The 2020 football season is bringing unprecedented challenges as returning players and incoming freshman alike have been forced to workout from home amid the quarantine, and this has impacted the everyday routine of many players.
But rather than use the COVID-19 situation as an excuse to slack off, freshman R.J. Moten has approached his fitness aggressively. Over the offseason, players would send proof of their workouts to the U-M coaching staff, and Moten's commitment to training was palpable.
“The guy that stands out the most is RJ Moten, who’s an incoming freshman that was — he must have a Fitbit watch or something,” Harbaugh said. “He would text me especially his bike riding workouts. He had a workout where he was riding with a trainer (and had) a 52 or 53 mile bike ride. 3,100 and some odd calories that he burned, and he was doing it a couple of times a week. When he finally did show up, he just looked great.”
With long distance bike rides fueling Moten's cardio training, the true freshman has assumed a de facto leadership role among the class due to his tenacity and willingness to go the extra mile-- or 50 miles-- to get the job done.
Moten's training was conducted under the guidance of Michigan director of strength and conditioning Ben Herbert, who has produced quality results thus far.
“I thought Ben Herbert and his staff were incredible,” Herbert said, “They films videos, they sent workouts. Even if a guy didn’t have access to a gym, he could just have a room somewhere inside or outside, what they could do without weights. Body weight exercises. I thought that was incredible.”
While Herbert would normally play a big role in helping players get into shape on campus, his expertise was even more valuable this offseason since many players would be faced with unconventional workout environments. So, Herbert has had to think creatively to find programs and plans that will both meet players' physical needs while also using the tools at their disposal. Soon, Herbert and the rest of the Michigan coaching staff will have an opportunity to become even more active with the players on campus.
“We’ll get involved as coaches starting July 24,” Harbaugh said. “We’ll move to a 20-hour week. Walkthroughs will be incorporated. We’ll be on the field with them and be able to really be around those workouts. Right now, it’s been more safety oversight, of course. But to really get in there and start being around them everyday [with] meetings, walkthroughs, workouts starts July 24.”
And just as players were faced with additional fitness hurdles as a result of the coronavirus, the returning Wolverines who were in winter semester classes at Michigan were forced to uproot their studies on the fly. But according to Harbaugh, U-M has another trusty individual who helped make that a smooth process as well.
“Claiborne Green, our academic advisor, did an incredible job throughout the rest of the winter term and now into the spring term,” Harbaugh said. “We had our best semester in the winter term in terms of grade point average and our academics. So yeah, that’s a compliment to our staff here as well as each of the individual players. And my own kids. I thought they handled it very good an maturely as well.”
While the coronavirus has made learning and training difficult for some individuals, it has allowed for others, like Moten, to seize an opportunity to come into fall camp in excellent shape. Going on 50-plus mile bike rides is just one example of how that can be done, and that attitude, along with the stamina gained, will be useful when the 2020 season rolls around.
Do you think most of Michigan's players have been working out regularly over the offseason? Is that a major concern for you entering fall camp? Let us know!