Friday, June 15, 2018

Bodybuilding Heroics Highlight College Football Talking Season

June 14, 2018
By paulmbanks

The World Cup has now arrived to help fill the void of the baseball-only doldrums that mark this portion of the annual sporting calendar. Off course, the United States of America didn’t qualify for this one, so for many sports fans, this period will remain dull until football season gets here.

At the very least, football talking season will be here soon, as it’s only a month or so away now. Football talking season arrives when college football media days begin in mid July.

A consistent staple of these prolonged media sessions are the glorious tales of bodybuilding heroics. Discussions of power cleans, incline press, squats, bodybuilding shoes, weightlifting gloves, protein consumption, added mass, repping out and maxing out are what these conversations are all about.

This discourse is a lot more fun and interesting than your typical media day interviews, which are dominated by corporate cliches, mind-numbing pablum and worthless platitudes. When you talk shop on bodybuilding and weightlifting, you’re dealing with numbers, metrics, facts and figures, not coachspeak catch phrases that would fit only a motivational cat poster.

Two past tales of weight room heroism remind of us what is to come in 2018.

In 2017, Northwestern Wildcats defensive tackle Tyler Lancaster was able to do 37 reps of 225 on the bench press, which was a higher number than any NFL Draft prospect at the Scouting Combine that year.

In 2014, former Iowa Hawkeyes Offensive Tackle Brandon Scherff power cleaned 443 pounds three times.

“He’s not just a weight room freak,” Iowa Hawkeyes tailback Weisman said of Scherff. “He’s a football freak.”

Indeed he was then and he is now. Scherff went on to be selected as the fifth overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, and thus ended the Big Ten’s long drought of having no top ten overall picks.

The streak dated all the way back to 2008, when Michigan OT Jake Long went 1st overall.

Scherff made the all rookie team, and has now started 46 games in the NFL. He’s made the Pro Bowl twice in his first three seasons. Audio of the Brandon Scherff interview can be found on Sound Cloud at this link.

Moving on to Lancaster, he’s a prime example of how the capacity to bench press one’s own body weight is an accurate marker of good physical fitness.

In 2017, we learned at media day that Lancaster can bench 450 pounds, which is 140 above the 310 that he’s currently listed. For comparison’s sake, 300 is typically regarded to be an elite bench press max out for a layperson. You really have to be pretty “do you even lift, bro?!” to even get anywhere near that benchmark (pun intended)

Lancaster could also deadlift 740 pounds, and also possesses a broad jump of 9’4” and a 27-inch vertical. It’s easy to see why last summer saw Lancaster named #32 in the nation on the list of Sports Illustrated’s “workout warriors.”

His former Northwestern teammate Godwin Igwebuike described Lancaster’s ability to bench press 225 37 times as “scary.”

The weight of 225 (two plates on each side, a “plate” is the vernacular for a 45 pound weight, as it equals the weight of the bar) is considered the football standard for “repping out.” It’s the level at which one tests muscular endurance by trying to execute as many repetitions as possible.

Repping out measures endurance while maxing out is to test pure brute strength. Lancaster believes he’s much stronger and better in one area than the other.

“I feel like my repping out is a lot better than than the max, but 450 I think is still pretty good,” he said before later describing what’s going through his mind when he’s on the bench doing work.

“You’re in the zone, it’s just about you and the bar. It’s a fight, it’s a battle with yourself- can I do this extra rep? One more, one more, one more, one more.”

Audio of the Tyler Lancaster interview can be found on Sound Cloud at this link. Northwestern Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald spoke of Lancaster’s tremendous work ethic, not just in the weight room, but all around.

”He’s always been a great worker in the weight room, and a great player, but to see him kind of take it to the next level has been really spectacular. He’s not a guy that says a lot. He’s a guy that speaks more through his actions,” said Fitzgerald.

“He’s done that since he got here and to see the relentless nature in which he attacks every day is really special.”

