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Indiana University

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Mark Hill, the head of the strength and conditioning staff for the Indiana football team, has helped trim the fat and build up the players’ muscle.

IU ready to flex its muscles

Weight room work evident in Bloomington

– Indiana coach Kevin Wilson’s biggest demand when he joined the Hoosiers in 2010 was to improve the commitment to the weight room.

Three years later, that commitment – from Wilson and IU athletic director Fred Glass – has paid dividends.

“Those guys do an awesome job,” Wilson said of his strength and conditioning staff, which is headed by fellow former Oklahoma staffer Mark Hill.

“I need commitment to the weight room because May, June and July, we’re not allowed as coaches to be at those workouts at all. During the recruiting period, you can be there if you want to, but you’re basically gone recruiting, so those guys are spending more time with our kids than us.”

Hill is a special talent, Wilson said. He managed to break down the Hoosiers, who had too much fat in Year One, then build them up through the offseason in Year Two and Year Three.

That’s resulted in big gains of the right kind. Jason Spriggs, a sophomore left tackle, put on nearly 30 pounds before preseason camp.

“Mark Hill and our strength guys, they’ve helped me a lot trying to gain weight, and I think it will help a lot, especially in the run game,” the 6-foot-7, 297-pound Spriggs said.

All the IU players and staff are quick to credit Hill and the rest of his strength and conditioning staff. The former Sooners coach turns those kudos around on the Hoosiers and Wilson.

“You see the numbers improving, guys getting a lot more explosive,” Hill said. “We knew it would come with just being patient, just sticking to our program and sticking to what we do.”

The players know what to expect after multiple years in the program, and thanks to that, they’ve been able to teach while the strength staff monitors.

It isn’t always smooth sailing, Hill said, but the progress is always there. That wasn’t the case in the first year. Like Wilson, Hill faced some resistance from players because of the new standards for IU.

“All I am is just that guy, along with my staff, that consistently hammers that message of the things that we need daily to be able to succeed,” Hill said. “Being here from Year One, I know where we started and I know where we are now, and I’m more than pleased with the steps we’ve taken, the improvement we’ve made year-in and year-out as a team.

“It’s starting to come to fruition.”

What that means for the Hoosiers is unclear. As Wilson noted in an anecdote from his time at Oklahoma, games aren’t won by doing a bench press contest at the 50-yard line.

But for the first time in his tenure – the first time in awhile, really – IU looks the part of a Big Ten team.

“A lot of games are won and lost without the coach being there,” Wilson said. “I think we came back in very, very good shape. You can tell.”

Spriggs is one guy who’s visibly bigger. Quarterback Tre Roberson is up to 200 pounds after coming in at 180 as a freshman and suffering a leg injury last season.

And the most unlikely players have made big gains, too. Redshirt freshman punter Nick Campos went from a one-rep max of 225 pounds on bench to lifting that same weight nine to 10 times in a set.

“If you watch us keep going, you’ll see us getting stronger, getting faster, getting more mature,” Wilson said. “I think you see a little bit in practice, and hopefully that’s going to translate into better play.”

smorrison@jg.net

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