Fresno State fans in search of a reason to be bullish on the Bulldogs in 2017 can glom onto the roster and the talent added by coach Jeff Tedford since the end of the spring.
But what has been lost also could set up a turnaround.
Working with new strength and conditioning coach Andy Ward and his staff, offensive and defensive line groups dropped a combined 273 pounds of body fat over the summer while adding 161 pounds of lean muscle.
It didn’t come easy, as anyone who’s tried to get into better shape knows.
“We’re college students,” center Aaron Mitchell joked.
But it’s all legit, measured by a Bod Pod, which employs air-displacement technology to calculate body composition.
After spring ball, my biggest thing is we have to get in shape because we have to be able to play at a high level, we have to be able to run to the ball, and guys just couldn't do that.
Fresno State defensive line coach Jamar Cain
“We were trying to get their body fat down and get their strength up, get their functional strength where it needs to be, their flexibility,” Tedford said. “It was a great summer that way.”
Defensive tackle Patrick Belony officially is down 25 pounds from the end of the spring to 295, cutting his body fat by 7 percent.
Two other defensive tackles showed similar results. Kevin Atkins is down 20 to 297 and Malik Forrester dropped 25 pounds.
Mitchell is still about 300 pounds, but cut his body fat by 6 percent.
Some of the players say they’re even lighter than that now.
And they aren’t the only ones.
“There are quite a few guys that have transformed their bodies,” Ward said. “But the O-line and D-line had the biggest transformations. We got rid of some sloppy bodies.”
That was just the mindset. Just don't repeat the past again. Keep grinding. Be better. Help each other be better. Stay consistent. Follow the standard. We had a whole different mindset that we had in the past.
Fresno State defensive tackle Patrick Belony
The Bulldogs as a result are in much better shape, have more functional strength, are more mobile, more flexible and explosive and it has shown up on the practice field in fall camp.
It could show on the field, too, where last season the Bulldogs were a soft second-half team. Fresno State, in limping through a 1-11 season, averaged 7.1 points in the second half against its 11 FBS opponents, ranking 126th of 128 in the nation. It allowed an average of 17.2, tying for 105th.
That is why Tedford and his assistants made offseason conditioning a priority.
“After spring ball my biggest thing is we have to get in shape, because we have to be able to play at a high level, we have to be able to run to the ball, and guys just couldn’t do that,” defensive line coach Jamar Cain said.
“I didn’t care about the X’s and O’s and technique, it was like, ‘Let’s run to the ball, let’s get in shape and let’s look like a Division I defensive line.’ That was my biggest thing – we just have to look a lot better. We had to get in better shape and we had to get stronger.”
To get there, Ward gave every player a checklist of 10 daily food and lifestyle goals, whether the goal was to lose body fat or to gain weight or add lean muscle.
Some are not too difficult, the kinds of things everybody does, from weekend warriors to stay-at-home moms: eat breakfast within one hour of waking up, drink water throughout the day, eat a variety of eight fruits and vegetables, include a protein source in every meal, sleep at least eight hours including naps.
Others are a challenge for us all.
Avoid late night meals and snacks?
“It was really tough,” Forrester said. “It was always that 7 o’clock, 8 o’clock point and I’m like, ‘All right, I think I’m going to Jack in the Box. I need something.’ But instead of that I just drank water and made myself go to sleep … night, night.”
Ward also had the players cutting weight and body fat eating five small meals every two to three hours and for college football players that were on their own for the most part over the summer months, that requires a discipline and a commitment.
It takes some discipline on their part and some buy in to know how important it is and know what they need to do to accomplish it.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford
“I’m not going to lie,” said Mitchell, on the watch list for the Rimington Award as the nation’s top center, “in the past I’ve had my fair share of cup of noodles. I went and bought 30 cup of noodles for 10 bucks and I smashed all of them, but you have to find a way.”
The key, Ward said, was planning and preparation.
“A lot of it comes down to accountability outside the facility,” Ward said. “If you just wake up and you don’t have meals prepared from the night before then they’re not going to be able to meet these goals because they’re coming in, they’re training, they’re going straight from training to class, they’re going straight from class to home. If they don’t have these meals they could go seven or eight hours without eating.”
Go seven or eight hours without eating and there’s a good chance that next meal is not going to be in line with the checklist. Another rule – moderate portions and sweets.
“I think it coincides with just buying in to how much work it’s really going to take to do all these things that your write down on paper, these goals and returning Fresno State to what it was like when Derek Carr was here,” offensive line coach Ryan Grubb said.
“To get back to that, it’s not just going to be like, ‘Hey, we got coach Tedford.’ Well, coach can’t play any more. They’re going to have to go out there and just work their tails off and I think they’ve taken that to heart.”
The more body fat you carry, it's just weighing you down. The leaner you are, the more explosive you become, the stronger you're going to become. There's a direct correlation.
Fresno State strength and conditioning coach Andy Ward
Payoff could come as soon as Sept. 2, the 2017 opener against Incarnate Word.
But the Bulldogs already are confident they are in a better place.
“I think it was one of our best summers we’ve had here,” said Mitchell, who set personal records in all six physical tests at the end of the summer, a bench press, back squat, power clean, 225-pound bench press reps, broad and vertical jumps.
“We lost a good amount of body fat and got stronger. Guys made big jumps in the weight room. It’s cool to see the body change and it really pays off.”
Belony said going through the summer program, the meal planning and prep, wasn’t all that difficult. By comparison, going 1-11, that was difficult.
“That was just the mindset,” he said. “Just don’t repeat the past again. Keep grinding. Be better. Help each other be better. Stay consistent. Follow the standard. We had a whole different mindset that we had in the past.
“I feel better than I did last year and in the spring also, being more mobile and being able to run around more, being able to go past six plays without being super gassed out. It worked to my advantage, being able to condition and eat well. When you have that mindset to do good off the field, it will show on the field.”
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
10 to remember
The 10 rules that Fresno State offensive and defensive linemen employed to cut 273 pounds of body fat over the summer.
- Breakfast within one hour of waking up
- Drink water throughout the day
- Pre/post training snack
- Five small meals every two to three hours
- Protein source in every meal
- Variety of eight fruits and vegetables
- Quality unsaturated fats
- Avoid late night meals and snacks
- Moderate portions and sweets
- Sleep at least eight hours including naps
Saturday’s Fan Appreciation Day (only practice open to public) at Bulldog Stadium
- 5-6 p.m.: Meet-and-greet with the team on the field. There will be a selfie station, a limited quantity of posters available for fans to get signed, and fans are encouraged to bring their own Bulldogs memorabilia. Activities for kids include a tackling dummy, field-goal kicking and a net for aspiring quarterbacks to test their accuracy. Victor-E, the team’s living bulldog mascot, pose for pictures.
- 7 p.m.: Scrimmage
- Cost: Free. Pardini’s will run concessions in the south end zone
Fresno State 2017 schedule
Home games at Bulldog Stadium
Sept. 2 vs. Incarnate Word, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 at Alabama, 12:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sept. 16 at Washington, 6:30 p.m. (Pac-12)
Sept. 30 vs. Nevada, 7 p.m.
Oct. 7 at San Jose State, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN3)
Oct. 14 vs. New Mexico, 7 p.m.
Oct. 21 at San Diego State. 7:30 p.m. (CBSSN)
Oct. 28 vs. UNLV, 7 p.m.
Nov. 4 vs. Brigham Young, TBA (ESPN networks)
Nov. 11 at Hawaii. 8 p.m.
Nov. 18 at Wyoming, 11 or 11:30 a.m.
Nov. 25 vs. Boise State, 12:30 p.m. (CBSSN)