"It is intense those first weeks," offensive lineman Damien Crissey said. "We do real high repetitions, like four sets of 10-12 reps in everything. That acclimates your body to the summer workouts. It's hardest at first, then when you get past that, you can ease into it some and work on what you need to as a player."
The current workout cycle is essentially a continuous build. Players try to better themselves, coming in every day in the midafternoon after classes or jobs to lift and then run under the watchful eye of Barwis. The puking period has largely passed for the incumbents – WVU places garbage cans around the perimeter of Mountaineer Field to make sure there are no clean-ups – but the newcomers will get a taste, maybe quite literally, of cardio conditioning whenever they report.
"Our workouts are physically demanding to the point where you mentally crack," Barwis said. "Mentally and physically players are stronger the second time around. They see the new kids a year later and they see themselves achieve through those players. They see themselves have the mental and physical ability to endure.
"And our staff has the ability to push kids to that wall, but not beyond it. We all have a good understanding of sciences to know when to say when, where that wall is and when to keep pushing and when they hit that wall. We earn their respect instead of demanding it, and that allows us to have a great working relationship. Truthfully, since I have been over here, every year has gotten harder. The first year the kids just were not able to handle what we do now. Every year has gotten harder as far as how to do strength drills and agility and conditioning. As long as they are working, they will continue to adapt physically to the demands placed upon their body."
Nearly every WVU player has reported for the summer, eager to prove last season was no fluke and that the Mountaineers aren't just the proverbial one-hit wonder. Some players, like tailback Jet Best, are looking to add weight, while others, like veteran offensive lineman, are trying to gain strength and stamina without adding bulk that will slow them. For the differences, Bawis creates a program for each player on everything from lifting to running and nutrition.
"A lot of what we do is relative to how long kids have been in your program," Barwis said. "We do a program for each individual to what they need. But it always gets more difficult to make sure we have that edge. Guys are better with that explosiveness, their balance, their strength. We want to push ourselves to that wall to make sure we are ahead of that competition. We want to push ourselves to the limits we have at that time. There are specific things we do to adapt and phase players in and make sure each individual will reach their potential."
That also might mean playing mind games with players.
We haven't done any of the stuff like in the past (pushing tanks, flipping monster truck tires), but you never know with Mike," Crissey said. "We don't do Law School Hill until July. It's fun to watch the new guys do it."
"I always want to take a kid to the point where he is not mentally ready for what we do today," Barwis said. "It does not matter how long it goes, you have to go 110 percent until it stops. Kids always ask me what we are going to do today. I don't tell them. You are going to get hit with things you do not expect. Like Louisville. Did you expect that to go three overtimes? You go until it is done."
To think Barwis is dodged by players would be a mistake. The athletes know how valuable he is, both individually and to the program.
"Workouts are 75 percent of the game, and everybody has really bought into the program," Schmitt said. "Without Mike Barwis, we probably would not have won half the games we did last season. Look at the Louisville game, when we came back. We are always undersized along the line, so that conditioning helps a lot. It's very important. Mike Barwis pushes you harder than anybody else."
West Virginia is also getting that leadership push that often either emerges in summer, or not at all.
"Pat White and Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt have stepped up," Barwis said. "Marc Magro, Dan Mozes, they lead by example and vocally. We have a lot of those kids right now. I am hard-pressed to pick out a couple guys who are not doing what they are supposed to do. The summer spawns and breeds those type kids."
The workouts are five days a week, and about two hours per day. Typically players work on different body parts each day, so as not to overexert one area. WVU has also focused on cardio conditioning more under Barwis.
"The workouts are like last year, but harder," Schmitt said. "Our whole team has been here since the beginning of summer. Everyone has really bought into the program."
Note: Barwis, on the new NCAA rule that allows qualified incoming freshmen to report for summer workouts – "I really like the summer. Having the new guys here allows them to assimilate some to teammates and the demands our program places upon them. They get to see the level our kids are at when it comes to strength and speed and physical conditioning. It also ensures they will be in good condition and that reduces injuries. That should be big for the NCAA. We can address those imbalances they might have had to prevent injury.
"It also allows them to compete at a faster rate and younger age. Having that two times in a year and a half span is really effective in seeing kids improve their force and speed, things like that."