Sep 26, 2020; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones linebacker Mike Rose (23) and defensive back Anthony Johnson Jr. (26) celebrate an interception in the fourth quarter against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The operative — and borderline staggering — numbers of the day ranged from 10 to 12.
That’s how much muscle Iowa State cornerbacks coach Matt Caponi told reporters Wednesday that his two most experienced players, Anthony Johnson and Datrone Young, each packed on in the offseason.
Johnson — who has started 28 straight games for the Cyclones at left corner — was listed at 6-feet and 192 pounds last season, so gaining (10-to) 12 pounds of good weight heading into his senior season becomes very significant.
Young — who has split time starting at right corner with Tayvonn Kyle the past two seasons — was listed as 5-feet 9-inches tall and 170 pounds last season, so layering 12 pounds of fast-twitch speed and strength onto his frame rises to that borderline staggering description above.
So 10 and/or 12 are eye-opening numbers — and perhaps an omen for other areas of growth yet to come as the 2021 season nears.
“What (strength and conditioning) coach (Dave) Andrews and those guys are doing just from a workout standpoint has been huge (for) their development,” Caponi said. “I think those guys have done a really good job of focusing in on nutrition, which is a huge part, especially when you’re a smaller guy with a really high metabolism. You’ve got to put the right stuff in your body … our nutritionist (Rachel Voet) with those guys. The corner spot, those guys have been on the list of, you know, we’re tracking them in everything they do from a nutrition standpoint, and I feel the combination of those two things from strength and conditioning to nutrition has given those guys that growth and development hey have needed these last three months.”
Think a slab of salmon or chicken paired with veggies versus a burger and pile of fries. Neither meal will likely impact how someone with Johnson’s or Young’s metabolism looks a whole lot, but it can make a massive difference in how they feel.
And being serious about all aspects of health and performance — not just making plays on the ball, or upending a running back that’s reached the second level on game day — serves as more proof that ISU’s experienced cornerbacks are approaching every aspect of their development with rigor and discipline.
“You’re actually taking each day and not only attacking it fundamentally but technically as well,” Caponi said. “With how we’re doing spring practice, I think it’s gone really well.”
Johnson, Caponi said, continues to cement his leadership skills as his time as a Cyclone winds down.
“He’s bigger, he’s got more confidence — obviously with experience comes confidence,” Caponi said. “And he’s doing awesome off the field as well. Academically, he’s had three really good semesters in a row. He’s changed his nutrition plan, which I think has helped that weight gain. He focuses more on the really good stuff to put into his body because he now understands that is part of the progress and his progression of getting where he wants to go.”
Young, who will continue to battle Kyle and a handful of others for starts, entered this spring as healthy as he’s been in at least two years, Caponi said.
“Some guys were on some games (last season) and some guys were off a little bit, so it was really just going with the hot hand — who I thought was playing better at the time,” Caponi said. “I feel like we have five really good corners that can play, so I’m not really locked into — and I don’t like playing guys at 90 snaps a game. It’s just continuing to build depth and whether that’s Datrone and Tayvonn, and T.J. (Tampa) and Michael (Antoine Jr.), I think that’s the one thing about the position group: they all care about each other. They all really, truly love each other. They want to help each other get better and they don’t care how many snaps (they play).”
It stands to reason. As head coach Matt Campbell often stresses, it’s about “we” not “me.” And that collective desire to achieve excellence spans the training table, the practice field, and finally, the game day experience.
“I think that’s one thing that, it creates the competition, but also builds depth,” Caponi added. “These guys, they’re not selfish by any means. They want to see those other guys succeed.”