Kansas football strength staff sets stage for stronger line play
Every college football program has its different behind-the-scenes rituals, and first-year Kansas offensive line coach A.J. Ricker pointed to one he found particularly interesting.
It symbolized the moment summer conditioning gave way to fall camp and it involved head strength and conditioning coach Zac Woodfin and head football coach David Beaty.
“It was kind of cool to see the tradition in our first team meeting where Zac literally passes the key, the key to the team back to Beaty,” Ricker said. “I’ve never seen that. I thought that was really cool.”
During summer conditioning, the football coaches are restricted as to how much time they can spend with players. Since conditioning is “voluntary” the strength coaches can spend long hours helping players improve their bodies in the weight room. The more coaches are around to supervise players in the weight room, the safer for the athletes.
“I thought Coach Woodfin did a terrific job,” Beaty said Saturday at Media Day. “I want to take my hat off to him. Our staff did a terrific job. We worked from the day we walked off the field at Oklahoma State. We continue to do that now. We get the kids pretty much year-round, so it blends from summer to fall camp. Almost like we weren't going into something different. That was good.”
Ricker already has developed a strong rapport with Woodfin.
“I might be overstepping my bounds saying this, but to me in football that’s your most important hire,” Ricker said. “Those strength guys are with the players more than we are.” Woodfin is in his second season heading Beaty’s strength-and-conditioning team and is assisted by Ervin Young, Jack Wilson, Stewart Young and intern Michael Brinson.
“I think the strength staff, Zac and his guys, have done a hell of a job with our guys, not only physically, but even more mentally because football is so mental,” Ricker said. “I know everybody says that, but the mental toughness, the physical toughness, toughness is in everything I preach in my room because to me toughness wins.”
It takes mental toughness to exercise discipline in eating the right foods as well.
The athletes and strength staff have scientific help in that area as well. Sports nutritionist assistant Holly McKee and sports nutritionist intern Cristina Desemone work closely with Woodfin to ensure the athletes are fueling their bodies in an efficient way based on the positions they play.