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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Weight Room Pays Big Dividends for Freshmen

While Georgia's freshmen aren't all ready to step into a starting job just yet, Mark Richt has been particularly pleased with how prepared they were when fall practice began last week.

Getting the rudimentary aspects of Georgia's playbook and practice style down was a key part of summer workouts for the freshmen, and the Bulldogs' veterans made sure there was plenty of studying done by the freshmen ahead of time.

But beyond simply know what to do, the biggest asset the newest Bulldogs brought with them was the ability to execute plays repeatedly under the demanding conditions of a Georgia practice on a hot summer afternoon. That preparation was even more arduous.

"The first we got here we went to the weight room and started running," freshman linebacker Mike Gilliard said. "That first day was a rude awakening."

While the playbook may be more complex, the basics of football tend to be the same from one level to the next. Conditioning at the college level, however, is one of the biggest adjustments a freshman has to make.

"When I came from high school, I really didn't lift weights a lot," cornerback Branden Smith said. "It's a real big difference. I'm just trying to get stronger. I like the weight room now. At first I didn't like it when I came in, but I see myself growing, getting bigger, getting stronger, so it's helped a lot."

It's a common refrain among all the freshmen, most of whom are amazed at what the right training program can do for their physique.

"I came in as a little guy, and I've gained 11 pounds," said receiver Rantavious Wooten, who had read the critiques of his small stature long before arriving at Georgia. "The conditioning wasn't too bad because I'm a runner, but the weights, that was intense. I really didn't get a break, and that was different for me."

The results are impressive at first, said Gilliard, who went from 212 pounds in June to 220 by the start of August. After hitting the practice fields for the first time last week, however, he realized how important the hard work he put in over the summer had been.

Sure, the pounds packed on quickly -- but they disappeared just as fast.

"It's real surprising to add that much weight, but you can lose it quick at practice," Gilliard said. "The other day I went in to practice at 220 and left at 215."

It's mostly water weight lost from sweating under the scorching Georgia sun, so putting the weight back on doesn't take long. Nevertheless, the importance of preparation for the grueling months ahead was a necessary step in their development -- even if the results were a bit surprising.

"I didn't expect it at all, but each week (the weight) just kept coming," Wooten said. "I thought I'd gain weight and then run and lose it, but that's not what happened. I've just continued to grow."

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