Lancaster did not get drafted by the NFL this past spring, but he was signed by the Green Bay Packers. Facing long odds, he will get his opportunity to make the squad when training camp opens up in July.

Jamie Meder "one of the best run players in the NFL"

From Steve Doerschuk's "82 days before opener, Browns coaches say all systems go"
June 14, 2018

BEREA — In his spare time, Bob Wylie flies airplanes, performs magic tricks and plays musical instruments.

Wylie’s full-time employer is looking for the magic that might make an 0-16 team fly out of an era whose theme song has been Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

The Browns’ 67-year-old offensive line coach has a body-shape and bearing akin to Pop Fisher, the crusty manager from filmdom’s “The Natural,” who needed a miracle to revive his baseball team.

Old Pop’s dreams came true when aging Roy Hobbs fell out of the sky doing a superb Babe Ruth impersonation. It’s the other way around for Wylie, who has lost aging Joe Thomas, the best player from the Browns’ expansion era.

Yet, Wylie is optimistic he can get a left tackle ready in time to help the Browns do their take on coming out of nowhere.

“We have 83 days until we play the Pittsburgh Steelers on the ninth of September,” Wylie said as minicamp dispersed Thursday. “If we can’t get it done in 83 days, it probably can’t be done.”

All around him, Wylie’s colleagues popped up with examples of why something amazing can be done.

As a No. 1 overall pick from the 2017 draft, isn’t defensive end Myles Garrett supposed to be amazing?

“If he stays healthy,” defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said, “watch out.

“Earlier in camp, when we were running sprints, Myles didn’t run with the defensive linemen. He ran with the DBs and the wide receivers. Here’s this 280-pound lineman and they were having a hard time keeping up with him. I am just looking, going, ‘Wow.’ ”

Williams admits he loves Bradley Chubb, the defensive end half of Browns Nation seemed to want as the No. 4 overall pick. Williams laughs at Chubb’s “weakness” — he would have no chance trying to cover Antonio Brown. The Browns sorely needed a cover corner and spent the No. 4 on former Nordonia and Ohio State standout Denzel Ward.

Williams raved at how quickly Ward endeared himself to Browns veterans with his attitude. His talent?

“He’s one of the best press-cover guys I’ve seen at this level,” said Williams, who first worked in the NFL before Bill Belichick was hired to be coach of the Browns.

Williams said holdover Emmanuel Ogbah is more than a consolation prize after passing on Chubb.

“Knock on wood,” said Williams, “if Ogbah stays healthy, he’s going to really stand out this year.”

Williams seems jazzed about so much of what might be in his second year as coordinator.

By way of example, he called Jamie Meder, one of only two defenders (along with Christian Kirksey) who has played more than three years with the team, “one of the best run players in the NFL.”

Of safety Jabrill Peppers, who spent his rookie year on the warning track in center field, Williams said, “It’s so much fun having him in the box.”

Safeties coach Jerod Kruse said he sees Peppers living up to his status as a Round 1 pick.

“He’s better for having had that experience [of playing so deep],” Kruse said. “He was seeing it from the top down.”

Former Alabama quarterback Freddie Kitchens, the Browns’ new running backs coach, was hit by a vision in the final minicamp practice. It happened while running back Carlos Hyde was timing a run to explode through a crease at the exact right moment.

“The way he ran the ball there looked like the guy in Pittsburgh,” Kitchens said.

“The guy in Pittsburgh” is Le’Veon Bell, a No. 48 overall draft pick out Michigan State in 2013 now regarded as one of the top three running backs in the league. Hyde was a No. 57 overall draft pick out of Ohio State in 2014 who started for the San Francisco 49ers.

Kitchens, who spent recent years with Bruce Arians in Arizona, also has been handed rookie No. 35 overall draft pick Nick Chubb. Kitchens alluded to the fact Browns general manager John Dorsey has never been involved with drafting a running back as high as 35.
“I don’t know that John factored that in,” Kitchens said. “I know that Nick was sitting there at 35, and that John loved him, and I loved him.”

