Derek Redd: Herd's Brooks drops pounds
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The food at Recovery Sports Grille is pretty tough to turn down. As the plates of food were placed in front of the Marshall University football players as they signed posters on a Friday night, it was tempting to pluck a chicken tender for yourself. When you saw the size of the players getting ready to chow down, though, that temptation vanished quickly.
One of those players refused to give into those temptations himself. For him, the chicken could fly the coop. But looking at the leaner, meaner Blake Brooks, it was easy to see how pushing away that plate has made such a difference.
Listed at 325 pounds on the spring roster, Brooks said he usually carried about 315 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame as he started the transition from defensive line to offensive line. Now the South Charleston High graduate is down to 300 pounds, a big drop from the 350 pounds he said he weighed when he started his college football career at Division II Fairmont State.
"I got my priorities in order and football's really important," the redshirt junior said. "I've just got to do it for my coaches and my team."
The 2009 Hunt Award winner as West Virginia's top high school lineman, Brooks started in Fairmont when the Division I offers weren't coming. But he knew Division I was the level at which he wanted to play, so he transferred to Huntington as a walk-on.
Last season, he earned a scholarship as a defensive lineman, playing in four games and recording one tackle. Now with the offensive line, he wants to see if he can crack the guard rotation on one of the Football Bowl Subdivision's most explosive offenses.
Yet, to do that, he had to be in top shape. It's not just defenses that can get exhausted from that high-tempo scheme. Averaging 90 plays per game can take its toll on offensive players, too, and carrying even 325 pounds can make fitting in tough.
"It's hard to maneuver," he said. "Even at the 330s and the 320s and the 315s, it's hard. When you weigh 300 or less and you're moving in a fast-paced offense, you move a lot better, you run a lot better and everything's easier."
Making a major lifestyle change like trying to cut 25 pounds in a matter of months is no easy task. It's one that takes discipline and sacrifice. But Brooks was motivated. Missing out on a bowl game despite showcasing an offense that averages more than 40 points per game - as the Thundering Herd did last season - is enough to rev anyone's engine.
"That really hurt a lot of us and hurt a lot of Herd Nation, too," Brooks said. "That's really been putting fuel in our fire for the offseason."
And it's fueled Brooks' conditioning mission. Aside from eschewing fatty foods, water has become his drink of choice. He usually eats just twice a day and tries to end his munching three to four hours before he heads to bed.
The offseason workout plans from new strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair are a big help as well. What's made Brooks happy is the ability to cut weight and keep his strength. He said that recently, weighing 305 pounds, he was able to bench press 475 pounds. He added that he wasn't the only player making great strides in the weight room, and that's a building block in contending for a Conference USA championship.
"As a whole, as a team, we have expectations," Brooks said. "We have even higher expectations this year. It's all preseason talk, but at the end of the day, as a team, as coaches and as individuals, we have to come together and play up to our expectations."
Brooks expects himself to stay strong, stay fit and find his niche on the offensive line. And if he can take in his suits a couple of inches as a result, that's even better.
"It's better than being a Fatty McFat-Fat," he said with a grin.
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd.