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Leaner Belcher part of IU's football rebirth

New coach focusing on player nutrition, conditioning.

Friday, February 25, 2011 - 9:59 am

BLOOMINGTON — Indiana receiver Damarlo Belcher pushed past the 225 pounds of benching while Trick Daddy sang “Shut Up” and Nelly sang “Country Grammer.”

Those were songs to lift by, and Indiana's Hoosiers lift to a new beat these days. It starts with coach Kevin Wilson, but has implemented football strength coach Mark Hill and his five-man staff.

Belcher, the former North Side standout, is reaping the benefits of Hill's new program amidst Memorial Stadium's state-of-the-art, 25,000-square-foot weight facility.

“We're always looking to get stronger and more powerful,” Hill said. “You also want to look the part. You've got to have muscle to burn fat. We're not focused on overall conditioning right now as in building muscle and leaning out.

“Coach Wilson talks about nutrition and conditioning. We work on it daily, weekly. We want to get you on the right weight. That comes from lifting right, conditioning right and eating right.”

On Thursday afternoon Belcher was part of a three-man group that included defensive back Lawrence Barnett, the former Bishop Luers standout. The goal, Hill said, is to make both players more explosive.

“Damarlo is a great athlete, as is Lawrence,” Hill said. “You functionally want to get some things switched in them. Incorporate more fast-twitch exercises, more speed work, more sprint work. They bought into it. Skill guys, receivers, DBs — they love to run. They love to run fast.”

Belcher has lost five to 10 pounds, but gained strength and what Hill calls “suddenness.” That's the ability to burst out of cuts.

“I've done the most squats and situps I've ever done in my life,” Belcher said. “They brought in a nutrionist to talk about how much weight we can gain, how much we can lose, what food to eat. I eat a lot of fruit now.”

Added Hill: “When I got here Damarlo was about 220. He was a little big. His body fat was low, but not low enough for me to be a receiver. I wanted to lean him up. He's a 210- to 215-pound receiver and that's plenty big enough. We want him to get stronger and we want him to be able to run at the weight he's at and be explosive.”

Belcher seems certain to set IU career records for catches (191) and receiving yards (2,740). Both are held by former Elmhurst standout James Hardy. Belcher has 164 catches for 1,939 yards. Last year, he had 78 catches for 832 yards.

Wilson's up-tempo system is designed to put up big numbers. While at Oklahoma, the Sooners rated among the nation's most explosive offenses. “As a receiver, you've got to like that,” Belcher said. “I can't wait.”

Wilson is here because former coach Bill Lynch couldn't build a winner. Wilson said he wants to win now, and it starts by overhauling the winter conditioning program. The Hoosiers will feature a no-huddle offense and attacking defense that emphasize speed and fitness. Hill's program, with roots from the one at Oklahoma, is designed to maximize that approach.

“We're tired of losing,” Belcher said. “In three years we only won five Big Ten games. It's like, whatever you want us to do, we'll do in order to win.”

The adjustment was rough early on.

“We knew it was going to be hard,” Belcher said, “but at first it was a big shock. Once we started doing it and got the hang of it, it got easier and easier.

“Coach said when he got here he was going to change this thing around. That's definitely what he's doing. We know we have a good team. We didn't show it last year. That's what we're working on – finishing and winning some Big Ten games.”