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Kaleb Ramsey stretches into shape

August, 9, 2012
8/09/12
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This past offseason, Boston College defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey dedicated himself to getting into the best shape of his life.

He did this in some pretty unconventional ways.

First, he started seeing stretching specialist Bob Cooley as a way to become more flexible and avoid many of the injuries that have hurt him in the past. Ramsey missed nearly all of 2011 as he recovered from plantar fasciitis in his left foot, and was granted a waiver to be able to play this season. After seeing the results punter Gerald Levano got in his sessions with Cooley, Ramsey decided to join up with offensive tackle Emmett Cleary.

Kaleb Ramsey
AP Photo/Tomasso DeRosaIn an effort to avoid injuries, Kaleb Ramsey worked with a stretching specialist and a sensei in the offseason.
"I’ve seen the improvement in his body and how flexibile he is, so I figured I’d give it a try," Ramsey said. "It's my last year, so I’m going to go all out for my body to make sure I can have the best season."

Before you read on, erase any notion you have of stretching. We are not talking about raising your arms into the sky and breathing deep. Cooley puts Ramsey and Cleary through some intense 2 to 3 hour workouts, and when they are done, they are drenched in sweat.

Much of the stretching focus is on resistance. Ramsey explains.

"[Cooley] puts your body in all different types of positions because your muscles aren’t used to working a certain way," Ramsey said. "So when you are put in those positions, you're able to handle it. He puts your legs all the way back and you have to go against somebody else to try to keep your legs from going back. The stretching, it’s not like casual stretching. It’s a good workout."

Ramsey already has felt a difference, saying, "I feel like I’ve changed my body. I'm in the best shape I’ve ever been in. Being hurt last year taught me a lesson -- not to take anything for granted."

As for improving his technique, Ramsey said defensive line coach Jeff Comissiong brought in a sensei to work with every lineman on his hand work. It was not the first time Ramsey worked with a sensei -- he took karate two years ago -- but he did get a lot out of the drills.

"It’s definitely beneficial because you get used to using your hands, which on the D-line that’s all you do -- it’s a hand battle with the offensive lineman in front of you," Ramsey said. "[The sensei] teaches us to use offensive linemen against them for leverage, where he’s most vulnerable, where to strike to make sure it inflicts the most pain, so he’s a little bit weary of putting your hands on you again. It helps you be more precise with where you put your hands."

Ramsey said the defensive linemen practiced their new skills against the Boston College offensive linemen all summer, and noticed an improvement. Boston College has put a huge emphasis on playing better up front, particularly on pass rush. The Eagles only had 11 total sacks last year.

Having Ramsey back helps. He also is expected to provide leadership, after being selected one of the four team captains for this season by his teammates, who clearly have seen how hard he has worked after sitting out last year.

"It wasn’t easy seeing my team out there every weekend, knowing I should be out there to help them win," Ramsey said. "But it definitely humbled me, made me more appreciative of the game because I realized any second the game can be taken away. It made me more hungry for this season coming up. I’m ready to go."
Ranking offensive linemen is not easy. But hey, either is being an offensive lineman. Here are your best "big uglies."

1. North Carolina: Three starters and one part-time starter return from last year’s team, and this line could be the biggest and best since Butch Davis was hired. Guard Jonathan Cooper (22 starts), center Cam Holland (20) and tackle James Hurst (12) have combined for 54 career starts. Travis Bond has four starts and is the leading candidate to take over at the other guard position.

2. Miami: The Canes return nine of their top 10 offensive linemen including four starters from last year, and Joel Figueroa was granted a sixth season of eligibility. Even with the coaching change, the Canes should be strong up front. Center Tyler Horn is a veteran, Brandon Washington is a difference-maker, and there’s enough competition that Seantrel Henderson spent most of the spring as a backup.

3. Clemson: First-year offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has four returning starters to work with in Landon Walker, Antoine McClain, Dalton Freeman and David Smith. They also have top reserve Mason Cloy, who has 19 career starts and has played in 38 games. There is plenty of depth for a dependable rotation.

4. Virginia Tech: All four returnees started every game last year, and there is enough depth that the Hokies should be able to rotate the most players up front they ever have. It’s a veteran group led by Blake DeChristopher, Andrew Lanier, Jaymes Brooks and Greg Nosal.

5. Florida State: Despite the losses of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon, there’s experience up front. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of tackle Andrew Datko, left guard Bryan Stork or David Spurlock, center Jacob Fahrenkrug, right guard Spurlock or Stork, right tackle Zebrie Sanders. Just how good they’ll be remains to be seen as the majority of them were out with injuries this past spring.

6. NC State: The Pack lost Jake Vermiglio and will be without injured left guard Andrew Wallace for about half of the season, but Zach Allen, Camden Wentz and R.J. Mattes are returning starters. There’s also a lot of talent waiting to emerge with young players like Duran Christophe, Rob Crisp, Tyson Chandler, Torian Box and Andy Jomantas.

7. Virginia: Four players return with a combined 64 career starts in Anthony Mihota, Austin Pasztor, Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses, who started the final seven games of the season as a true freshman. Pasztor is in his fourth season as a starter and has 32 career starts.

8. Boston College: Despite the losses of Anthony Castonzo, Thomas Claiborne and Rich Lapham, the Eagles are almost settled up front, it’s the experience behind the starters that’s reason for concern. The No. 2 offensive line is comprised entirely of redshirt freshmen. Mark Spinney returns at center, the projected starting guards are Nathan Richman and Ian White, who started three games as a freshman, and the tackles are Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel.

9. Maryland: It’s been an injury-prone group the past two seasons and that didn’t change this past spring. Left tackle Justin Gilbert, one of the top linemen on the team, reinjured the same knee he had ACL surgery on and will be out until October. R.J. Dill was also injured this spring, though he played in the spring game, and Justin Lewis was rehabbing from offseason surgery. Pete White also missed practices, so the group needs to solidify the two-deep roster.

10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return three starters in guard Omoregie Uzzi, guard Will Jackson and tackle Phil Smith. Sophomore Jay Finch played extensively last season and Ray Beno and Nick McRae were key reserves. Redshirt freshmen Catlin Alford and Morgan Bailey could also work their way into the rotation. Uzzi will be the leader of the line, but they were outplayed by the defense this spring.

11. Wake Forest: Four starters are back, but the Deacs will sorely miss the experience and leadership of former center Russell Nenon. Garrick Williams started the final three games of 2010 -- two at guard and one at center, but he struggled with the snaps towards the end of spring and isn’t where the staff needs him to be yet.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils should take another step forward this season under offensive line coach Matt Luke, and they need to -- Duke’s running game was last in the ACC last year and 104th in the country. Brian Moore replaces a three-year starter at center, but given his experience at right guard the past two seasons, it should be a smooth transition. That will leave a hole, though, at the right guard position, where Laken Tomlinson and John Coleman are the top candidates.

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