Archive for Friday, June 25, 2004

KU lineman Rodriguez keeps putting on pounds

Freshman hopes added weight leads to starting role

June 25, 2004

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Kansas University listed offensive lineman Cesar Rodriguez as 6-foot-7 and 253 pounds on its football roster last season.

In his office at Anderson Strength and Conditioning Center, Chris Dawson had another set of numbers jotted down.

"I don't pay attention to heights and weights in media guides because I do my own in here," said Dawson, KU's director of strength and conditioning. "In basketball, if it says a guy is 6-9, there's a good chance he's 6-7."

Rodriguez, a freshman from La Puente, Calif., is 6-7, but he weighed 237 -- not 253 -- when he arrived on campus last summer. The newcomer was no match for veteran defensive ends like David McMillan (6-3, 240) during preseason practices.

"When I came in, I was pretty light, and they could toss me around," said Rodriguez, who has put on 30 pounds and hopes to weigh in at 285 when the 2004 season starts with a Sept. 4 home game against Tulsa. "Now I can stand my ground."

KU's four-day-a-week summer conditioning program started June 8 and runs through July 28. Rodriguez will be doing plenty of heavy lifting, and eating, in the next six weeks.

"Sometimes you think, 'Man, I can't eat anymore,'" said Rodriguez, who eats three meals a day, drinks three protein shakes a day and eats healthy snacks in between. "I did have to buy new clothes. None of my old clothes fit anymore."

Rodriguez gained 13 pounds during his first two months on campus and has gradually expanded since then. KU hopes the red-shirt freshman can fill the void left by fourth-round NFL draft pick Adrian Jones at left tackle.

Jones went through a major transformation of his own, bulking up from 260 pounds as a junior tight end to 275 as a senior tackle last season. Jones continued to gain weight and was up to 302 by the time he was drafted by the New York Jets in April.

"Adrian Jones kept gaining weight throughout the season, and there's no reason Cesar can't do the same thing," Dawson said. "He's gaining. He's got a long way to go, but he's working at it."

Big shoes to fill

Whether Rodriguez can play like Jones is another matter.

"I think sometimes we lose sight of how early some of these guys are forced into playing when you're rebuilding a program," Dawson said. "As long as he continues to work and improve the way he has been, he'll continue to get bigger, stronger, quicker and better."

Rodriguez is expected to start next fall on a line that returns three starters -- senior center Joe Vaughn, senior guard Tony Coker and sophomore guard Bob Whitaker -- but must replace tackles Jones and Danny Lewis.

Rodriguez is penciled in at left tackle, with Air Force transfer Matt Thompson on the right side.

Sophomore Travis Dambach could fill either tackle spot, and Rodriguez is taking nothing for granted.

"I think every spot is up for grabs except for Joe Vaughn's," he said. "I think we won't find out until a week before the season starts."

The young lineman looked forward to the challenge of replacing Jones.

"I think pressure is good," he said. "It makes you work harder. You want to get ready for the season, and you don't want to disappoint anybody."

Dawson said Rodriguez wouldn't let KU down.

"He's got some nasty in him, and he's got some explosiveness," Dawson said. "He has a good approach to practices and workouts."

La Puente pipeline

Rodriguez was recruited by several big-time schools -- including UCLA, Washington and Arizona -- during his career at Amat High in La Puente, but some college coaches backed off because they didn't think he was big enough.

KU assistant Dave Doeren was on Rodriguez early and never wavered. That meant a lot to the all-conference and all-region lineman.

Doeren received a commitment from another Amat lineman recently when Rodriguez's brother, Jose, decided to become a Jayhawk.

Dawson won't have to work as hard to put pounds on the 6-6, 250-pound senior-to-be.

"He's a big boy," Cesar said of his brother. "He's a lot stronger than I was at that age. He really works hard."

The elder Rodriguez brother had no regrets about his year on the sideline.

"When I was recruited, they told me I would need a year to bulk up and adjust to the speed of the game," he said. "I knew I would red-shirt, and I wanted to do it so I could adjust to school and everything that goes with it."

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