Have you ever seen two 315-pound offensive linemen wrestle over a stick — yes, a stick — while balancing themselves inside an oversized hula-hoop?
Have you watched muscle-bound defensive tackles race one another while flipping giant 450-pound tires?
What about a pair of tight ends fighting over a yellow, suit case-sized plastic container full of 30 pounds of water?
Welcome to the newest addition of LSU’s Fourth Quarter Program: Competition Wednesdays, an intense, 40-minute workout that unfolds every week inside the program’s indoor practice facility.
The Fourth Quarter Program isn’t new. It’s been around for years as the team’s offseason workout regimen under strength coach Tommy Moffitt. It starts in January, runs through the spring and summer before ending just before preseason camp. The program used to only encompass agility drills, conditioning tests and weight lifting.
It has received a facelift, changes spurred by new head coach Ed Orgeron and created by Moffitt and his staff.
The goal: liven up what had become “monotonous” offseason drills, Moffitt said.
They added a day each week of wild, competitive events — Competition Wednesdays — and they split the players into six mini teams, all of them competing in a points race that will end after spring practice.
One of the ways in which teams receive points: win battles during Competition Wednesdays, where 100 football players are racing each other while flipping tires, pushing sleds and wrestling over a stick.
They play tug of war, too. And it’s the baddest, craziest, wildest tug of war you’ve ever seen, with 25 muscular, 200-plus — and sometimes 300-plus — pounders yanking on a rope while coaches, staff members and teammates hoot and holler.
Picture it: Three football prospects, all from the same high school, are sitting on the lobb…
This week’s Competition Wednesday unfolded on Thursday, a result of the holiday week. Players were off for Mardi Gras weekend, Lundi Gras and Fat Tuesday.
On this Thursday, they’re particularly revved up, fiery for their return to campus and, more so, for competition. After all, this is the second-to-last day of this sort. Competition Wednesdays will be no more once spring ball begins Saturday. They’ll restart in the summer.
Players pour onto the indoor practice field, all of them wearing the same attire: white school-issued shirts, emblazoned with a purple “LSU,” and matching purple shorts.
They look like rookie military troops seconds away from their first boot camp.
Fifteen minutes later, saliva drips from the mouths of exhausted offensive linemen. Hands are on hips or on heads. Waists are bent.
Guards Maea Teuhema and Adrian Magee are competing in the stick drill, one of a half-dozen different stations strength staff members set up on Competition Wednesdays.
Teuhema and Magee — they combine to weigh more than 625 pounds — are locked in a 6-foot circle, each of them with two hands on a 2-foot long stick. The goal: push the other guy out of the circle by wrestling away the stick before the whistles blows 30 seconds later.
Teuhema shoves Magee out of the circle for a quick victory.
“Do it again!” offensive line coach Jeff Grimes barks.
The linemen arrived to the drill seconds earlier after flipping those 450-pound tires. Before that, they were yanking on that water-filled, suit cased-sized yellow container that Moffitt calls “The Tug.” They went through one of two “accountability” stations, too — a "Simon Says"-type station. If coaches point left, you slide left. If coaches point down, you drop down for a pushup.
Needless to say, these big guys are tired, and they’ve got 15 more minutes of this rotation — jogging from drill to drill every five minutes.
“Who’s going to fight when they’re tired?!” Grimes yells at his linemen.
"Who's going to win us the game!?" barks a strength staff member.
Former LSU tight Coin Jeter is watching this all happen, seated with his back against the wall of the indoor facility. Jeter is training at LSU in preparation for the NFL draft.
He watches the boot camp-style workouts and smiles. He never got a chance to do them.
“I wish I could have,” he says. “Looks fun, competitive.”
Therein lies the reason for the change, Moffitt said.
“Before, it was monotonous,” he said. “There was no change. We’d go three or four days a week with zero change and just crush the guys. This year, there’s more variety. Because there’s more variety, there’s more enthusiasm. It’s just different. There’s been more energy. They look forward to it more. It’s not the same ole thing every day.”
The six stations are spread across the indoor football field, with 15-20 players participating in each. Position assistants watch from the sides as a strength staff member leads each station in what can only be described as controlled chaos.
Former LSU quarterback Brandon Harris, who has been granted a full release from the school, …
There’s that tire-flipping race, the one-on-one fight over the water-filled “Tug,” two accountability stations, the wrestling station with the stick and a race to push a metal sled, holding two 45-pound plates, 10 yards.
At the tire-flipping station, running backs Darrel Williams and Derrius Guice are in a heated battle. Who can flip the tire 5 yards down the field and then 5 yards back the quickest?
Williams won — barely. He and Guice shared a high-five afterward.
Guice, one of the favorites for the 2017 Heisman Trophy, is the head coach for the Bayou Bengals team, one of the six squads.
