The weigh-ins begin in the morning, in the minutes after the Kansas football players arrive at the Anderson Family Football Complex. That’s No. 1. All day long, the weighing continues. The second weigh-in comes before the Jayhawks take the practice field. The third comes a few hours later, when the team drills and running are over.
But the final weigh-in — the real moment of truth — comes in the moments after a team meal in the evening. That’s when senior offensive lineman Larry Mazyck steps on a scale for what he hopes is the final time that day. If his weight checks out — if the strength staff believes he has properly re-fueled and reached optimum weight — he is done. If he is a few pounds too light, he is sent back to the table with another plate of food.
“It kind of (stinks),” says Joe Gibson, a sophomore offensive lineman from Rockhurst High School. “You’ll eat until you’re full, and then we’re told to eat more, and we just have to force it down, basically.”
The daily weigh-in routine, KU coach David Beaty says, is part of a new system designed to keep each player at his optimal weight. It’s not exactly science; it can be more of a feel thing. But the system, borrowed in part from Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin, includes input from position coaches, the strength and conditioning staff and Kansas’ full-time nutritionist.
“It’s not as easy as just saying: This guy is 330 pounds, we need to get him down to 300,” Beaty said. “Well, he may be optimal at 326 and not necessary down at 305.”
The end-result is a detailed obsession over every pound. And perhaps no player has benefited more from the focus on weight than Mazyck, the former junior-college transfer who appears ready to hold down a spot at offensive tackle. Mazyck, a native of Washington, D.C., arrived at Kansas before last season after a stint at Iowa Western. He was a prized juco recruit, a Maryland commit who had failed to qualify academically and wound up looking for another school late in the recruiting period. He was also one of the biggest humans that KU’s coaching staff had ever seen on a football field.
When he showed up on campus, Mazyck says, he was carrying close to 380 pounds on his 6-foot-8 frame. His size took a toll. On most days, he could barely go two or three straight plays before being gassed. Mazyck would start nine games at right tackle as a junior, but he was never quite at his best.
One year later, Mazyck’s transformation is apparent: He is at 337 pounds now. He has cut more than 40 pounds from his peak weight. He is primed to stay on the field in Kansas’ up-tempo system. He could be a reliable blocker in an offense short on experience up front.
“He looks different,” said KU offensive-line coach Zach Yenser.
On his desk, Yenser keeps a photo of Mazyck from last fall. Yenser wasn’t at Kansas then — Mazyck was recruited to KU by the staff of former Jayhawks coach Charlie Weis — but Yenser still marvels at the work Mazyck has put in. In the spring, Yenser says, it was clear that Mazyck was not ready to compete in Kansas’ up-tempo spread system. Yenser told all of KU’s linemen that they would need to be in the right shape to see the field. But message, it appeared, was mostly aimed at guys like Mazyck.
“We are going to fit this offense and what we do around the guys that we have,” Yenser said. “But there’s one thing we’re not going to back down on — that’s the tempo and the type of conditioning that we expect our guys to be in.”
Mazyck processed the message. Last summer, he says, he sweated through extra conditioning sessions to drop (and maintain) his weight. He altered his diet, cutting out carbs and loading up on protein.
“Spaghetti is my favorite food,” Mazyck says. “I had to give that up a little bit.”
During preseason camp, Yenser has seen a new player — more committed, more vocal, ready to stay on the field for 10-play drives. Mazyck says it might just be experience. Maybe some added maturity, too. In the years since graduating high school at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, Mazyck has spent a season at New Mexico, two in the juco ranks and now two at KU. He can sense the end coming.
“It definitely hit me,” Mazyck said. “It actually hit me about a week ago, to be honest. I was just starting camp and it was like: ‘Yeah, this is my last go-round for college football.’”
His teammates have witnessed the transformation, too. During the second week of camp, Gibson sat next to Mazyck during a post-practice team dinner. He looked down at his plate, filled with fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Then he looked at Mazyck’s.
“Salad and grilled chicken,” Gibson said. “You see him in his pass sets, how much quicker he is … he can play through the whole play now.”