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Herd: Good Things Come to Those Who `Weight'

Marshall's Scott Sinclair

Aug 17, 2013



HUNTINGTON - It was time for some heavy lifting, so I went to Scott Sinclair.

Marshall's first-year strength and conditioning coach spent the summer building, goading, coaxing and pushing the Thundering Herd toward predicted big success in the 2013 football season.

In the process, the results were - in some cases - jaw-dropping. In others, it was eye-opening.

For example, senior defensive tackle James Rouse tied the school-record bench press of 500 pounds, set by future NFL long snapper Chris Massey back in the summer of 2001.

Rouse also did a team-high 39 reps in the pro bench, which is the number of times you can hoist 225 pounds. That's third in Herd history, behind the 50 by former linebacker Ian Hoskins (summer 2007) and 46 by Massey.

Summertime ... and the living is anything but easy in the Herd's Pruett Training Center and Dunfee Weight Room. But senior running back Essray Taliaferro put his name on the all-time record boards that adorn a north weight room wall in the bench, pro bench and strength index.

Sinclair and assistant coach Billy Brown and graduate assistants George Carpenter and Tyson Gale - former MU linebacker teammates of recent vintage -- primed the Herd with some different measures than they had seen before. And if you're wondering about 40-yard times, forget it.

"We're not going to run (the 40 officially) until March," Sinclair said. "What sense does it make to do it in July, have a guy pull a (hamstring) and then he's out during August camp? I'm not going to be the guy telling Coach (Doc Holliday) that's happened."



Sinclair and his staff concentrated on weight work and agility. He moved here after nine years at UCF, and Holliday has called Sinclair "the most important hire I made (among eight on the staff this past offseason)."

If there were any doubt that this Marshall team might be the best conditioned in a long time - perhaps in history - how about a category that includes the biggest guys.

In the broad jump for offensive and defensive linemen, four of the top five in school history occurred last month - and the fifth was last year by a senior starter this season. Take a bow - Gary Thompson (9-foot-9 1/2), Garrett Scott (9-8 1/2), Alex Bazzie (9-7), Jeremiah Taylor (9-7 in 2012) and Joe Massaquoi (9-6 1/2).

Sinclair and his aides gave the Herd a "Gomer Pyle" program this summer ... sur-prize, sur-prize, sur-prize.

"I think we had a really good summer program, and at the end of summer I was really, really happy with what we got accomplished," Sinclair said, sitting in his weight room office earlier this week. "A couple of things we wanted to make sure we did was get them more mentally tough, and put them in positions in here that they may not have been accustomed to, so hopefully in that fourth quarter we're a little more mentally ready to finish the job.

"Maybe they think we're finishing a day of exercises and all of a sudden we throw something at them at the end that they weren't expecting. We did a lot of what we called the `four-quarter program.' Once we finished whatever required list we had for that day, we said, `It's four-quarter time, let's go!'

"We'd just throw them into something different, and a lot of different things we threw them into were team things, stuff they had to do as a team to accomplish."

If you're thinking bench, squat and power clean, those were there... but there was more.

"Maybe it was walking lunges for about 100 yards, where they had to step correctly, right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot, in synchronization with everybody," Sinclair said. "We do something in here we call snake push-ups, where everybody is lying on their stomachs and you take their feet and put them on your partner's shoulders, so it's one long snake, chain, or whatever, and they'd all have to do a push-up together.

"So, doing different things like that, it's about mental toughness, overall strength. I don't think we were as strong as we need to be, and I definitely think we got that accomplished.

"Back in March, we had seven who power cleaned 300 pounds or more. We had 22 this summer, an increase of 15 this summer. On bench, 400 (pounds) or more, we had only six in March, now we have 11. For the squat, 455 pounds, we went from 14 in March to 29 in July - plus 15."

One change that doesn't show up on any record board Sinclair "is really proud of in us making a change.

When we tested in March, 66 INJs (injured players who were limited in some fashion). This summer, we got that down to 13.

"To me, that means we got guys back. I'm very happy we got a lot of guys back to where they need to be, maybe not totally where they need to be, but at least they're back moving around, doing some things now."

Middle linebacker Jermaine Holmes did a 600-pound squat. That's tops on the squad - but perhaps most importantly, 45 pounds more than he did four months earlier.

The "record boards" in Dunfee list the top five, broken down into three categories - linemen, linebackers/fullbacks/tight ends, and skill positions. There were 25 performances this summer to make those boards, even without the running measurements like the 40, cones and shuttles.

Sinclair and his staff broke the Herd into 13-man teams to compete, and then had an individual points system that created team and player-versus-player competition.

The top four players in points were cornerback Darryl Roberts (64), linebacker Raheem Waiters (60), guard Sebastian Johansson (57) and linebacker Stefan Houston (56).

"The points were based on if you win a race, or if you lose or don't run hard, you get a minus point," Sinclair said. "Or, you may be lifter of the day, lifter of week, or most pull-ups, a plus, or you came in late or had wrong shoes on, you might get a minus point for that.

Sure, it's based on coaches' discretion, and it's amazing to watch those kids compete when points are on the line. What we do is post points at end of week. The reason we started that was it keeps them competing all of the time, and when you give them something like that to work for or work against, it pushes them to do the best they can do."

Sinclair said the program was rooted in competition, toughness and variety.

