Kansas tight end Tim Biere admits that his conditioning limited him during the 2010 season, when he played at around 260 pounds.
“This year I’ve lost about 10 pounds, and so I’m running a lot better,” Biere said. “I think it’ll help a ton this season, as far as the end of games.
“I knew I needed to drop some weight.”
Biere believes he isn’t the only Jayhawk that will be in better shape for the start of the 2011 season, as KU coaches have amped up the intensity during summer workouts in year two.
“I’ve seen people responding better and people taking accountability for what they do in the weight room and out on the football field a lot more,” Biere said. “Just people wanting to get better, not people wanting to get through a workout.”
Biere admits he was surprised last summer on the first day of conditioning drills when coaches didn’t keep times during player sprints. According to Biere, KU’s previous strength and conditioning coach Chris Dawson “was pretty crazy about that kind of stuff.”
The results were somewhat predictable. Biere said he saw teammates setting a slow pace, then taking it easy at the end of runs.
That’s changed this year, as coaches began timing sprints last winter. Now, on 110-yard dashes, skill players have 14 seconds to finish, big skill players (linebackers and tight ends) have 15 seconds and linemen have around 19 seconds.
Biere said guys are making their times, too.
“This year everybody’s running hard,” Biere said. “It’s been a completely different team this offseason than it was last year.”
KU linebacker Steven Johnson has noticed one focus in workouts has been working on explosiveness.
In addition to 110-yard dashes, the players also have been grinding through 300s — a drill where each player runs around the perimeter of the football field.
The team runs seven or eight consecutively with only a 30-second break between each. Once again, players are required to complete the run in a certain time.
Johnson believes the additional conditioning this summer will help.
“On the defensive side of the ball, I know we’re just going to be able to get from sideline to sideline really easy,” Johnson said. “I don’t feel that many Big 12 teams are going to be able to get away from us this year. We’re going to be able to run people down and stop drives.”
Players also are noticing a difference in the weight room.
KU center Jeremiah Hatch said last year’s situation was similar to being dropped off at a babysitter’s for the first time — players were testing limits to figure out the new staff’s boundaries.
“It wasn’t easier as far as coaches making it easier. It was easier because we made it easier,” Hatch said. “We weren’t competing. Doing just enough to get by.”
Hatch said now he sees players wanting to lift more than the guy across from them. If a player sees someone in his position group lifting 300 pounds, then he pushes himself to try to lift 305.
“There’s a difference between doing your work and doing your work,” Hatch said. “I can come in there and lift a couple of weights, do everything that the card or the coach says to do, and just do it. Or I can come in and compete with the person across from me and do it. It’s a big difference.”
Johnson has seen times when the receivers and defensive backs have had battles back and forth, each unit trying to out-lift the other.
“That’s what’s good, when you get lost in the hard work you’re doing,” Johnson said. “That’s when you know you’re actually getting better.”
Johnson said that though KU had some vocal leaders last year, the team didn’t always have guys out there backing up their words.
“I know this year, we have people out there doing it,” Johnson said. “Not talking as much, but out there really putting the work in and trying to get better.”
This year, Johnson said, everyone seems more focused.
“The strength and conditioning coaches, they might have been a little light on us at first, because they were feeling their way,” Johnson said. “Everybody was feeling their way last year, coaches and everything, just trying to learn about KU.
“This year, we’ve got a year under our belts, so it’s like, ‘All right, now I can turn it up. Now I can yell at you a little bit more. Now I can get on your butt when you don’t do something right.’”