter offseason we have had where we are getting the full effects of (S&C) Coach (Aaron) Ausmus' offseason program," said Traxler, who suffered last season with a prolonged neck injury after getting substantial playing time early in the 2005 season. "Now that we are fully entrenched in his program, and we are doing everything his way in the winter, we are starting to see substantial gains in our strength and conditioning.
"Coach Ausmus is really in his first full cycle of his strength training. You better be ready to roll when you enter the door of our weight room. Already I can tell a difference. We won't max out until right before spring training, but I'm already doing more reps at higher weights than I was able to do last year."
Traxler understands the importance of that progress and accomplishment.
"After getting the chance to play last season and realizing what I needed to improve, it mostly came down to a strength issue. Simply put, I just need to get stronger, period," he stated. "Upper body, lower body, total body strength gains are what I need.
"My footwork and knowing what to do have never been my areas of concern. If I get my strength level to where it should be, I will do fine."
Traxler is expected to challenge, and is actually the pre-spring favorite, for one of the tackle slots. To earn starting status, he's got to impress new Offensive Line Coach Art Kehoe.
"This week is the first week we will be able to work with our position coaches and I'm excited about being coached by Coach Kehoe. Right now, by rule, we can work eight hours a week without a ball with our coaches," Trax said. "I'm anxious to get started on individual drills Coach Kehoe gives us and to start learning the techniques and schemes we will use."
At the time of this interview, Monday afternoon, Traxler had talked briefly with Kehoe twice. The impression the new OL mentor left was a good one.
"I was one of the first OL to meet him. I love his enthusiasm about football and about playing on the offensive line," he continued. "From what I can tell so far, we are lucky to have him."
What does he expect from Kehoe? To be driven to a higher level.
"He's going to push us real hard, but he told me he will always be in our corner fighting for us and with us," David noted. "He seems like the kind of coach you can sit down with and talk to if you are having problems and he will help you.
"Coach Kehoe has already told us we will not be a passive OL. We will fire off the ball and go after people. We will be fast, in shape and tough. We will get after defensive people. He said we will finish blocks and we will be effective and there was no accepting anything else."
Traxler currently weighs 290 pounds. He'd like to weigh more, but only if he puts on quality weight.
"My goal is to get stronger. If weight comes with that, fine. But strength is number one. More weight is a bonus if I gain it due to getting stronger. If not, I will play at 290 and be effective because I will be stronger," he explained. "I don't want to put on bad weight that will hamper my movement or footwork, but I would like to reach the 300-pound mark if I put on weight the right way."
Traxler is fully recovered from his nagging neck injury and ready to roll when spring rolls around.
"Injury is part of college football. You fight through it and do the best you can, but it's a lot more fun playing when you are healthy," he closed. "I'm healthy now and hope to stay that way."
Spring training will be when the foundation of the team, and the OL, is determined.
David Traxler has designs on being a big block in that foundation.
Traxler 'can't wait' for spring training
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