"Overall conditioning, it's something you definitely have to work on in summer, especially in the conference (USA) we play in, a fast-paced conference in style of play," Sinclair said. "It's not just with our defense, but with our offense and the number of plays they're trying to get in, we had to make sure we kept them in good condition. I thought we did a good job with that.

Early on we were going four days a week lifting, but the last three weeks we lifted three days, ran two days, and ran three days sometimes, too. Tuesday and Thursday we didn't lift weights, it was strictly an hour, or hour and five minutes on the field in movement drills, change of direction, agility drills, what we call skill development, working on their actual football position drills, as much as strength coaches know how to do and can.

"And I think that went well. I think that got them ready for camp.  I tried to incorporate some pursuit drills, things that they're going to do, things they're doing now on the field in practice and will do in games, I wanted to put them in those situations in the summer, too. So when camp started it wasn't the first time they were doing that stuff."

Sinclair said it wasn't about May, June and July weeks. It was about Thursday nights and Saturday during the season - game time.

"This doesn't necessarily have to do with strength and conditioning, but I'm sure Coach Brown and the rest of our staff would agree with me," Sinclair said. "In spring practice, we had guys ... I didn't like the body language we had ... guys on the knee, guys helmets on the ground, guys bent over all the time. So, we started addressing that in the summer.

"We don't take knees when we run, we don't bend over and put our hands on our knees, and it's carried over. If you notice in practice in camp now, knock on wood, it's been really good. Hardly anybody's on the knee. They don't bend over and the guys, `It's why, why, why do we do that?' Well, it's a mental toughness deal.

"And I tell them, `Look, if you watch the guy across the line of scrimmage from you and he's got his hands on his knees, his hands down, his body language is telling you he's already beaten.' And I don't want that from our guys.

"I want the other team to look at us and we're still jacked up and ready to go in the fourth quarter, and go, `Shoot, we can't get these guys, they're still moving, they're like the Energizer bunny, just keep going and going. That's a big deal for me.

"You don't necessarily lift weights to get better at that, you may run and get a little better at that, but it's about mental toughness. And that's an area we thought we needed to improve on, and we don't have near the guys doing that that we did."

Holliday has noticed and has talked about the conditioning of the team he was handed this month more than once.

"Scott's doing such a tremendous job with the kids, on and off the field," said the fourth-year Herd coach. "Just take a look at our guys, the type of condition they're in here in practice. It's obvious they did a great job this past summer.

"He's the most important hire I made because he's with these kids 365 days a year. As coaches, we're limited in the time we can actually be around these kids coaching and all those things, but Scott's around them every day.

"So, it's important that you get a guy in that strength room who can relate to the players, handle the players, discipline the players, and they have great respect for him. He's done a great job with our kids physically and mentally."

Asked for an example of his summer sales pitch to the Herd players, Sinclair went to the running backs.

"I told Steward Butler and Kevin Grooms, `You know, you could outrun people, or you may even juke `em, but you couldn't run them over, because you weren't strong enough.'" the MU strength coach said. "`You weren't big enough.

"`But now that you're stronger, you've got another dimension to your game. Not only can you outrun them, not only can you juke them, but now that defender has to worry about you running him over, too.'"

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Asked about - despite an official "team" 40 - the fastest player among the Herd, Sinclair said he had no doubt it is slot receiver and return Devon "MooMoo" Smith, who ran reported times of 4.19 and 4.23 leaving high school in Maryland.

The Herd record is 4.24 by Randy Moss, but Smith, a senior, won't have any eligibility left when the team runs in March, so he can't challenge that.

The top clocked times from 2012 among the current Herd are by Grooms (4.30) and Butler (4.31). Others on the record board are former defensive back Yancey Satterwhite (4.26), and wideouts Aaron Dobson (4.30) and James Williams (both 4.30).

A look at some of the Marshall 2013 summer strength and conditioning top performances:

James Rouse, DT 500
Blake Brooke, OG 470
Josh Lovell, OG 460
Jeremiah Taylor, DE 455
Brandon Sparrow, DT 430
Blake Brooks, OG620
Jermaine Holmes, LB600
Sebastian Johansson, OG560
Garrett Scott, OT560
Gary Thompson, DE555
Jermaine Holmes, LB 365
Brandon Sparrow, DT 335
Garrett Scott, OT 330
D.J. Hunter, SS 325
Neville Hewitt, LB 320
Jermaine Holmes, LB1,385
Blake Brooks, OG1,360
Josh Lovell, OG 1,305
Garrett Scott, OT1,300
Sebastian Johansson, OG 1,255
PRO BENCH (reps at 225)
James Rouse, DT39
Blake Brooks, OG32
Josh Lovell, OG32
Brandon Sparrow, DT30
Jeremiah Taylor, DE30
(Bench, Squat, Clean total, divided by body weight)
Essray Taliaferro, RB6.39
Devon Smith, WR6.38
Craig Wilkins, WR5.97
Monterius Lovett, CB5.90
(Evan McKelvey, LB5.70
Corie Wilson, S 5.70
VERTICAL JUMP (feet-inches)
D.J. Hunter, SS 40-6
Essray Taliaferro, RB 38-0
Darryl Roberts, CB 37-0
Stew Butler, RB 35-6
Derek Mitchell, LB 35-0
BROAD JUMP (feet-inches)
Essray Taliaferro, RB 10-5 1/2
D.J. Hunter, SS 10-3
Evan McKelvey, LB 10-2 1/2
Stew Butler, RB 10-2
Derek Mitchell, LB 10-1
Remi Watson, RB 10-1

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