Each of the teams has a general manager, head coach and about 12-15 team members.
Quarterback Danny Etling, for instance, is the general manager of the Midwestern Cowboys. He picked tight end Foster Moreau as his head coach.
Moreau and Etling, like the five other GMs and head coaches, selected their team during an NFL draft-like selection process in mid-January in LSU’s primary team meeting room. Moffitt served as commissioner of the draft, decked in a suit and tie while standing behind a lectern belting out each team’s choice.
“With the first pick of the draft, the Midwestern Cowboys select … receiver D.J. Chark!”
Chark was indeed the first pick, and he walked up to the lectern to pose for fake photos with the commissioner and others.
“We did it big,” said Eric Donoval, one of Moffitt’s full-time assistants who help run the Fourth Quarter Program and its new additions. “They really got into the draft.”
Each team earns points throughout the spring, starting on Day 1 of the Fourth Quarter Program on Jan. 21 and ending April 22, LSU’s spring game. That’s where the team with the most points learns of its victory.
Points can be earned in a variety of ways. Players are docked points for missing class and underperforming during a drill. They earn points for being named “weightlifter of the day,” for example, or lifting weights when it’s not mandatory, like over the weekends, or winning competitions during those wacky Wednesdays.
Seven weeks into the program, Etling’s Midwestern Cowboys lead the competition.
Players are also battling by position group in a completely separate race that uses the same points system but averages the points per player. The offensive line is winning that race.
Both competitions are meant to hold players accountable, not just for themselves, but for their team and position group. It’s a needed change that develops cohesiveness and confidence while also preparing players for spring practice, Moffitt said.
“If you messed up (during the old Fourth Quarter Program), you just messed up and the only person it hurt was you,” Moffitt said. “Now, if you do something wrong, everyone is being held accountable.”
The leader board is updated every Monday morning, scribbled by assistant strength coordinator Jake Riedel on the window of an office inside LSU’s weight room.
Defensive lineman Christian LaCouture, general manager of the Bayou Bengals, chose Guice as his head coach.
The coaching staff picked the six general managers based on their accountability, Moffitt said. Joining Etling and LaCouture as general managers are outside linebacker Corey Thompson (Savages), offensive tackle K.J. Malone (Golden Birddogs), fullback J.D. Moore (Smart Way) and safety John Battle (Bull Rockets).
Coaches will pick new general managers after the spring game. A new draft will take place, and a new, but similar, competition will rage through the summer.
The addition of Competition Wednesday is one of the latest changes Orgeron made to his new program. The results of the change won’t necessarily be felt until the fall, but, already, people are noticing a difference.
“I see more passion coming out of the kids, a want to try to get better,” said Earl Chevalier, the longest-serving assistant strength coordinator in his 16th season at LSU. “The overall atmosphere and character of the guys has changed.”
The result of one of Orgeron’s first changes to his new program — shortening and quickening practices — is already known.
Donoval has those answers stored in a spreadsheet on his computer and printed out in the thick black binder he thumbed through during an interview earlier this week.
LSU got physically faster as last season progressed, a nod to Orgeron’s practice tweaks, strength staff members say. The Tigers’ team speed improved by 2 miles per hour — a 12 percent increase — after Orgeron took over in the interim on Sept. 25.
How do they know such information? Through devices strapped to players’ chests during practices and games. The GPS-like sensors, made by Polar Team Pro, measure heart rate, a player’s speed and other variables to give staff members an idea of how long and hard they exerted themselves, Donoval said.
After practices and games, players place their tracking devices into docks connected to the cloud, information that’s easily acquired by staff members and coaches.
Old football stories. If you played, you've got 'em. And LSU coach Ed Orgeron is no exception.
The devices showed an increase in the team’s overall game speed after Orgeron took over, going from about 16 miles per hour to 18. In the past, strength staff members saw the team speed slip as the season grew older.
“It goes back to how they practiced and the length of practice,” Donoval said.
“This is no slight or knock on Coach (Les) Miles,” said Ben Iannacchione, another assistant strength coordinator who’s worked at the school since 2011. “It’s an example of how much Coach Orgeron knows. He hit the mark perfectly with practice.”
Practices are expected to be similar this spring — somewhat short and fast-paced.
That competition begins next week.
In so many ways, the competition never really stops around here.
Competition Wednesday, on this Thursday, ended with a bang — a tug of war between linebackers and tight ends.
The linebackers won.
Devin White, a shirtless Ray Thornton, Michael Divinity and other linebackers dropped the 20-yard rope as Moffitt’s whistle signaled their victory. They erupted in celebration, screaming, yelling and running wildly throughout the field.
Moffitt and his strength staff smiled.
“They’ve bought into it,” Donoval said. “It’s been unbelievable.”
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