Stanford football has wrapped up its first arduous phase of offseason training. Players are free to return home for a two-week break following the conclusion of their final exams. Then, June 24 will mark the beginning of an intensive summer training session under strength and conditioning guru Shannon Turley, who was married this past Saturday (It's a good stretch for Turley, as you can also call him the Kissick Family Director of Sports Performance now. Stanford is the first FBS sports performance program in the nation with an endowed directorship.)
The Cardinal's second set of reinforcements will also arrive on June 24. The sports performance staff will conduct a comprehensive battery of tests on the 11-man incoming freshman crop (Sean Barton, the 12th member, will be leaving on his two-year LDS mission to Benin soon).
"They come in as boys, and they're expected to go play with men," head trainer Steve Bartlinski said of the freshmen. "We're trying to be proactive and get these kids taken care of so that they get a chance. Because without a chance, they'll get killed out there."
Stanford is one of the only programs in the nation that administers heart-imaging echocardiograms (ECGs) to all of its incoming players. The staff will conduct concussion baseline testing, foot assessments, flexibility evaluations, and functional movement screening as part of a battery of tests designed to determine the best way to train each individual player. Turley's team will also administer the functional lower extremity evaluation (FLE), another vital measurement in assessing a player's particular needs on the conditioning path.
"We live objectively. We're not into the subjective feel-good questions," Bartlinski said. "How can we improve this athlete? What are the things we need to measure? Those are the questions we ask."
Bartlinksi said that many of the incoming freshmen typically come in "relatively broken." Because of that, the training room is busier in June than it is in January, when one would expect bruised players to fill it up after the conclusion of a physically taxing season.
"You get a 320 pounder that is a relative big bag of goo because his only conditioning work coming in was running a mile," Bartlinski said. "So, new players come in with Achilles tendon issues, with patellar tendon issues, with no shoulder stability, with no core stability, with hip issues. We have to rebuild them. We put them right into physical therapy when they get here."
The Turley Files
To preempt potential problems, Turley has sent out a training packet and instructional video to Stanford's incoming crop, but he and Bartlinksi say that incomers sometimes hire personal trainers who diverge from the staff's recommended regime. They add that this puts the new players at an immediate disadvantage when they arrive on The Farm in June.
For what it's worth, Mike Tyler and Eric Cotton, the two incoming players who spoke to The Bootleg about their preparations, both reported that they've closely followed Turley's program. The workload involves dynamic explosive exercises and limited rest between weightlifting sets. This simultaneous aerobic emphasis helps burn fat while building muscle.
"It's very difficult. It kicked my butt the first couple of weeks," said Cotton, a tight end. "Right when I thought I was getting used to it and getting stronger, it kicked my butt again."
The Nampa, Idaho native is using the upcoming challenge of Division 1 college football to fuel his hometown Turley-driven workouts.
"I just want to compete and prove myself against these guys," he said.
Zach Hoffpauir's Conditioning Challenge
Stanford's sports performance staff has also been helping guide another reinforcement in the football conditioning process throughout the spring. Safety Zach Hoffpauir also played baseball for Mark Marquess' club this season, and his quest to balance both sports involved football conditioning sessions after his baseball practices.
"I've talked to Tyler Gaffney about the the baseball-football combination and how much of a grind it is," Hoffpauir said. "This year's definitely been a growing year, but with advice from guys like Tyler, it's really helped me a lot."
Legend has it that former Stanford two-sport star Toby Gerhart would trot off to the weight room to prepare for his bruising backfield carries as soon as his baseball games concluded at Sunken Diamond. Hoffpauir, who was a reserve outfielder this past season on Marquess' club, said that Turley and sports performance coach Andy Ward helped him devise a workout regimen balance that took nuances from both sports into account.
Hoffpauir explains that balancing the markedly different energy levels of both sports has been his biggest challenge as a Division I dual-sport athlete. Linebacker Shayne Skov has said that the sophomore brings a "good kind of crazy" to his safety position in football, but gridiron intensity must be exuded in different ways on the diamond. That's the biggest mental adjustment Hoffpauir has had to learn to embrace.
"Baseball, you've got to be on level," he said. "Neutral, you can't be too high, you can't be too low. I've been getting used to that. It's a hard thing to do. On the football field, I can get a little bit crazy. That's the type of mentality that I try to go out there with."
Baseball's over now, so Hoffpauir can shift back to providing his insane amount of energy to the football field. Buckle up.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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