Tech QB's Part One: The Boys of Summer

The "Boys of Summer" are hard at work with official practices only weeks away. I'm not talking about Don Henley, The Ataris or The red hot Texas Rangers. It's time for Tech football. Our guys are up early four days a week to lift, run, watch film, and play seven-on-seven later in the day.

(This week's player profile includes interviews with upperclassmen Sonny Cumbie, Cody Hodges, and Robert Johnson. Look for a piece on underclassmen Phillip Daugherty and Graham Harrell later this week.)

The "Boys of Summer" are hard at work with official practices only weeks away. I'm not talking about Don Henley, The Ataris or The red hot Texas Rangers. It's time for Tech football. Our guys are up early four days a week to lift, run, watch film, and play seven-on-seven later in the day.

"Staying mentally focused during intense conditioning has been helpful in preparing for the season," said Robert Johnson, a junior college transfer from Reedley College. Mondays are a heavy running day featuring the dreaded 300's.

"It feels like 500 yards," said one quarterback wishing to remain anonymous. Bennie Wylie, Tech's strength and conditioning coach, puts the players through agility drills on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to improve footwork.

Wylie also created a few drills for the quarterbacks, such as incorporating drop back exercises with bungee cords to strengthen explosiveness off the line and into the pocket. Thursdays are another heavy conditioning day.

"I'm ready for the season to be here," said senior Sonny Cumbie. "I wish we were starting this afternoon." Cumbie and Johnson typically arrive in the weight room at 6 a.m. to put in a solid strength workout before hitting the field for conditioning. The quarterbacks have a fairly similar strength workout as compared to the rest of the team, but Wylie adds a few shoulder exercises to strengthen the supporting muscles surrounding the joint and connective tissue.

Additionally, the quarterbacks do extra hip strengthening exercises that aid in throwing. The entire workout emphasizes high repetitions with lower weight to improve endurance for two-a-days and the season.

The quarterbacks began boxing recently to improve movement in the pocket as well as condition the upper body. "At times you really don't want to hit each other because you're friends, but once you get hit you get mad. It's like two brothers fighting," said junior quarterback Cody Hodges.

Robert Johnson hasn't stepped into the ring yet, but will put on the gloves soon. Johnson goes to class four hours a day after his morning workout and returns in the afternoon for films and seven-on-seven three days a week. During the summer months, the quarterbacks spend up to an hour a day studying film cut-ups from the 2003 season to stay fresh on reading defenses.

"Watching B.J. on cutups from last season has been helpful," noted Johnson. "Watching Cody and Sonny make reads has also helped me pick up the offense."

During the season, film time increases to three hours a day. Watching 2003 film has been helpful for Cumbie, but he also noted that there's no substitute for experience.

"I want to do everything in my power to be ready for the game. On Saturday it will be second nature- we'll be rolling."

Throwing to the receiving corps three days a week has been crucial in keeping timing down during the off-season.

"When two a days hit in August, the timing is there," said Hodges. All three quarterbacks had plenty to say about this season's offense, despite losing Wes Welker, Mickey Peters, and Carlos Francis.

"We have a great group coming back. We'll be just as successful this year," said Hodges. "Nehemiah (Glover) will be able to do just as well as Wes. Everyone wants to make plays. Hicks had a great year as a red-shirt freshman- he's matured and gotten stronger."

"As a quarterback, I feel confident to throw to these guys. I think our offense will be just as good, to be honest."

Having a twin brother as a part of that offense doesn't hurt. Slade Hodges is a junior receiver on the squad, and has had plenty of practice catching his brother's passes.

Johnson arrived on campus in January to participate in off-season lifting and spring football, so he's had a chance to work with the offense at length as well.

"These are some of the best receivers I've ever played with so far. Nehemiah and Hicks are the go-to guys. I'd also like to see Marquis Johnson out there. He gets the job done," he said.

Johnson noted that participating in seven-on-seven this summer has helped him make quicker reads and improved timing.

"The hardest part of the Tech offense is calling the best play for certain covers," he said.

Johnson is already confident about the team's outlook for this season. "I think we can win it all. There will be a lot of highlights, and I think we can get 55 a game," he added.

Cumbie has high expectations for the season as well, including winning every game. "I know we have the people to do it, so anything less than that will be a disappointment. We've got the best facilities in the conference, and some of the best coaches in the nation. There's no reason why we shouldn't be at the top of the Big XII this year," he said. Cumbie also has high expectations for himself, specifically citing no turnovers, as well as acknowledging the role quarterbacks play on the team.

"The quarterback position is the most important leadership position on the field, and I'm ready to step up and fill it," he said.

Kingsbury and Symons were both great models of hard work and success for the quarterbacks who've risen up through the ranks. Cumbie has spent four years in the Tech system learning the offense and watching Kliff and B.J. Both have different approaches to the game, but were equal examples of good leaders in all areas.

"Kliff taught me that football is a humbling game," said Cumbie. He also admires Peyton Manning's footwork and "the way he uses his eyes to look off the defense."

Hodges, who has spent three years in the system, named Kingsbury as his main influence.

"As a freshman he really took me under his wing, and we still talk twice a week. No one gave him a chance when he first started, and he worked his way up to the starting spot here, having a great career. No one thought he would get drafted, and now he's the second string quarterback behind Brady (New England). He a good example of where hard work can get you," Hodges added.

Having great coaching doesn't hurt either. "Leach is a great quarterback coach, one of the best in the country. There's not a minute in the day he doesn't spend thinking about how to help make Tech a championship team," said Cumbie.

In addition to having great work ethics, the guys also have a good sense of humor. Hodges claims he's the funniest one in the bunch and is apt to crack jokes during team meetings in addition to playing pranks on newcomers.

That's not all. The guy's a huge Jessica Simpson fan and claims he was front and center when the singer appeared in concert last weekend. I'm not sure if he was serious or joking around. Maybe he was playing a prank on me! The self-professed reality television junkie also loves to get to Vegas whenever he can. I'm guessing he was telling the truth on that one.

Favorite places to eat in town? The guys include Burger King, Tom & Bingo's (ask for the "Tech Cycle"), and Abuelo's in their post-practice stops.

When is comes to all-time favorite football movies, Cumbie was with me on "Rudy," while Johnson named "Any Given Sunday." I forgot to ask Hodges because I was laughing so hard.

Don't forget to look for "Tech QB's Part 2" this Thursday.

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