Aug. 13, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Is Raheem Waiters faster than a speeding bullet?
Is Blake Brooks more powerful than a locomotive?
Can D.J. Hunter, Steward Butler and Davonte Allen all leap tall buildings in a single bound?
Who knows? But as Marshall prepares for the 2012 football season, those players are examples of the success the Thundering Herd is having in Coach Doc Holliday’s program on the strength and conditioning side.
With the London Games having wrapped up this past weekend, it seems Herd football may be following the Olympic motto – Citius, Altius, Fortius, which is Latin for Faster, Higher, Stronger. The numbers the Herd is producing in the Dunfee Weight Room are a far cry from where they were just two years ago.
And there are all-time Marshall standards being smashed repeatedly on the Pruett Training Center records boards.
“They’re numbers,” said Joe Miday, Marshall’s head strength and conditioning coach. “They’re potential … and potential will get you beat or get you fired, get me fired. What you want is potential in here turning into production on the field.”
Waiters, the converted receiver and safety from Riverside High School now playing strongside linebacker, owns the all-time Herd record in the 10-yard sprint (at the start of the 40). Waiters’ latest time is 1.44 seconds, breaking the old 1.47 turned in by current New York Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw.
Butler (1.45) and wide receiver Aaron Dobson (1.46) also topped Bradshaw’s standard, but Waiters went them hundredths better.
Brooks, the defensive lineman and Fairmont State transfer who came from the weightlifting-strong high school program at South Charleston, owns a 2012 Marshall best squat of 630 pounds.
Hunter, Butler and Allen all had vertical leaps of 40 inches – territory rarely occupied in the past, unless you were talking Ashton Hall and Randy Moss.
And these examples are just a few that show how the Herd is lifting itself toward its championship goals.
Consider offensive tackle Garrett Scott. The junior from Georgia set the all-time record for any lineman – offensive or defensive – with a broad jump of 9 feet, 8 inches. He ran a 5.03 in the 40, and approached a 400-pound bench press and 600 in the squat.
“And he weighs 310 pounds,” said Miday, the first-year strength program boss who gives a lot of credit to his first-year assistant, former Herd linebacker Scott Wilks.
Miday said Wilks is “a flat-out better teacher than I am. We’re talking about explosive lifting. What I try to bring is a little more high-intensity philosophy, upper base lifting, keeping a good tempo. Scott and I are pretty comparable in what we do upper body-wise, but Wilks is really good in hang clean, has good form, knows how to teach it.
“He’s helped our guys tremendously.”
Miday said credit for the Herd’s rise in the weight room should go to another staffer, too – associate head athletic trainer (and lead football athletic trainer) Toby Harkins.
“We had quite a few guys go through shoulder surgeries,” Miday said. “The way Toby and his staff work with those guys to get them back quickly to where they can go out and lift is big. Toby deserves as much credit as any of us in the weight room, maybe more.”
The fastest Herd player in 2012?
“Depends on which day,” Miday said.
Well, on the day they ran, freshman running back Kevin Grooms did a 4.29, Dobson a 4.30 and Butler, another freshman phenom in the offensive backfield, a 4.31.
“You’re splitting hairs,” Miday said.
However, those are the third- through fifth-fastest 40s recorded in Herd football history, behind the record board’s 4.24 that Randy Moss ran on his Pro Day, and a 4.26 in 2002 by defensive back Yancey Satterwhite – although Miday said Wilks was a teammate of Satterwhite, and the assistant strength coach says the three current Herd players are faster.
The strength program tracks numbers in 12 skills, and the historical data in six of those – 10 yards, broad jump, vertical jump, clean, squat and bench press – reveals the team improvement.
Teams are split into three categories, according to physical size – Skill (wide receivers, defensive backs, quarterbacks, outside linebackers, running backs under 215 pounds), Big Skill (inside linebackers, tight ends, running backs 215 and over) and Power (offensive line, interior defensive line).
Because of the change in Marshall’s recruiting – and the major college game, really – Marshall trains the outside linebackers with skill players and the rush ends with big skill – all because of speed.
Then, there are benchmarks in weight, height and speed for each physical category, for example, a 10-foot broad jump for Skill, 9-6 for Big Skill and 8-6 for Power.
Over the six aforementioned categories, there were 38 total standards reached in 2010, and 36 last year. This year, that number has soared to 143.
The broad jump, which Miday considers “the most important, personally, because it shows more explosiveness than the vertical,” had 16 standards achieved in both 2010 and ’11. This year, it’s 27. Clean lifts are up from zero and zero the past two years, to 35. There are 20 more bench press standards reached than last year’s total of six.
“When (middle linebacker) Jermaine Holmes ran his 40, there was some talk he might do a 5-flat, maybe a 4.9,” Miday said. “He did a 4.76, and 9-2 in the broad jump, and he’s 245 pounds. He’s not at the 4.4 Mario Harvey (former linebacker) was, but he’s explosive. You watch him in practice, he’s getting to the ball, quickly, and that’s what he supposed to do.”
Another Miday example was tight end Gator Hoskins.
“Hoskins ran a 4.57 and did a 10-3 broad jump,” Miday said. “His 10 (yards) was 1.51. His vertical was 37-5. That’s 37-5 for a 247-pounder. Now, that’s an athlete.”
A year ago, the only lineman who made the 10-yard standard of 1.75 seconds or better was Vinny Curry, who in the NFL Eagles’ camp. This time, six linemen bettered that. Besides the three 40-foot vertical, Essray Taliaferro leaped 39-5. Dobson did a career-best 37-0. His 10 was 1.46, just shy of Waiters.
“He had a great top end (to the 4.30 in the 40),” Miday said. “That first 20 (yards), he gets on you quick. Hopefully, what he’s done in here helps him get off the line a little quicker. Like I said, the potential is there.”
And the numbers are real. For timing accuracy, Miday and his staff use five watches, and throw out the high and low times, “and I’ve never seen a team that can run like this one, across the board,” he said.
Another measurement that Miday said NFL scouts “love to use” is the sit-and-reach, in which a player sits, legs locked straight, and stretches his arms past his toes as far as possible, displaying “flexibility, hamstrings and lower back,” Miday said.
Butler’s reach in that drill was 8 ¼ inches past his toes.
Miday said quarterback Rakeem Cato’s improvement “is really great. He’s really bought into the weight room.”
When Cato arrived at Marshall last summer from high school, he could only bench press 65 pounds. “He never lifted,” Miday said. “all he did out of season and after school was 7-on-7 (passing drills).”
Now, Cato benches 260 – a 195-pound improvement in one year – and he squats 415 pounds. The 182-pounder’s speed is underrated, too, Miday said, with a 4.71 in the 40.
“These kids want to win,” the Herd strength coach said. “They’re hungry, the three wins at the end of last season gave them a lot of hope, but at this point, all we have is potential. This is the hardest-working group in here. I’ve seen in my six years here. These guys have bought in. We know that, you can see that, but at this point, all we have is potential.”