Recruiting season is now in full swing as the completion of the high school all-star games leads into the wild final stretch before Signing Day, which will give way to the Texas Junior Days in February, but for current Longhorn football players, the most important person in their life when they report back to campus over the weekend will be strength and conditioning coach Bennie Wylie.
Widely considered one of the most important hires of last offseason, the strong finish against California was in no small part a result of the work that Wylie put in with the team both before and during the season. By halfway through the fourth quarter, the Golden Bears were gassed, beaten up, and ready to quit. On the other side of the ball? It seemed as if the Longhorns were simply getting started and could have played another quarter.
Texas head coach Mack Brown talked about the importance of strength and conditioning coaches at the National Strength and Conditioning Association conference over the weekend:
They're the heart and soul of your program. They have to have the guys in condition, and they have to push them while doing so within in the rules to be safe.
At the same time, they have such a close relationship with the athletes that if the athlete is griping about a coach, our strength and conditioning guys have to stand up and get everyone back on the same page.
Darius White is probably lucky that it was almost Demarco Cobbs stepping to him after his comments rather than Bennie Wylie, though Cobbs is probably not someone to be trifled with after growing up on the rough streets of Tulsa.
But back to the topic at hand -- Brown noted again that the strength and conditioning staff spends more time with the players than the coaches, making them the most important staff members during the offseason, adding as well that Wylie has more of an impact on his team than he does. The stretch between the end of the season and the start of spring practice may not be quite as important as the summer, but strong preparation in the coming weeks would put the team in a position for a successful spring.
Here's a list of players who will need to capitalize on their time spent with Wylie during the coming weeks:
- Dom Espinosa -- The starting center needs to improve both upper and lower body strength after being abused the Cal nose tackle in the Holiday Bowl. Espinosa missed last spring following shoulder surgery.
- Mason Walters -- He's talking the talk, but hasn't been able to consistently walk the walk on the field. Strengthening his lower body will be the focus.
- Steve Edmond -- The jumbo-sized linebacker is a lazy offseason away from 280 pounds and playing defensive tackle, so maintaining his quickness and staying lean while adding functional strength will be the focus of he and Wylie.
- Demarco Cobbs -- The recent convert to linebacker, Cobbs needs to continue adding strength to help him at the point of attack.
- The defensive tackles -- Tackles coach Bo Davis wants all of his players to bench 400 pounds or more and currently only one player can do so -- freshman Tank Jackson.
- Jaxon Shipley and Mike Davis -- The top two wide receivers entering next season will both need to improve their blocking on the perimeter to help in both the running game and wide receiver screen game. While Shipley was able to add mass during his last season of high school, Davis does not appear as if he has spent much time in the weight room at Texas.