With Signing Day behind us and spring football set for March 26th, we have some time to kill before football talk really picks up. We thought, hmm, what do you think life is like this time of year for the Hawkeye players? We found a former Hawkeye to talk about it.
Rafael Eubanks was a four-star recruit from Roseville, Minnesota, that was part of Iowa's 2005 recruiting class. After a red-shirt 2005 season, Eubanks earned the starting center position and earned first team all-american honors from Scout, Rivals and The Sporting News. He'd again start at center in 2007 and earn honorable mention all-Big Ten honors. In 2008, Eubanks moved to guard and missed games due to injury. In 2009, Eubanks would again be Iowa's starting center and earned the media's second team all-Big Ten honors. He had some ups and downs his five years at Iowa. We are fortunate to have him tell us all about it.
He's open to follow-up questions via his Twitter account. Even if you don't have a question, he's a great follow.
92 on #flappybird NBD— Rafael Eubanks (@thenativeone52) February 2, 2014
Let's get right to the questions:
Q - You were an accomplished high school football player from a Midwest football factory in Cretin Derham. What were the biggest changes from your high school workout routine to the strength and conditioning program at Iowa?
RE- The biggest difference between high school and college was the Olympic style lifting/power lifting. Coach Doyle and the "Hard Work " mentality was one of the bigger draws for me as a recruit. Coming from Cretin-Derham Hall, or CDH, you develop a strong work ethic and desire to get better. We would get to school at 6:00 AM to work out that way we could work on other things or watch film after school. A lot of this was driven by one of our coaches Andy Bischoff (Coach Doyle of high school) who now coaches for the Chicago Bears. We never did Olympic style lifting such as snatches, hang cleans, etc. because he believed at our age we weren't ready and could develop bad habits. I think it was a great idea but was excited about the opportunity and potential of developing under Doyle.
Q - As far as practice and training, what was your first year on campus like as a red-shirt freshman? Do red-shirts have a different strength and conditioning program than the other players?
RE- My first year on campus was an up and down experience. I never had any particular intention or expectation of playing, only to continue what I had done to get me to this point. I had always worked as hard as I could and listened to what my coaches told me to do. As the first week of camp was coming to a close I remember finishing up a practice in Kinnick stadium. Coach Morgan pulled me aside and talked to me about the current thought process of the offensive line. He said it's about getting your best 5 guys out there no matter what position they play. He thought as far as things had gone that I could be in that mix. I was ecstatic and nervous at the same time. I kid you not, the very next day in practice I sustained a high ankle sprain, the first somewhat significant injury of my career. At that point I knew I would be red-shirted.
That being said, the red shirt year is a very valuable year. You do everything else the team does except for travel or obviously play. For the most part you don't get many reps and are usually on the scout team. Once practice is over the 2-deeps head in but everyone including red-shirts stayed out and continued to practice. For offense and defensive lineman this meant 1 on 1's, blocks, 9 on 7 maybe even some team drills with all positions. This was the time for you to get real reps, work on technique and really develop as a player.
As far as lifting, it was a good year to develop technique, proper strength and get into the swing of Iowa lifting. The first few weeks are spent on assessments to develop correct weight for lifting programs. After that a red-shirts lifting program is going to be more intense than somebody who is in the 2-deeps.
Q - There's a recent story that says offensive linemen eat 4,500-5000 calories a day to gain or maintain weight. Is that true? Does Coach Doyle monitor the caloric intake of Iowa's football players?
RE- I believe this and some. Ideal weight is an advantage in Doyle's eyes. That means gaining weight and not being fat. Rarely do you see Iowa with a player over 315 lbs. For those that had a hard time putting on weight you would see them chugging two to three protein drinks at 300+ calories a pop before workouts. I remember first getting to Iowa and thinking a Chipotle burrito (sorry Iowa peeps) was a lot of food. Guys would order two, sometimes three in one sitting. Hu Hot was another good place because it was damn good and you could keep going and going.
Doyle monitored weights a lot. You always had a goal weight for the season, which was discussed thoroughly between Doyle and Ferentz. You would weigh-in every week and it would determine the course of action needed to get to your weight. If you were overweight you would have to run after practice. That was the worst.
Q - You didn't have to add weight at Iowa but how did you body change from a red-shirt freshman to a senior?
RE- I never had to gain weight when I was at Iowa but my body changed significantly. My body fat percentage went down every year, which is a good thing. My red-shirt freshman year, my goal weight was 295 lbs. Every year I actually played about 5 pounds less than the previous but continued to get stronger. I wanted to be lighter, to be quicker, which is something I could use as an advantage. My senior year my goal weight for the season was 280 but was probably playing at around 270 as the season went on.
