I’ve gotten a lot of questions through the years about Washington’s off-season workout program — what it is, what they try to accomplish, the details, etc.
So I took in one of UW’s workouts last week and wrote this story for the Sunday paper.
That story attempts to take a bigger-picture, more general view at the topic while also noting that UW’s emphasis this off-season is on getting bigger and stronger up front.
I know a lot of readers of this space want even more detail on what they do, and which players are doing well.
As noted in the story, the team works out Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. The linemen, tight ends and linebackers usually go at 6 a.m. Other position groups work out at 8 a.m. or 2 p.m.
Strength coach Ivan Lewis laid out the general plan for the week this way:
“Monday is more of a speed agility day, (being) outside, movements, and then inside it’s all of our Olympic lifting and all of our back and finish off with biceps, and usually that day we do a team conditioning, 40s or half gassers or what we like to call eight-play drives that simulates an eight-play drive of football.
“Tuesday is more of an upper-body plyometric and lower-body plyometric and core day.
And then in the weigh room meat and potato lifts, in squat and bench and shoulders and triceps, and then usually go out and do a position-specific conditioning, something completely different, all specific to the position they play. A lot of times receivers will run routes and really focus in on how good they are running their routes, and rapid fire the routes — 10 in a row, take a minute break, 10 in a row. The linemen do a lot of movement as far as their space on the field, 10-15 yard area quick bursts.
“Thursday and Friday is the same, just a little different in terms of the volume in the weight room — speed, agility, core outside on Thursday and same lifts inside. Monday is more of a power clean day and Thursday more of a hang clean day, and then some sort of team conditioning thing.”
As for the split in the groups, Lewis said: “We like to have the offensive linemen, defensive linemen, tight ends and linebackers (together in the morning) because they are such big groups, we like to get them done in the morning. Because it’s actually the 6 a.m. group, there’s a stigma to it and it sounds awful, but it’s actually the best group of the day because it’s the big weight, the big boys, a lot of competition, the OL goes against the DL, the linebackers against the tight ends, a lot of good, competitive juices, team building that goes on in that group. And then really gives us time to focus in on the quarterbacks, receivers and running backs later in the morning and the afternoon so we have an opportunity to work with just them.”
As for a general overview of how it’s gone, Lewis said: “There’s been a lot of progress, for sure. The hard thing is when you get done with a bowl game and push yourself so hard late in the season, it’s such a quick turnaround even though you still take three (weeks off) in January. It’s right out of the bat, feel like you don’t miss a beat. Our guys have done a great job of not feeling that fatigue, of coming right back to where they get after it.”
Lewis also expanded on the emphasis this year: “A main emphasis when we first got here was more about slimming the guys down. They would be overweight and out of shape and (so it was) just turning them into football players. Now that we are at the point where we have the guys we have recruited and stepped up a level and gotten better every year, the main emphasis this year with the O-line and the D-line is to get them stronger and bigger. Really start with an attitude — the attitude has got to be there. Can’t be nice guys, got to be very competitive, very get-after-it, very tenacious, so have to develop the attitude.
“Then it’s all about getting the volume of weight lifting in and getting them stronger and bigger guys. And we are talking some guys (adding) 10-20-30 pounds, and it doesn’t happen over night. I think that’s what you are seeing. It takes, for a good O-lineman to really, fully develop, it’s a 2-3-year process, and I think we are starting to get to that point now, especially with the guys we are working with, the Drew Schaefers, the Senios (Kelemete), of being in that 300-pound range, and big, solid, muscles, strong and being able to anchor up better.”
“The Alameda Ta’amus have just changed body-type so much from being big and out of shape to being big and solid and strong. When we first got here, there wasn’t many 350-pound benchers, there wasn’t many over 400-pound squatters, and now we are starting to see those numbers skyrocket. So the emphasis, especially with those big guys, and it’s going to go into the summer, is to get bigger and to be more tenacious and to be able to be physical on the field.
“It’s a natural progression. When you had a bunch of guys, and most of them aren’t here anymore, that are 350-plus pounds, you have to get smaller first to lean the muscle out. And the guys we have now, other than the transformation that Ta’amu has done, really was more about getting those guys bigger. The big guys that slimmed down they are gone now and now it’s the undersized linemen that had the potential now they are getting to that point that they have been here three years now with us, you should start seeing big gains. We’ll test next week, and every year, every guy on the team has gotten faster and stronger — the numbers don’t lie. So this year it’ll be great to see the numbers get that much better. We can really tell that in here, at least, the job is being done as far as getting the line stronger. And as we recruit these players, a lot of the guys now are already one step ahead of where we had guys when we first got here, which is awesome. They are great players that already have good bodies, like Colin Porter, they come in already squatting over 400, benching over 300 and that’s what you want. Then you get to work with them and the sky is the limit.”
Asked to name some standouts in conditioning, Lewis said:
“I think really there are a few guys. I think in the O-line that really all the young guys, and to single a couple guys out, Colin Porter is just an animal. Ben Riva has done a great job. Drew and Senio are just competing and they’ve gotten a lot better.
“On the D-line, Ta’amu just continues to amaze me every day, but the young guys like Josh Shirley, Andrew Hudson and Hau’oli Jamora, they are incredible. They all work out together so they push each other and there is constant competition in a great, team-building way. They don’t want the other guy to be better than them so it’s great, that’s why we put them together. Mike Hartvigson, tight end, he’s coming back from a shoulder and he has done a great job getting after it and really attacking the weights and getting better at everything he can do.
“At linebacker, Cort Dennison is doing a great job and showing those guys how they can get better and stronger. And already in the time we’ve had John Timu and Thomas Tutogi, seeing how much they have changed in four weeks.
“At receiver, Devin Aguilar and Jermaine Kearse have done great jobs. (At running back) Chris Polk looks better than he ever has, he looks incredible and it’s just in the winter. I can’t wait to see him at the end of the summer.
“DBs, Desmond Trufant has been working his butt off. I think Adam Long and Justin Glenn are doing a great job as well, they have really hit the competitive juice there as well, and second to none to Desmond and Quinton Richardson, they are really back to back on top of each other there. The leaders are starting to emerge. It’s really cool there.”
Lewis also talked about the value of off-season conditioning: “I think it’s so important this time of year because it really shapes your team. When you look at it, it seems like a long time between football seasons, but it’s really not because in between when you look at what goes on, you have finals week and spring ball and in a quarter system another finals week and then summer, so the amount of time you get with guys is so critical.
“That’s why January, February, March is so important to get as much out of these guys as you can. It’s not just physical but it’s also mental, getting them to learn how to finish. That’s a big mantra is finishing and competing and not letting (up) just because you are tired, learning how to work under adversity and work through it and be better than anyone else out there. I think that’s what is really important, and getting a message from the head coach and being on the same page and being around these guys all the time. (Steve Sarkisian) and I are on the same page with everything and it’s really drilling the message of the football program every day so that we are ready to compete and finish as a team.
“This is the first time they are all working together and being around each other with the loss of the old guys and a couple of additions of a couple of new guys. It’s a great time for them to start developing who they are, who are we? And this is a great time for that.”
Dennison agreed that the workouts are vital not only for the obvious physical reasons, but also for building team unity. “You see how hard people are working, it builds respect, builds a resume for people through stuff like this. You see a kid working hard out here, you know he is goinig to work hard on the field. It works both ways. …
“I think everybody is doing everything well together, and I think the best thing that’s happened this off-season is we have really come together as a team. Winning a Holiday Bowl sets a standard — we’ve been there, we know what’s it likes and we want to keep succeeding.”