Monday, August 21, 2017

Small things matter for WVU football during summer workouts

Shelton Gibson (1) walks off the field during spring practice. (Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS)

Shelton Gibson (1) walks off the field during spring practice.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va.—Summer has arrived but that doesn’t mean the West Virginia University football team is lounging by a pool.

Instead it is strength and conditioning time during these dog days of summer.

Conditioning is an aspect of sports, particularly football, which people often overlook. However, if teams aren’t properly conditioned, it could spell trouble when the pads go one.

For the Mountaineers’ speedy style of play conditioning is detrimental when it comes game time.

“We’re a fast paced offense,” senior wide receiver Shelton Gibson said. “We go and we go and we go. The better we can do that then we can kill these other teams like that. We saw it with a couple teams last year. They’re tired. They’re tired and we are good. So we can hit them where it hurts.”

WVU started summer conditioning last week and everyone is focused on getting ready for camp in August.

“They sit down with the strength coach and set their goal weights and their lifting weights and kind of go from there,” defensive line coach Bruce Tall said. “That’s what I’m working with, the physical developments, the conditioning level.”

Skyler Howard (3) looks on during spring practice. (Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS)

Skyler Howard (3) looks on during spring practice.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS)

The Mountaineers know just what is at stake come fall if they aren’t in shape.

“Everybody is eager right now,” running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider said. “All our guys hear about expectations that we aren’t going to be good so all they’re doing is fueling the engine. Guys are working hard. To have this many guys in this early, you already got numbers to go be in camp right now even with some of the walk-ons. You got good depth, guys competing hard and working, pushing each other.”

“It’s going good,” senior defensive lineman Noble Nwachukwu added. “It’s intense. This is probably the hardest conditioning we have done in awhile but we are all getting better. It’s a challenge but it’s good.”

Both Gibson and Nwachukwu feel the summer conditioning will pay off when its time to put the pads on and step on the field.

“I feel like I am pretty conditioned,” Gibson said. “But I would say something that I had to work on would probably be the strength of my legs for long distance. Sometimes my legs get a little tired but if I can strengthen my legs I can be fully conditioned.”

“I did gain a little weight so my endurance went down a little bit,” Nwachukwu added. “So that is something I need to improve on.”

On Thursday morning, the 2016 WVU football squad got its first taste of Law School Hill.

“We ran the law school hill this morning so we could see where we are and where we need to get to,” Tall said. “It’s a great challenge. It’s fun to watch them compete and get after it.”

Law School Hill is just one of the many things the Mountaineers’ newcomers have to endure nevertheless senior linebacker Sean Walters thinks it’s a good experience.

Dylan Tonkery (10) takes part in spring drills. (Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS)

Dylan Tonkery (10) takes part in spring drills.
(Photo Credit: Kelsie VanderWijst, BGS)

“It’s a very good experience for the younger guys to know what West Virginia is all about, hard-nosed and blue collared,” he said. “So you work hard everyday and that hill says it all. Just by going out there and competing with each other, trying to be the best athlete, trying to gain something afterwards. It’s good for us.”

Football players get little time to themselves, even in the summer. Although they aren’t in full gear preparing for the season, they are always grinding.

Some question whether the constant training of a football player causes problems towards the end of the season but quarterback Skyler Howard thinks it’s the opposite.

“If you preserve yourself too much, you are just going to get beat up during the season,” Howard said. “So I think getting under the squat rack and doing 300-400 pounds is going to prepare me and keep me healthier throughout the season rather than laying on the couch watching some TV.”

But the key for success is to work hard whether you are a freshman or an upperclassman.

“Every day you got to come in and work and never take a day for granted,” senior safety Tyler said. “Cherish every moment of it.”

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