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Friday, August 16, 2013

KU offensive tackle Sterling a changed man

Kansas offensive lineman Aslam Sterling (77) runs through a conditioning drill with the rest of the line during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

Kansas offensive lineman Aslam Sterling (77) runs through a conditioning drill with the rest of the line during practice on Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. Nick Krug/Journal-World Photo

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The joke Kansas University football coach Charlie Weis liked to tell during fall camp in 2012 was that then-newcomer Aslam Sterling, an offensive tackle from Nassau Community College in New York, was a cheeseburger shy of 400 pounds.

Somebody better question the Hamburglar.

In the roughly 12 months since Sterling first arrived on campus, the 6-foot-5 offensive tackle has shed more than 80 pounds, conditioned himself to be able to play as many snaps as a series calls for and inherited what many consider to be the most important position on the offensive line as he opened fall camp as the Jayhawks’ starting left tackle.

“Aslam’s the most changed player we have on our team,” Weis said when camp opened earlier this month. “Last year, whatever weight we had down was a lie. He was probably about 400 (pounds). He’s 315, has done a great job on and off the field. Academically, he had a lot of work to do and he got it all done. His body’s changed. He’s a totally different person.”

Sterling’s transformation did not take place in a short period of time, rather gradually as he began working immediately after landing in Lawrence.

“That was one of my main focuses last year,” Sterling said. “Drop the weight, get lighter, and that’s what I did every day. Before practice I would run, then during practice, and after practice I would run.”

Sterling credits strength coach Scott Holsopple not only for helping him trim down but also, and maybe more importantly, for teaching him how to keep the weight off and move toward an even healthier existence. Sterling’s initial goal heading into the offseason was to see the numbers 330 on the scale, but after blowing by that weight faster than anyone expected, he figured he might as well keep going. He now weighs 315 pounds and said he feels like a completely different player than the one who labored through 12 games — eight starts — during the 2012 season.

“Losing the weight has really helped me with stamina and being able to play longer,” Sterling said. “Last year at this time, I was only doing like three plays and then I had to get out of there. Now I can stay in there for as long as I need to.”

The extended time on the field has allowed Sterling to become more of a leader, something the Jayhawks’ unproven offensive line was in dire need of heading into camp.

“If you’re only playing three plays, you can’t be a leader,” said Sterling with a hint of shame cutting through his words. “You can’t be sitting there yelling at people because they’ll be like, ‘You can’t even handle what you need to.’ Losing the weight has really made me be able to say, ‘Come on, do this and do that. I’m doing it so you guys need to be doing it, too.’”

It’s also given the Jayhawks an answer for losing four-year starting tackle Tanner Hawkinson to the NFL Draft.

“We really believe, athletically, he’s a guy that can handle the left tackle spot,” said Weis, who moved Sterling from right tackle to left tackle over the summer. “I wouldn’t put him at left tackle if I didn’t think he could compete over there at a high level.”

Added KU quarterback Jake Heaps: “Everything you want in a tackle, he has. So we’re gonna see how he does, but I feel confident that he’s gonna be able to play that position very well and be a dominant left tackle.”

You don’t have to look far to find others who share Heaps’ sentiments about KU’s new left tackle. Sophomore Ben Goodman, who is listed as the first-string Buck pass rusher on KU’s defense, said he had lined up against Sterling on almost every play so far this camp. And although he’s proud of the strides his teammate made to chisel his body into one that looks a lot more like those you see on NFL offensive lines, Goodman’s looking forward to facing somebody else’s left tackle in three weeks.

“He’s already good,” Goodman said of Sterling. “But he has potential to be great. He’s a big, skilled dude that can really move and there are not too many people that have that natural ability to be that big and move. Coming from almost 400 to 315, he’s probably one of the most athletic, gifted guys we have for how big he is.”

Asked if he thought KU’s defensive linemen had grown tired of facing him, Sterling answered by showing off another area of his game he transformed this offseason — his confidence.

“Yeah, they are,” he said with a smile. “They were tired of me after the first day.”

Comments

Vernon Riggs 8 months ago

Here is the match-up that I want to see: Coach Hudy vs. Coach Holsopple. I am glad they are Jayhawks!

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rockymtnjhawk 8 months ago

Last year I thought we could win 4 or 5 games, maybe get to six. We might have with better QB & WR play. Bottom line: we didn't. We sucked mightily.

As always, I'm optimistic. I believe our talent is better. I believe we will be better for having guys in year two of the program. The kicking game should be better.

I don't want to put it all on Heaps, but he simply has to be a lot better than Crist panned out to be. The coaches also have to put guys in the right spots to be successful, and they need to call the right plays and schemes at the right time.