Speedster Antonio Callaway is supposed to be a fourth-round steal if he can get past off-field issues. He has looked the part when he has practiced, coaches say.

“The Callaway kid is stepping up,” said new special teams coordinator Amos Jones, eyeing the young wideout as a punt returner.

Offensive coordinator Todd Haley suggested Tyrod Taylor is more than the latest starting quarterback.

“Tyrod has done a tremendous, tremendous job establishing himself as the leader of this offense,” Haley said. “His car is in its parking spot every morning when I get here and it’s there when I’m leaving.
“We threw a lot at him. I’ve been really impressed.”

Linebackers coach Blake Williams said he loves where his unit might be headed with Jamie Collins returning from injury and Mychal Kendricks signing on after starting for the Eagles in a Super Bowl win.

Williams talked as if there is no odd man out, even though someone will have to be in terms of playing time.

Of Pro Bowl “Mike” linebacker Joe Schobert, Williams said, “I feel like he grew three years in one year.”

He said Kirksey is so good at pass coverage that there’s no sense in replacing him with a safety on some passing downs.

“We’re really blessed with the linebacking corps,” Williams said.

For what it’s worth, Blake’s father, Gregg, has called his son “the best young coach I’ve ever had.”

Can things actually turn quickly for the Browns? Last year was so bad.

The tone among coaches coming out of minicamp was all good.

Josh Cribbs, who is still strapping on the cleats to perform his new role as an intern return-game coach, sounded ready to pull on some boxing gloves.

“I get offended when people talk bad about us,” Cribbs said.

There was no chance of Cribbs being offended as long as he hung out in Berea on Thursday.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

The Patriot Way is why Rex Burkhead re-signed this offseason

By Tyler Sullivan
June 4, 2018

Rex Burkhead decided to double-down on his time with New England, showing that he's a-ok with the Patriot Way.

After one season with the club in 2017, the Patriots running back hit free agency and had the rest of the NFL in front of him. After a season where he showed his versatility as a runner and pass catcher in New England’s offense totaling 518 combined yards and eight touchdowns, he likely could have carved himself a nice spot with someone else if he so chose.

Instead, he decided to come back to Foxboro inking a three-year contract with the club worth $9.7 million earlier this offseason. While a player re-signing is hardly an uncommon occurrence in the NFL, it's newsworthy in the sense that the Patriots are in the midst of an offseason where stones have been thrown at their dynasty for how their militaristic culture operates.

Eagles lineman Lane Johnson has been one of the louder NFL figures bashing the Patriots this offseason, but just recently former Pats linebacker Cassius Marsh also elected to rip the organization for how much he "hated" his time with the team. That report was later followed up detailing a halftime tirade the linebacker went on during a Patriots blowout of the Raiders down in Mexico City after playing in just two snaps.

While some NFL-ers have decided to condemn playing in Foxboro, Burkhead has embraced it. In fact, he told Henry McKenna of Patriots Wire that it was the winning culture that drew him back there this offseason.

“Privileged to have the opportunity to come back to a place like this, play for an organization like this with this group of guys,” Burkhead told McKenna at Patriots OTAs last week. “It’s the type of atmosphere you want to be in as a competitor as a person that loves the game of football. There’s no better place like this.”

He added: “It was my second time in free agency, so you just go through all the pros and cons or whatever. But this is where I want to be. I wanted to be back here and have another opportunity these next few years to put another run at it.”

And it's that type of mindset that the Patriots must scout when looking to bring players in. While every team will look for players of specific skill-sets to fit their scheme, New England must be even more careful about what kind of player is coming through those doors. If they've shown signs that they can't handle their way of coaching, you'll likely get a Cassius Marsh-like result.

If they nail it, you're looking at a player in Burkhead, whose only mission in 2018 is to do something that the Patriots have been able to do better than every other team in the NFL over the last two-decades: win.

“Make another run,” Burkhead told McKenna of his aspirations this year. “We were so close last year. We have a long way to go, but hopefully we can put ourselves in that position again.”

Spoken like a true Patriot.

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