Veterans ready to help newcomers

First official practice set for August 8

July 12, 2011 · Athletic Communications
On Sunday, Middle Tennessee welcomed incoming freshmen for the first time, and several Blue Raider team leaders had some words of advice for the newcomers as they embark on their collegiate careers.

Senior offensive tackle Mike Williams, junior defensive end Omar McClendon, senior defensive end Gorby Loreus, senior wide receiver Sancho McDonald, and sophomore quarterback Logan Kilgore will be among those whom the new players will want to watch, to emulate, and from whom to seek advice. McClendon has taken his new leadership role as an opportunity, even though he is not a senior.

"Coach is always preaching that you don't have to be a senior to lead. If you know what you are doing, and you are good at what you do, as long as you are paying attention and staying focused, that also makes you a leader. When you take the leadership role, you have to make sure you are on top of everything, because if you are not, then guys are not going to look up to you."

The newcomers have all been encouraged to work out on their own during the past several weeks in order to be prepared for summer workouts and fall camp. McClendon noted that no one expects them to come in "game ready", that is what fall camp is for, but they are expected to come in more fit than they ever were in high school.

But Russell Patterson, Head Football Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Blue Raiders, says very few of them do. McDonald, who converted from quarterback to wide receiver when he arrived on campus, offers some simple advice.

"If I could have talked to them ahead of time, I would have told them to run and drink plenty of water. Run until you can't run any more, and then run some more," said McDonald, who played as a true freshman. "When I got here, I was very surprised at the conditioning program. In the summer workouts, it gets you ready for the up-tempo offense, and you are going to get the additional conditioning you need when you get here."

McClendon, who also played as a true freshman, says mindset is just as important as conditioning. "I would tell the new defensive linemen to work hard, and don't expect to get red-shirted. You can't think like that. Learn the plays. If you don't know, ask. That's what the older guys are here for. I played when I was a freshman and the seniors made sure I knew the plays. They both pushed me and encouraged me.

"There is really no way you can describe to an incoming freshman what the intensity level is going to be when they get here. The intensity in the weight room and at practice is so much higher than in high school. The game is so much faster.

"If you gain weight, that's fine because you'll need it in most cases, but you have to learn to function with those added pounds. It can't be fat; it has to be muscle, because you don't want to be slowed down at all."

Williams, who has started almost every game for the past three seasons, prefers to lead by example.

"I think we can convey to the new freshmen what it is all about by letting them see the work ethic here. It is hard to explain; they really need to see it to get the full impact. As far as the incoming freshmen, I'll try to help them any way that I can, give them advice, whatever they need.

"I would stress to the new guys that it is going to take time to learn the program, and to learn what to do, but as long as you have the mentality of wanting to work hard, and to do something with yourself while you are here, then you can do it. We also really stress being a family here. Being close is one of the keys to success. And if they need anything, they can talk to any of us."

Loreus likened the first day or two of fall camp to a fast-moving train. "If you are going to get on, then you have to have the strength and speed to do it. It's not going to slow down for you. It's up to you to get on board with us. We are running a fast-paced offense and defense, so everything is about speed and being in shape."

Kilgore has only been at MT for a little over a year, but he has learned fast that being in shape is very important. He also knows that "game shape" is different for a quarterback than it is for a lineman, or wide receiver.

"Everybody's game shape is different. Everybody has their own game shape. Players know what their game shape is, and in high school or junior college, they can usually wait until September to get in game shape.

"But the way we run, both offensively and defensively, everyone needs to be in game shape when they get here in August for camp."

Kilgore has been pleased with what he has seen so far from the returning players who are going through voluntary workouts this summer.

"Just seeing how our whole team is working out this summer, the commitment they are making to be better, everybody's been here. It's exciting to see how hard everyone is working."

Fall camp begins on August 8th, and Middle Tennessee's first game of the 2011 season will be Saturday, September 3rd, at Purdue. The home opener will be the following Saturday, Sept. 10th, at 6 pm against Georgia Tech.

Season tickets are now on sale at the MT ticket office on the southwest corner of Floyd Stadium. Call 615-898-2103 for ticket information.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.