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BOGACZYK: Herd Summer Lifts More than Weights

Scott Sinclair
Aug. 10, 2015

-- Marshall doesn't open the 2015 football season until Sept. 6 at Edwards Stadium, when Purdue becomes the first Big Ten Conference football visitor to Huntington.

However, from one perspective, the Thundering Herd already is 1-0.

That's the view through the summery, sweat-drenched prism of the Dunfee Weight Room, where Coach Doc Holliday's sixth Marshall team primed the pump for September through what the Herd hopes is another bowl appearance.

In the Herd strength and conditioning program, one oft-repeated slogan is "Win the Day." Scott Sinclair, in his third year as Marshall's head strength and conditioning coach, wants that just like those players' reps with a weight-laden bar.

So, did the Herd "win the summer?"

"Well, I think we failed if we didn't," Sinclair said of the football strength staff he heads up with assistant Bill Brown. "If we didn't, then we better look for another strength coach because I didn't do my job. If we don't come in every day in the summer and win it, then I think we have a more difficult task winning in the fall.

"To me, what we do in the summer kind of sets the standard of what the fall should be ... from a discipline standpoint, in accountability, being a man of character. In my opinion, those things translate to wins -- not totally -- but does translate to a better performance on Saturdays in the fall.

"You've got to have discipline. You've got to be a man of character. You've got to do things the right way. The L's that we put up (as slogans) this offseason are something new -- Love the Process; Live the Dream."

Holliday consistently credits the strength staff for helping Marshall achieve back-to-back seasons of double-digit victories, including the Conference USA title and a final polls ranking in 2014. It's not a subjective notion. The performance numbers prove it.

When Sinclair and Brown arrived in the program in March 2013, Marshall had seven players who could power clean 300-plus pounds. That number is now 32. Twenty-seven months ago, six did a bench press of 400 pounds or more. That number is 13 these days. A 455-pound squat was done by 14 in the spring of 2013. Last month, that number increased to 35.



"The biggest difference is -- being this is our third year -- the guys know what it's about," said Sinclair, who came to Marshall from an assistant's job at UCF. "They do things now without us saying, `Come on, you've got to get this done; let's go, let's go,' and saying it 3, 4, 5 times.

"It's almost like they're a machine now where we just turn the key and they know what's expected. And that's something I've been waiting for. The first couple of years, everything's new, they're not sure, they don't know how you are ... but now we're to the point where I think they're not afraid of the weights. And that's good to say."

And while it seems that the role of Sinclair and Brown relates primarily to things physical, the Herd strength boss said there is a mental side to it, too.

"I know when we first got here, it was kind of like, `Hey, guys, you're going to be expected to squat 400 pounds-plus.' That's four plates on the bar, and they're scared to death," Sinclair said. "They'd be, `I can't do that. No way.'

"Now -- and I said this to Coach Holliday one day -- that instead of asking them to go more, we're having to pull them back. Instead of us saying you've got to put five more pounds on there and do this, it's, `Look, you can't go heavier today. You've got to stay at this weight.'

"That's something we wanted to happen, and now it's happened. They come in and push themselves and they're striving to be better without us having to beg. The freshmen, they're like any other freshmen -- you have to teach them how it's going to be, how we work here, what's expected of them, the body language ... They need to get the thing we say, `Attack The Day.'

"I think our numbers have gotten better every year and it goes back to what we said -- guys aren't afraid of it anymore. It's a challenge for them to come in and push themselves."

While Sinclair and Brown have several aides in graduate assistants, they also get plenty of "salesmanship" from upperclassmen.

"I think it's a decent amount," Sinclair said of the input from veterans. "You can hear our upperclassmen saying things like, `Hey, that isn't going to fly here.' Or, `That's high school stuff; that won't work in this program.' And that hasn't been that way in the past.

"It's been us (the strength coaches) having to say it. I remember one time this summer, (Michael) Birdsong and Davonte Allen jumping on three freshmen, telling them, `Hey, that isn't going to work. You'd better do it this way, because that's how we do it here.'

"Guys like (cornerback) Keith Baxter; he became almost a coach. (Linebacker) D.J. Hunter was a guy in years past, he'd been fine, but he hadn't been a leader. This summer, D.J. really did good job being a leader. (Tackle) Clint Van Horn had a good summer, very vocal, a leader by example and also wasn't afraid to tell everybody what he thought."

Sinclair was enthused about a new competition this summer, the Iron Herd Football Club. "Membership" was based upon a player, depending on his body weight, reaching certain levels of performance.

