The 6-3 junior college transfer struggled throughout spring practice to maintain the added weight he badly needs to play end in the odd stack set. The junior added 20 pounds to get to 240, then saw it gradually dissipate during spring. Ford dipped into the 230s, then 220s before leveling off. He is not as brad-shouldered as Keilen Dykes, nor as naturally muscular as Johnny Dingle, making any weight gains difficult. But with his height, getting to and maintaining 245 pounds is a reasonable goal, and one he is slowing approach as summer progresses.
"It worries me a lot and gets stressful at times," Ford said. "I came in around 240 pounds. But through spring ball I was losing weight constantly. It's was on and off. Now I am maintaining 230s."
Ford was consuming as much pizza and fast food as he could. But often those are empty calories, not providing legit dietary needs while simply packing on weight. That's effective for pure weight gain, usually in fat, but doesn't help produce muscle, whose fibers are heavier than fat and would amass needed poundage more quickly. So, as part of Mike Joseph's new strength and conditioning staff, WVU hired a nutritionalist.
"She is saying just eat, that's my biggest problem. But I am eating everything," Ford said. "Still having pizza and things like that. We are meeting with here in a few days to go over more details. She is going to take a couple players shopping and tell us what to eat. It'll be healthy, I know that much."
The plan would logically be for a more balanced diet with significant amounts of protein. When Brian King, the former Mountaineer cornerback, needed to gain weight, the staff instructed him to eat whatever he wanted, including ice cream before bedtime. King continually stuffed himself, and eventually got up to an appropriate playing weight while not becoming sluggish or sacrificing speed. With Ford's off-the-snap quickness, that will be a major aspect of his gain as well.
"I feel like I don't have to be as big with my speed. I am one of the fastest D-lineman we got, so with my speed they don't want me up to 270 or so and lose it," he said. "Right now I need to gain weight first. I did what I had to do in spring ball to get by. To say I am ready, I'm not yet. I will be by the fall. I want to weigh around 245 to 250, so I have 10 pounds left in two months."
Joseph holds a team weigh-in every Thursday. Linebacker Reed Williams says it resembles the hit TV show "The Biggest Loser." If players are not making the needed gains or losses, Joseph will have them work out with him or come in and eat breakfast to ensure the nutrition and amount of food is appropriate. Ford has not had to do that – yet – and is gaining weekly. The test will be to see if he can maintain the weight through fall rills and into the season. If so, he can add to the depth and ability of a defensive line that, despite the loss of Dykes and Dingle, might actually be better all-around than last season because of Ford and other JUCO infusions and the continued development of other players.
"I'm trying to keep at it," said Ford, who had 37 tackles and three sacks last year. "Just keep gaining that weight and get to where the coaches want me. I'll be ready by fall."