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IOWA CITY — You went through your anger, denial, depression and your anger (again) over the Hawkeyes' 2014 season. It was 7-6 and you either stewed on it or put it out of your mind and, apparently, decided not to renew your season tickets.
Surely, the actual Hawkeyes went through various emotional stages. They are humans and not faceless commodities. There was one stage, however, that had to be at least somewhat therapeutic and yet practical at the same time.
We will call this the 'iron stage.'
When the Hawkeyes walk down the ramp and sprint out of the tunnel for their season opener Saturday against Illinois State, 14 of them have their names up on the performance leaderboard that hangs in the hallway across from the lockerroom in the Hansen Football Performance Center. Ten of those jumps and times went up on the board this winter.
Eight Hawkeyes have their names up on the leaderboard for lifts, with seven of those coming this winter.
Whatever happens this season, you can't accuse this team of sitting around last winter feeling sorry for itself.
'There's motivation in getting bigger and stronger and working hard in the weightroom,' said senior center Austin Blythe, who set records for the hang clean (420 pounds) and pro agility (4.21 seconds). 'I think last year also was a big motivating factor, too, just knowing that it wasn't good enough and that it was just kind of average. We want to do better this year and that's what really drove us in the weightroom.'
The boom in records also happened to coincide with the Hawkeyes' first season in the Hansen Center, which features a weight area that is 23,000 square feet, a 75-yard stretch of turf and a 'smoothie bar' that is located front and center in the weight area and allows constant caloric intake during workouts.
'I think part of it, the team certainly has been focused and that helps,' head coach Kirk Ferentz said. 'They've got an edge right now.'
This also timed perfectly with the NCAA deregulating food rules. It's basically gone from measured and miserly to a constant availability.
'I'd give an assist to the NCAA and our administration with the new rules allowing guys to actually eat balanced meals,' Ferentz said. 'It's unbelievable the amount of work our players do, and this is true of all college athletes, not just in football, the amount of energy they expend.
'It was the right thing to do. I think that's also helped. Instead of having guys back eating Hamburger Helper and things that probably aren't as good or as nutritional for them, from our standpoint there is no excuse for players not to be eating the right way and the right kinds of food.'
Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle used the term 'athletic wellness.'
'You can't train these kids the way you do without refueling them and without feeding them and allowing them to recover from the training,' Doyle said. 'Our vision just happened to come together at the same time as that deregulation. Our kids are going to be the ones who'll benefit and that's awesome.'
This winter the average weight of a Hawkeyes football player went from 231 to 236.8 in a seven-week period, Doyle said. 'That's a time period where you're gaining regardless, it's a gaining time period,' Doyle said. 'If you looked at previous years, you would see progress, but this year, maybe it was a little bit better.'
He said that with kind of a chuckle. The results are as serious as a kale-tomato-blueberry smoothie (they have those).
Junior wide receiver Riley McCarron ran a 3.78-second pro-agility cone drill. He set that record and carried the momentum into spring and summer. Along the way, he earned a scholarship, the No. 4 WR spot and is No. 2 punt and kick returner.
Running back LeShun Daniels not only lost the 10 to 15 pounds he was asked and he wanted to lose. He also set the bench press record for running backs (405 pounds) and the pro-agility drill (4.01 seconds). That translated into earning the starter's role.
'You know when someone breaks a record in speed,' Daniels said. 'You see the clock or see them really moving and it's like, whoaaaa. It's a great environment.'
Did Daniels and his new body surprise himself a few times this winter?
'Aaaa, yeah a little bit,' he said with a smile. 'With the weight loss, I didn't expect it to be as drastic as it was, but when you see the final times and the final numbers, you're just like 'Wow, it's great to see that and see that progress.''
Senior linebacker Cole Fisher, who has vaulted into first-team at weakside linebacker, has the outside linebacker pro-agility (4.05 seconds) and hang clean (380 pounds) records. Ben Niemann, this year's starter at outside linebacker, set the 10-yard dash record this winter (1.49 seconds). Freshman Aaron Mends, who'll figure into special teams, set the inside linebacker squat record this winter with a lift of 595 pounds.
New starting quarterback C.J. Beathard is on the board. He set the pro-agility record for QBs in 2013 (3.99 seconds) and the vertical jump (38.2 inches) in 2014.
'Coach Doyle will give us sheets in our lockers about who broke records,' Beathard said. 'When you're in the weightroom and you're standing around and some guy is about to break a record, everyone gets around him and cheers him on. Once he breaks it, you know he got it and it's an exciting moment. It's electric.'
Blythe concedes that, yes, the Performance Center and the refueling helped, but the lift was still the lift. It's still an individual achievement.
'I think if we went out in the parking lot and did the hang clean there, we'd get the same results,' he said. 'Throw a platform down and a couple free weights down, it'd be the same result. I think the attitude that's been instilled drove a lot of this, too.'
The 'iron stage' was an unmitigated success. Now, the next step is iron staging in cleats.
'I think we came into this offseason with a better attitude, a better mindset to get after it,' Beathard said. 'You can translate it over to football, but it has to start somewhere. It had to start in the weightroom and that is where it started.'
Weight and speed records held by current Hawkeyes
Center: Pro agility
— Austin Blythe 4.21 seconds (2015)
Quarterback: Pro agility
— C.J. Beathard 3.99 seconds (2013)
Wide receiver: Pro agility
— Riley McCarron 3.78 seconds (2015)
Running back: Pro agility
— LeShun Daniels 4.01 seconds (2015)
Fullback: Pro agility
— Macon Plewa 3.97 seconds (2015)
Defensive end: Pro agility
— Drew Ott 3.95 seconds (2015)
Leo LB: Pro agility
— Cole Fisher 4.05 seconds (2013)
Cornerback: Pro agility
— Sean Draper 3.89 seconds (2014)
Tight end: Vertical jump
— George Kittle 41.8 (2013)
Quarterback: Vertical jump
— C.J. Beathard 38.2 (2014)
Kicker: Vertical jump
— Marshall Koehn 38.9 (2015)
Center: 10-yard dash
— James Daniels 1.63 (2015)
Tight end: 10-yard dash
— George Kittle 1.45 (2013)
Running back: 10-yard dash
— Akrum Wadley 1.42 (2015)
Kicker: 10-yard dash
— Marshall Koehn 1.45 (2014)
Defensive end: 10-yard dash
— Terrance Harris 1.48 (2015)
Outside linebacker: 10-yard dash
— Ben Niemann 1.49 (2015)
Running back: bench press
— LeShun Daniels 405 (2015)
Fullback: bench press
— Adam Cox 420 (2015)
Defensive tackle: squat
— Faith Ekakitie 610 (2015)
Inside linebacker: squat
— Aaron Mends 595 (2015)
Center: hang clean
— Austin Blythe 420 (2015)
Tight end: hang clean
— Jake Duzey 395 (2015)
Outside linebacker: hang clean
— Cole Fisher 380 (2013)
Safety: hang clean
— Jake Gervase 387 (2015)
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