Second Time Around

As the final weeks tick off the calendar before fall practice starts in earnest Aug. 7, running back Shawne Alston said he feels much better prepared, both physically and mentally, for his sophomore campaign than he did at this time a year ago.

"It's different," Alston said, just before heading into the Milan Puskar Center weight room for a workout. "I've got a lot more confidence because I've learned the system now, and I'm just more confident in myself as a runner. Just being in the system for a year and being a year older, you're just smarter now."

"In camp, I just want to go out there and show the coaches what I can do. That way, I can hopefully increase my playing time or get some time on special teams -- whatever I can do to help my team, that's what I'm here for."

While Alston feels more comfortable mentally with the offense heading into the season, he and his West Virginia teammates have said they will enter fall camp in exceptional physical shape as well.

That is because they have endured what has been characterized as an extraordinarily tough period of strength and conditioning work this summer.

Unlike many other Mountaineers, Alston has had to work on keeping his weight down while still going through the same tough workout regimen prescribed by strength coach Mike Joseph.

That means Alston has had to make some sacrifices at a place many players prefer to indulge -- the training table.

"You've got to watch your eating habits. I can't eat every time I'm hungry as much as I want to," he said. "You have to sacrifice a little bit. I'm drinking a lot of water and stuff instead of the sodas and the sugars and stuff. But it's all worth it."

With a little more than two weeks separating WVU players from the start of fall camp, Alston said he has accomplished his weight goals for the summer. After playing at as much as 226 pounds as a true freshman last year, he said he was at about 218 pounds as of last week and hoped to play anywhere between 215 and 220.

Those numbers might not be too different, but Alston has kept (and, indeed, added) muscle weight on his frame while trimming "bad weight" in the form of fat. He credited Joseph with running workouts that, according to Alston, have the Mountaineers in peak condition heading into the fall.

"I feel like we're working a lot harder," said the Hampton, Va., native. "I feel like the strength staff is pushing us a lot harder, and I feel like we're responding good to the hard work they've been putting us through. It will all pay off later on down the road, and I think everybody realizes that, so they all come in and put in full effort every day."

Those improvements in the weight room have Alston and others actually looking forward to the start of fall camp -- a notoriously difficult time for all the players as they struggle physically and mentally through two-a-day practices.

"We've put in a lot of work, so we're just real anxious to get on the field and just compete and show how good we are," said the running back.

"[I'm looking forward to] just going out there and showing all the hard work we've been doing in the weight room this year has been paying off. It's speed, power -- all sorts of things."

And it's not just the weight room where players said they have made gains. While coaches and media aren't around to watch, West Virginia's skill position players have said 7-on-7 drills have been also more efficient this summer compared to previous seasons.

"We've been going out and doing 7-on-7s. We've been doing ladder drills. A couple of us came out on Saturday and just put some extra work in," Alston said. "Every day, you can improve, whether it's just catching balls on the jug machine or just watching film, anything."

While camp looms on the not-too-distant horizon, Alston said there is still time for improvement to be made before it begins three Saturdays from now.

"We've still got to maintain our focus in the weight room, keep getting stronger and keep getting better," he said. "I mean, every day, you can get better. So I mean, even though there's only about two weeks of workouts left, we've still got to stay focused and work hard."

BlueGoldNews Top Stories