Summertime grind underway for Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN - Despite a plethora of reports that would seem to indicate otherwise - including one in this space - there is really nothing new about West Virginia's football players using boxing workouts as a training and conditioning tool during the summer months.
Shoot, there have been speed bags and heavy bags hanging in the weight room in the basement of the Puskar Center almost since the place opened for business.
But there might be just bit more emphasis on boxing drills this year as opposed to the past simply because it's boxing's turn.
"You're always looking for ways to motivate the unmotivated,'' strength and conditioning director Mike Joseph said. "You never know what's going to do it.''
True. This year perhaps it's boxing. In another it might be lugging oversized truck tires or pushing cars around the parking lot, as Al Johnson used to have his charges do during the summer. There's always competition of some sort or another because, let's face it, showing up every day and just lifting the same weights or running the same sprints or cone drills just isn't all that exhilarating.
"You have to make things interesting,'' Joseph said. "It can be a long summer.''
The law school hill is, of course, still in play during the summer, although Joseph tends to pick his spots for that. There was a time when that was pretty much a weekly part of the regimen, but as training methods develop and are refined, rest and recovery play a bigger part.
There's still a place for boxing, though.
"It enables you to improve your foot speed, your hand speed, your reaction time, all kinds of things,'' Joseph said. "And it's not just for the linemen. We get the fullbacks and linebackers in there, too.''
Pretty soon, though, all the weight room work will begin to become more and more of a grind. As much as the lifting and running and agility work improve a player's strength, conditioning, explosiveness and agility, it's still grunt work. And it's been going on for a long time.
The last time West Virginia actually played a football game was Jan. 4, almost six months ago. The next time the Mountaineers will play another is Sept. 1, still more than two months away. Yes, the weight room work was broken up by 15 spring practices and there will be another 29 beginning in early August. But the bottom line is that over a span of seven months, football and even football practice take a back seat to simply preparing for football and practice.
"Eventually we have to get back to playing football,'' offensive tackle Pat Eger said. "I mean, I love working out, but that's not my passion. Football is.''
The next month will be brutal. The July Fourth holiday is coming up next week, but that's really no break because the players will take just that day off. Then it's another month before camp begins leading up to that Sept. 1 opener with Marshall and eventually the first season of Big 12 play.
"They'll get one more break, but that's it,'' Joseph said. "They'll get a long weekend that pretty much amounts to a week before practice starts where they can take enough time off to recharge their batteries. And then it's back to work.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.