Never the less, you have to prove it on the field and KU has been dismal for three years. If they can get a good start and win the early games, it can carry over to conference play, where we were usually bad even under Mangino.

Boys, I'm behind you all the way. You have no idea how bad I bleed KU Blue (whatever shade it is this week). I want to win, I want to win now, I want to cheer you guys on in some bowl game at the end of the season.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. I really want you to cream those purple pusssyies to the west of Lawrence badly. How about KU 70, purples 0.......sounds good to me.

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Terran Woolley 8 months ago

Big XII has been weak four about five years now, I don't see it being a strong conference for. Long time.

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TexiCaliHawk 8 months ago

We must keep in mind the Big 12 is way down this year -- not bad by any means, just not as good as usual. So, if we can't get into the mix and win some conference games this year, then this will be a (much) longer progression to prominence than I'm sure we all hoped for.

Based upon what we've seen/heard so far since fall camp opened, I am actually feeling more confident about our ability to make some 'noise' THIS year -- and then we can use it as another stepping stone to make even more progress next year as CW and his staff continue to bring in a greater ratio of (higher rated) HS players vs. JUCO/'6th year Senior' players.

Then, with the completion of Rock Chalk Park and some Football success, Zenger will ride this wave of momentum to unveil a Memorial Stadium renovation plan that will build upon our already First Class training facilities to help take us to a new/higher level of Football excellence. This quite frankly is what HAS to happen for KU to remain relevant in the 'new world' of conference realignment -- despite our Basketball prowess -- and everyone knows it (see program/facility upgrade progress at KSU, OSU and Baylor for proof).

Just a couple more weeks and we'll begin to see what we 'really' have . . . ROCK CHALK!

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NebraskaJayhawk 8 months ago

Well done, Mr. Sterling. Now I'm going to be the bad guy and share my concern. Year in and year out for the past few seasons, we have listened to defensive players say how good our o-line guys are and how they don't enjoy going up against them. Well, let me say that I'm not happy to hear another defensive player say how they are ready to face someone else. It tells me that maybe our defense is again not so good at pass-rushing. I hope I'm wrong and I have a feeling we are better on both sides of the ball. But it does give me some concern.

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Jack Jones 8 months ago

Well Done, Aslam ~ Not only for the potential benefit of our Jayhawk FB team ~ but even more importantly, for you personally. Looking forward to watching you, and our team ~ beginning in two short week-ends ~ Rock Chalk, Jayhawks

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Dirk Medema 8 months ago

Noticed Apa Visinia, a 6-foot-4, 375-pound offensive lineman from Grandview (Mo.) High School again. Looks like another OL that has the potential to blossom with some Holsoppling.

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Fortesque Beagleton 8 months ago

Who's #70 in the picture? Looks like he could use a physical transformation.

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texashawk10 8 months ago

The dedication and discipline Sterling has shown in doing what it takes to drop 80+ lbs. is going to carry him far in life no matter where he ends up after KU.

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Keith Hummel 8 months ago

So darn proud of this kid, and this team already. Love their attitude, work ethic, and commitment. All this hard work is going to pay big dividends. Can't wait!

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troutsee 8 months ago

The excitement for KU FB seems to be down this year. Too bad. I think we are going bowling.

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iamakufan 8 months ago

You have to root for a guy who works that hard and really wants to succeed. My hat is off to this young man as well as to all the others working just as hard.

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Janet Scott 8 months ago

I conclude Aslam graduated from Charlie's 'pile of crap' group of last year. Nice.

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okiedave 8 months ago

This guy is disciplined. What he has done is remarkable.d Looking forward to see how he stacks up with Big XII opposition.

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Terran Woolley 8 months ago

This team is going to surprise a lot of people this year. The national media doesn't realize two things..... 1)That, despite absolute abysmal coaching by Herpe Derp Gill, there WAS NFL caliber talent in multiple positions on this team the past three years. 2)There was NO S&C coaching under Derp. Those two combinations absolutely aborted our team. Anyone see the photo of Big obese John Wiiiams ( former S&C 'coach' under Derp) sleeping next to an empty KFC bucket on a weightlifting bench in the KU weight room? Voluntary work outs. That's all you need to know.

Holsopple knows what he is doing. Many believe he is as good as the gift we gave KSU when Screwyou Lew Perkins fired our S&C staff, giving KSU the advantage they needed to win the depleted Big XII.

Big, Great things are about to happen in Lawrence. Falls will he fun again, trust me.

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Bryce Landon 8 months ago

There may be hope for this team after all with a guy like this on the team. If he can turn things around, maybe the entire team can do likewise.

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