If there's any one thing more important to our football team than strength and conditioning - I don't know what it is. In fact I think it's the equalizer for schools like Rice. Every school wants big, fast football players. The current BCS programs have advantages in recruiting those types of players coming right out of high school. We get our share too - just not always immediately in the form we'd like. There's obviously two ways to get those players - one is to find them at a "college ready" size, the other is to develop them into those kind of players. In order to accomplish that in recruiting the coaching staff has to not only evaluate football skills but also what a player could look like in 2 years. They must analyze a player's frame (to carry more weight), his running mechanics (to determine whether he can get faster), and even his genetics to determine strength potential. They do this in conjunction with Yancy McNight and his training staff. Our ability to take good athletes and turn them into great athletes is absolutely critical for our program. That physical development combined with the skill development our players are receiving on the practice field is what will ultimately lead us to become a championship team. I'm excited about our future, because by the looks of the class we just signed Yancy will have a lot to work with.
Progress Strength and conditioning is always a work in progress, here are some examples of the success of our Strength and Conditioning Program at work:
We'll have over 15 players Bench Pressing 400 pounds or more after Wednesday night - there were less than 5 when Yancy arrived. Some names in that group that may surprise you - Corbin Smiter and C.J. Ogokwe.
The staff has done wonders with the talented 2007 Signing Class. Examples: Chris Jones has gained over 20 pounds of muscle since arriving at Rice, now weighing 201. Offensive lineman Jake Hicks has gained over 20 pounds of muscle as well and now checks in at 290. Randy Kitchens arrived at Rice weighing less than 195 pounds, he now weighs 215 and is considered one of the faster players on the team. Sophomore Scott Solomon is probably the poster child for the program - he weighs almost 265 now and recently benched 427 pounds.
While testing for speed is not done in the spring, the following players are among the fastest on the team - Patrick Randolph, Joseph Leary, Christopher Douglas, Chris Jones, Randy Kitchens, and Michael Fuda. The Owls have focused on this area in particular as a team this offseason. Yancy has spoken very highly of Assistant Strength Coach Clayton Oyster's work in this area.
The highest "leapers" on the team start with Jarett Dillard, who reportedly is capable of reaching 44" (he may need to register with Houston Flight Control at that height). He hit 42" last year. Others with impressive verticals are John Welch, Brian Raines, Taylor Wardlow, and Justin Hill.
And speaking of Hill, he is pushing Brian Raines for the honor of being named this year's Iron Owl - the honor given to the Rice football player who is pound for pound strongest on the team. Justin has packed on the muscle weight and is approaching 220 pounds right now. He will Bench over 400 pounds and also jump nearly 38" - yet he still runs 4.4 in the 40 yard dash.
Think the program is working?
Wednesday night's event will surely be a high energy affair as Rice fans, alongside current players cheer on selected competitors in the Bench Press, Squat, and Power Clean events.
See you there...