Muscle Beach

Technically, this is the part of the year most typically called "the offseason" when discussing the game of football. But throughout the summer, West Virginia University strength and conditioning coach Mike Joseph has to be in midseason form to make sure the Mountaineer players will be at their peak when start their 2010 campaign on Sept. 4 by taking on Coastal Carolina.

And while Joseph continues to push players to toil away in the expansive weight room on the bottom floor of the Milan Puskar Center, those being put to the test by his grueling workouts say they already feel better for it.

"This is the toughest summer I've had so far," said WVU offensive lineman Josh Jenkins, who will soon begin his junior season in the old gold and blue.

"Mike Joseph has done a really good job of picking it up. Every day, you've got to crawl out of the weight room because it's so tough. I feel like it's making everyone better, including myself."

Head coach Bill Stewart's players seem to have a difficult time pinpointing just what it is that has made the summer of 2010 an especially tough one. But every player seems to agree -- Joseph is a man on a mission this year.

"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," Mountaineer running back Shawne Alston said. "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."

Shawne Alston

While West Virginia players have not had to deal with the regular demands of an in-season practice schedule this summer, they said the past three months have been anything but easy.

"Everything is more intense," Jenkins said of Joseph's summer workout regimen. "Everyone is working so much harder. We're getting pushed harder. The running is harder. The lifting is harder. We're just doing more things in the weight room.

"Everything is more fast. It's kind of like how we practice. We practice fast. The weight room is starting to be like that too."

With the summer strength and conditioning period nearing an end and fall practice set to begin on Aug. 7, both Alston and Jenkins expressed mixed emotions.

Those feelings ranged from excitement that the season will be that much closer to beginning, to dread for the notoriously difficult two-a-day practices that await them, to relief that Joseph's toughest workouts will finally be behind them, to an eagerness to see just how much that time spent in the Puskar Center weight room will benefit them on the field this fall.

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

"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."

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