Q - Can you describe the off season workouts? In a lot of S&C programs, coaches use a method known as periodization, does coach Doyle use this method and if so, can you describe the phase leading up to spring practice?
RE- Periodization is huge in lifting and at Iowa. There is a certain time for everything in hopes of getting peak performance during the season. The period before spring ball is a heavy lifting period. This is where a lot of the 100 squat lifts and other crazy lifts occurred. This period is to get bigger, stronger and faster. This was the time when guys worked to gain lean muscle mass. It was also the period to set the tone for the next season. Seniors are gone from the previous season and now it's an entirely different team. Anything that was an issue during the season is addressed NOW. Who's going to step up (after a bad season) who's going to continue to push (after a good season).
Q - As an offensive lineman, how are the workouts for that group different from the workouts designed for other position groups?
RE- When I was there lifts were very universal and really benefited everyone no matter the position. For the most part, everyone did the same lift. There were variations here and there but the biggest thing was the difference in weight.
Q - Spring football. Love it or hate it?
RE- Spring ball was easily the worst part of football. It is the hardest practices and you don't even get to play in any games. Hate hate hate it. At the same time it's an integral part of development as an individual as well as a team.
Q - You began your career as a center and played some guard in the 2008 season and then finished your career at center, how are the positions different? Does that change your preparation at all?
RE- Each position on the offensive line is slightly different than the others. Every position has its difficulties. Center is unique in most offenses because they are usually the General, making calls to put other players in the right position. In most defenses the nose is shaded on the center and can be tough because there is not a lot of room. One false step and an entire play can be disrupted. The same thing goes for guards and tackles but there is a little more space in between leaving a little more room for error. Preparation-wise, the technique between tackles, guards and centers is a little different and mostly in pass protection. It's hard to describe but it's a lot of timing and proper steps.
Q - Reese Morgan was your position coach and he's since moved to coach the defensive line. Describe his characteristics and coaching techniques that make him such a valuable part of the Iowa Football program.
RE- Reese Morgan is Iowa Football. Reese Morgan is tough. Reese Morgan will live and die by Iowa football. I believe him when says he used to walk to and from school up hill both ways in the snow. He brings the lunch pail mentality to his unit. Whether it's the offensive or defensive line, you want a coach like him on your side. He keeps pushing you not allowing you to become complacent. It was an honor to play for him.
Q - How much input does Kirk Ferentz have with the day-to-day coaching of the offensive line? Does he focus strictly on the offensive tackles, the entire group or is he just there to oversee things?
RE- As everyone knows coach Ferentz's background is offensive line. This was a huge selling point for me when choosing Iowa, the chance to have two coaches oversee my development. Especially, when one has been known to develop great lineman. Coach Ferentz has a huge role in the offensive line. The majority of his time is spent on the offensive side of the ball because he is an offensive coach.
During practice he stands behind the offense with a keen eye on the offensive line. Any time during practice when something needs to be ran again, it's his call and is most likely because the offensive line did something wrong. It's funny because practice was gauged on the offense and more importantly the offensive line. If the offensive line didn't practice well it was considered a bad practice and vice versa.
Coach Ferentz's biggest outbursts were always directed toward the offensive line. I remember a bad practice I was having where he likened my blocking to an "old man pushing a grocery cart" which was followed by a portrayal of what it looked like. As an offensive line we were happy to have Kyle Calloway because if Coach was yelling at someone, more than likely it was him. There were times when he would take the tackles aside and work with them and Coach Morgan would work with centers and guards but for the most part his hand was in on everything.
Q - When the Spring depth chart is released, does it mean anything to you as a player? Does Coach Ferentz use the depth chart as a motivational tool in the spring?
RE- The depth chart during the spring is certainly a tool during spring ball. That being said, it's always taken with a grain of salt. Most times I would say it's used to motivate someone who has played but maybe isn't practicing well or needs a kick in the pants.
Q - How are the practices for Spring football different from practice August through December?
RE- Like I mentioned earlier, spring ball is the devil. Since you are not preparing to play any games it doesn't matter how hard you practice. Just like in camp there are only so many times that you can hit the same people and run the same plays. Tempers boil over and fights ensue. It's neither good or bad just the nature of football when you play the same team 15 times in a row.
Getting to the spring game was one of the most glorious times of the year. Spring ball was finally over, and no matter how bad you practiced you knew you weren't going to get yelled at too much because there were people in the stands. It is an integral part of football and it will never be eliminated. You develop a lot during this time. It is up to you as an individual to progress as it is very easy to "go through motions" during this time.