For example, a 210-pounder needed to do a 350 bench, 500 squat, 295 power clean, 17 pro bench reps (225 pounds on the bar), have a 33-inch vertical jump and a broad jump of 9 feet, 8 inches.

"The players stepped up," Sinclair said. "We started the Iron Herd in the spring, and we had one guy (wideout Deon-Tay McManus). This summer, we had six guys make it -- McManus, Ryan Riedel, Gary Thompson, Tony Pittman, Keith Baxter and Josh Knight.

"And all that said, we had four guys who barely missed it. (Linebacker) Evan McKelvey missed by only a half-inch. He had a 32 1/2 vertical, needed a 33. A half-inch ... D.J. and (running back) Remi Watson missed by five pounds in the squat. `Swede' (guard Sebastian Johansson) missed by 10 pounds in the power clean.

"So, we could have had 10 guys, easily. And this is only the second time we've done this, and I think it's pretty cool to see."

One Pruett Training Center training wall includes boards that list the top five performers in Herd football history in different strength and conditioning disciplines. The players are grouped by line (offensive, defensive), combo (tight ends, defensive ands and linebackers) and skill (offensive and defensive backs and wide receivers).

The 2015 Herd had 23 performances this summer to alter those top-five boards. Junior defensive end Gary Thompson had three of those.

"And if you look at the number of guys we had reaching a certain level, those numbers went up," Sinclair said. "We lost some guys who were big (in the weight room) -- James Rouse, Chris Jasperse, Jermaine Holmes, Ra'Shawde Myers, but the numbers went up."

A summer ago, only Johansson reached 565 pounds in the squat. This year, five players did that, with Johansson improving to 595. Riedel did a team-leading 620. In the broad jump, Marshall had five leap 10-4 or better. Last summer, only two did that, and neither was a returnee.

The question most football fans always want to know about strength and conditioning is "who's the fastest guy on the team?" Sinclair and Brown aren't sure. They don't have players officially run the 40-yard dash, Sinclair always saying the last thing the Herd needs are pulled hamstrings -- and Holliday asking the strength coaches why.

They do test in the 10-yard dash, because they want to check burst. The fastest there are cornerbacks Baxter and Antavis Rowe, at 1.48 seconds. Next at 1.50 are Watson and freshman corner Antonio Howard -- whose nickname appropriately is "Speedy." At 1.53 was redshirt freshman linebacker Frankie Hernandez.

"It was a good summer," Sinclair said. "The attitude -- for the most part -- was what we're looking for. You've got to love what you do every day, because you can't go out on Saturdays and expect to be great if you didn't love the grind that you put in during the summer.

"It's also if you don't love the film work, love the meetings. The fun part is what you put in on Saturdays. The stuff you do leading up to that is the stuff you need to love."

A look at the Herd's top efforts in summer conditioning testing:

(Players meeting certain weightlifting, jump levels based upon body weight)
Deon-Tay McManus, WR
Ryan Riedel, OL
Gary Thompson, DE
Tony Pittman, RB
Keith Baxter, CB
Josh Knight, WR

BENCH Pounds
Nate Devers, OG 485
Gary Thompson, DE 445
Michael Selby, C 435
Sebastian Johansson, OG 410
Clint Van Horn, OT 410
Ryan Riedel, OG 410
SQUAT Pounds
Ryan Riedel, OG 620
Sebastian Johansson, OG 595
Gary Thompson, DE 570
Deon-Tay McManus, WR 565
Michael Selby, C 565
Ryan Riedel, OG 350
D.J. Hunter, LB 350
Evan McKelvey, LB 335
Deon-Tay McManus, WR 330
Blake Keller, DE 330
Aaron Plantt, DT 330
TOTAL (3 lifts) Pounds
Ryan Riedel, OG 1,380
Gary Thompson, DE 1,345
Sebastian Johansson, OG 1,325
Nate Devers, OG 1,320
Deon-Tay McManus, WR 1,300
PRO BENCH Reps at 225
Nate Devers, OG 31
Sebastian Johansson, OG 31
Clint Van Horn, OT 30
Michael Selby, C 28
(3 lifts divided by weight)  
Delvin Weems, RB 6.34
Deandre Reaves, KR 6.06
Antavis Rowe, CB 5.88
Evan McKelvey, LB 5.87
Josh Knight, WR 5.85
D.J. Hunter, LB 38.0
Davonte Allen, WR 38.0
Keith Baxter, CB 36.5
Josh Knight, WR 36.5
Tony Pittman, RB 35.5
Josh Knight, WR 10-6 1/2
Kaleb Harris, TE 10-5
D.J. Hunter, LB 10-5
Damien Dozier, DE 10-4 1/2
Davonte Allen, WR 10-4