Archive for Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Little lineman beefs up

Rodriguez refined technique last season

August 15, 2006

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Cesar Rodriguez knew how the better - or in this case, bigger - half lived.

As a freshman right offensive tackle on Kansas University's football team in 2004, Rodriguez's weight often fluctuated between 250 and 260 pounds. Whatever the scale read for him in a particular week, there was one certainty: It was way too light to establish dominance in the Big 12 Conference.

"Usually as an offensive lineman, you go against guys you're heavier than," Rodriguez said. "When I came in as a freshman, I was going against guys who were 15, 20 pounds heavier than I was."

Weight gain never was easy for Rodriguez. He arrived at Kansas as a 6-foot-7, 237-pound talent who needed to bulk up quickly if he were to have a chance. He put a good slice of weight on during his red-shirt year, getting up to 260 or so by the start of the '04 season. But the grind of the 11-game schedule caused the weight to drop frequently with unwanted ease.

So Rodriguez did what he had to do as a red-shirt freshman: He scrapped his way through the first nine games of the '04 season, clawing against the bigger opponents and executing the fundamentals as best he could before an injury took him out.

Really, he had no choice.

"You always try to perfect your technique," Rodriguez said. "But when you're an undersized lineman, that's the only thing you got."

In hindsight, the 2004 season helped Rodriguez tremendously with his growth as a football player. Since then, he has put on more than 30 pounds and now plays about 290. And he has that technique he used as a crutch in 2004 when the weight didn't help.

Now over at left tackle, Rodriguez has become an unsung hero on the line. Not the vocal leader David Ochoa is, not the horse Anthony Collins is, not the courageous fighter Bob Whitaker is, but a key part in making the line go nonetheless.

As taxing as it was, Rodriguez can thank his days when he was scrappy and small. And he remembers clearly how difficult those times were.

"You wear down during the game," Rodriguez said, "and you can't do what you want to do because you're so tired from pushing people around. The more weight you have, the easier it is to push people around, and you don't get so tired."

Rodriguez credits one thing for his weight gain, a strategy most of America regrettably is well aware of - food, and lots of it.

"When you get older, and you learn to keep eating and keep eating," Rodriguez said, "you're metabolism eventually slows down."

So, too, does the speed of the college game, something the 2006 offensive line can now attest to. Seven lineman on KU's roster have starting experience from last season, and a nice blend of youth and veterans has the offensive line optimistic for 2006.

And the good news? Nobody has problematic issues with putting on weight anymore.

"We really feel comfortable," Rodriguez said. "Everybody is friends with each other. We hang out, make jokes. We all work hard together, and during practice, we're all talking.

"Everything seems to be running like a well-oiled machine."

And now, a well-fed one, too.

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