Q - How important to the program during the off season is Iowa's Leadership group? Do they organize workouts?
RE- The Leadership group can be seen as a players union. They are the liaisons between the players and the coaches. They are guys that are seen as leaders that guys can go to if they have issues.
Q - Your career at Iowa came during a period often described at Ferentz 2.0. A reboot of the cycle that started down (in terms of wins) and rotated back up. Looking back, were there any changes in Kirk Ferentz's approach or philosophy that led to the turn around? Or, was it a matter of the maturation of the group of players that ultimately became the team's leaders?
RE- This period at Iowa was a very interesting. Coming in with the "heralded" class of 2005. Iowa had just come of a tremendous season winning a share of the Big Ten and an unforgettable win over LSU in the Capitol One Bowl. There were high expectations for the new season as well as the new recruiting class. The previous year's success didn't continue and for the next three years saw a downward trend culminating with a home loss to Western Michigan in 2007.
We didn't make it to a bowl game that year and did we ever realize what that meant. The philosophy of Coach Ferentz and Iowa is that by working hard will put you in place to succeed. There is even a slogan in the weight room that reads "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." They absolutely killed us that off season. I remember Coach Doyle saying, "it's been six years since we haven't gone to a bowl game, so for six years we have had time to think about what we would do if we didn't go." This had been a philosophy that turned the program around when the staff first came to Iowa and it was being used even more this time around.
Q - How satisfying for you was it your senior year to reach and win the Orange Bowl?
RE- Finishing my senior year with a win at the Orange Bowl is something that I will never forget and is something that almost never materialized. After going through hell at the end of the 2007 season all we could think about was getting back out on the field. I had played the first two years at center and it seemed that as though it was my job for the remaining two years. Camp came around and nobody had job security. It's what happens when you play like "fat cats."
I understand this looking back but was a very hard pill to swallow at first. I felt betrayed. I had done everything that was asked of me to this point. I eventually lost my center spot and was moved to guard. This is when the wheels seemingly began to fall off. Unhappy that I was playing guard, my play began to suffer. My once strong Iowa pride became sour and resentful. Starting became rotations in and out, add injuries in there and it was a disaster. By the time season ended I wasn't playing. In the off-season there were times I almost quit. I had a bum knee that bothered me ever since starting at Iowa and the way things shook out the previous season, I was convinced that I wouldn't go forward. It didn't seem worth it. I was unhappy. I thought about it for a while but my mind never seemed to change. In the back of my mind there was always this sliver of hope. I envisioned myself running out of the tunnel on senior day, my family standing in the middle of the field waiting for me to get there. I could hear the crowd cheer as they called my name. I could feel the joy and pride rush through me. I wanted that, I needed that, I deserved that.
My family deserved it and my coaches deserved it. It became my inspiration to keep going, to turn everything around. When the day came and it was my turn to run out of the tunnel it was almost too much. I had accomplished what I had set out to do. It was one of the most rewarding things in my life. Although we just missed out on the Big Ten title it was the best cap to the season winning the Orange Bowl. A year earlier, I was the lowest of the low but now I was on top of the world helping to pour Gatorade on Coach Ferentz. It was an amazing journey and for the class of 2005, the very few who remained, it felt like we finally accomplished something.
Q - Finally, what are some of your favorite moments from that 2009 season or your career at Iowa in general?
RE- One of my favorite moments from that year was certainly the win at Michigan State. It was one of the most physical games I have ever played. I don't even remember how many guys got knocked out of that game. The last play of the game I didn't know the routes, I never paid attention to it, I just knew we were throwing it as our last chance of the game.
Two of their linebackers stood in both "A" gaps. A blitz they had run a lot of the game. I knew we would be able to protect Ricky Stanzi. The play started and I slid down on one of the linebackers. I had him right away and proceeded to look up on the play developing. I could see Marvin McNutt cutting across the middle and getting past the corner. Next thing I see the ball come over my head and Marvin catching it easy in the endzone. I wasted no time. I ran to Marvin and in the excitement knocked him to the ground. Next thing I know, the entire team is jumping on top of us. Growing up I always thought this would be cool to be a part of a giant pile up of your teammates celebrating a victory. Boy was I wrong. The weight of everyone piling on top made it hard to breath. Marvin and I were both yelling for people to get up but it was useless, nobody could hear us. When we were finally able to get up I remember giving him a hug. That memory still sends a chill down my spine!
Wow, right? There's a lot there and we again want to take a second to say thank you to Mr. Eubanks. And also, because he brought it up: