Sophomore defensive end Stephen Arant (6-3, 260) talked with Gene's Page about playing so many different positions during his short career, playing defensive end (his current position), the new strength program and how it has helped him on the field, his opinion of Coach Croom, the dreaded 300 yard shuttles, and team unity."/>

Defensive End Stephen Arant

Defensive End Stephen Arant

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/football/2004/arantstephen.jpg" align="left"> Sophomore defensive end Stephen Arant (6-3, 260) talked with Gene's Page about playing so many different positions during his short career, playing defensive end (his current position), the new strength program and how it has helped him on the field, his opinion of Coach Croom, the dreaded 300 yard shuttles, and team unity.

Stephen Arant Profile

You've been moved from position to position during your two years here. What positions have you played since you've been here.
"When I first came up here, I knew I was going to be a strong safety so I got my weight up to about 213 pound. Then, Coach (Joe Lee) Dunn moved me to outside linebacker. I did really well, but all the coaches left. After that first season, over the Christmas break, I worked out hard and added more weight. I was up to about 230, then. That spring, I was moved to d-end by Coach Cooper and Coach Blake. Over the summer, I went home and gained more weight and got up to 249. I knew, if I was going to play defensive line in the SEC, I was going to have to put on some more weight. I came back up here and they saw me and wanted me to move to tight end. Last year, it was back and forth every other week. It was tight end, then, after the Oregon game, back to defensive end. Then, (tight end) Blake Pettit got hurt, so they moved me back to tight end. I was a tight end until Memphis, then I was moved back to defensive end and stayed there the rest of the season."

Now that it appears that you are settled at defensive end, what are your thoughts about playing it?
"I like the position. I just haven't played the position that long and I'm still learning it. I love playing defense and think I have a defensive mentality. But, if it came down to having to move again, I wouldn't be opposed to it. I just want to play."

How the coaches talked to you about what weight they want you to get up to?
"No one has really said anything about it. I think 260 is a good playing weight as long as I can keep my speed. I would just like to put on more muscle because it's never bad to add muscle."

You mentioned adding more muscle. New strength coach Jim Nowell has brought in his strength program, which is a program that emphasizes building your complete body strength.
"It's not so much about lifts that everybody does. Lifts like the bench, squats and curls. It is more things like power cleans and hamstrings, which are both explosive. We didn't usually do much with those last year."

If I remember correctly, pulled hamstrings were a common problem with the team the past few years. Has Coach Nowell said anything about the new exercises possibly cutting that type injury down a little bit?
"He hasn't really said but common sense tells you that it should. I can tell the difference in mine already."

Have you seen real results in your strength since doing his system for several months?
"Oh, definitely. My lower body has gotten a lot stronger. My technique is a lot better. In the past, I would put a lot of weight on the bar but not have good technique. Now, I have good technique and lift good weight. Coach Nowell said we aren't a powerlifting team, so it doesn't matter what the weight is, it's just the fact that you are getting stronger. If you are lifting weights correctly, you are going to get stronger."

Has your new strength carried over to the field of play as far as going against the offensive linemen?
"Back when I was smaller, if I didn't do perfect technique, I was going to get pushed back pretty good. Now, with my upper body getting a lot stronger, I can get off blocks a lot easier and create separation, which is very important."

What has your new position coach said that he likes about you?
"He thinks I am a hard worker, which is something that I pride myself on. But everything I do, I think I need to improve on, especially since I am new to the position."

What is your opinion of Coach Croom?
"I like Coach Croom a lot. It seemed like he came in and put his stamp on the program and is doing things his way, which I respect and like a lot. There is a lot of discipline and he has a hands on approach. He is involved in everything."

Based on what you have seen, he is serious about what he wants you guys to do.
"At the beginning everybody thought he was joking, so the detention list was pretty long. Now that everybody knows he is serious, the list only has 1, 2 or 3 people on it a week. It started out with about 15 people on it. In the past, we could get away with some of the stuff that he won't allow. I'm not saying we were undisciplined on the field, but, off the field, we didn't have much discipline. But now, everything you do affects this football team, so he is going to make sure everything is right."

Have you ever dealt with his kind of discipline even when you were in high school?
"No, nothing like this. He doesn't let anything slide."

Have you been on the detention list?
"I haven't been yet."

What happens to those that get on it?
"You do 300 yard shuttles, which is 25 yards back and forth. I think the minimum you can do is 3. Some people have to do 3, some 6. It varies, depending on how many classes you missed or you are late for a meeting. One is pretty tough and you have to make it in a certain time."

Are players feeling better about themselves due to all the things that are going on within the program?
"Coach Croom is very big on team unity. If you aren't cheering everybody on, he is going to say something about it. Because of that, I think everybody is coming together more as a team. That is what it feels like to me."


Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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