Slimmer Bjoern Werner aims for big season

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
11:03
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It had been months since Bjoern Werner had been at full strength, after shoulder surgery robbed him of spring practice and curbed his workout routine.

Bjoern Werner
Phil Sears/US PresswireDefensive end Bjoern Werner changed his diet in order to lose body fat over the summer.
In the interim, Florida State's conditioning coaches had ardently preached about the importance of diet, proper nutrition, fueling a player's body with more than junk food and Muscle Milk. Werner thought little of it. He was simply excited to get back into seven-on-seven drills, to test out the shoulder and dish out a few hits.

He weighed in at the start of summer, and the numbers weren't surprising. He'd always been heavier. This is where his power came from, he assumed. Then came a body fat analysis, and Werner was shocked.

"I can't tell you what it was," Werner said. "But it was bad."

Werner was a lineman, and he was used to being big. He's always worked hard, and his diet had never held him back.

But this was an eye-opener.

The idea wormed its way into Werner's mind, not exactly an obsession, but a definite goal. And Werner isn't the type to fall short of a goal.

Over the summer, his approach to eating changed dramatically. He wouldn't call it a diet. It was a matter of changing habits, going from low-octane fuel to the good stuff.

"It was nine weeks of just eating right," Werner said. "I wasn't trying to diet, I wasn't trying to lose weight, I was trying to lose body fat."

There weren't wholesale changes. Werner still had his favorite foods, and he still ate a lot of it.

But junk food had to go -- no candy, no high-fat foods, no sugar.

"I'm a big candy guy," Werner said. "I cut that out."

Werner's biggest meals came earlier in the day, when he knew he'd work off the excess calories on the practice field. At night, he swore off carbohydrates.

"It's small things, and they work," Werner said. "You always hear it, but you don't do it. I just did it, and it worked."

In fact, it may have worked a bit too well.

Werner dropped 10 pounds by the start of fall camp, and then another five during the first week of workouts. At 6-foot-4, the once imposing presence appeared -- well, slim.

For Werner, the difference was noticeable not in terms of appearance, but in how he felt. He was quicker, leaner, more agile. He felt like a new man.

For Florida State's coaches, who had seen him rack up seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss a year ago, there was concern.

"I joke with him all the time that I liked you bigger," defensive coordinator Mark Stoops said. "You played pretty good at the size you were at before."

The irony, as Werner sees it, is that it was those same coaches who pushed for players to adjust their eating habits all along. At last, he'd relented, forced to admit they were right, and now the coaches weren't so sure.

"I ate the way they told me to," Werner joked. "Then I lost all that weight and they're mad at me for doing the right things they told me to do."

It's hard to blame coaches for being a bit nervous, though. Werner was a weapon, but he'd managed to change his design. Now no one was quite sure how he would react -- except Werner, of course.

Throughout fall camp, he insisted the slim-and-trim version was sleeker and more dangerous than before, and in Week 1 against Murray State, Werner proved it.

In just a little more than a half, Werner racked up four sacks, five tackles for loss, one pass breakup and forced a fumble against an utterly overmatched Murray State offensive line.

For all the big plays Werner made Saturday, the one he was most pleased with wasn't a sack.

Murray State quarterback Casey Brockman tossed a quick bubble screen to the running back on the outside, and Werner sniffed it out immediately. He raced from his position to secure the running back, wrap him up and bring him down in the backfield. He looked more like a cornerback than a defensive end.

"The running back made a cut, and I got him [Saturday], but last year, he might have kept me off or I would have slipped," Werner said. "I feel good."

Werner's big day came with a black cloud, however. His partner on the defensive line, Brandon Jenkins, went down with a foot injury that the team announced Monday would cost the senior defensive end the entirety of the 2012 season.

Jenkins' loss puts Werner squarely in the spotlight, no longer the second-best pass rusher on the nation's best defensive line.

Werner said he's not particularly interested in any of that, though. He knows he's nominated for postseason awards and he's aware he'll get some hype this year. That doesn't matter much.

Werner is concerned with production -- and with turning that production into wins. It's the same reason he lost the weight.

Werner saw the numbers on a scale and the results of a body-fat test, and he was unhappy. What motivated him, however, wasn't the numbers, but the knowledge that he could be better, and that's made it easy to explain to his coaches why that extra 15 pounds was only weighing him down.

"Whatever [Werner] believes is the fastest, best playing weight," Stoops said, "that's what he'll play at."

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