- Dan Graziano, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's tough to imagine having to tell an NFL offensive lineman how to eat. New York Giants left guard Geoff Schwartz, for example, is 6-foot-6, 340 pounds. Guys like that don't strike you as the sort who have to be selective at the buffet line.
But to hear Schwartz tell it, until he hooked up with former NFL offensive lineman LeCharles Bentley at Bentley's offensive line academy in Arizona a couple of years ago, he was doing it all wrong.
"It's just a whole lifestyle change, but the diet especially," Schwartz said Tuesday during a break from the Giants' offseason workouts. "[Bentley] really is big on that. Because if you're lifting and you're not eating right, you're just not getting the most out of it. And it affects everything you do, really."
Bentley, who played for the New Orleans Saints from 2002 to 2005 and sustained a career-ending knee injury in 2006, runs a year-round program called "LB O-line Performance." He recruits a handful of candidates each year from the college and professional ranks and brings them out to Arizona for training specific to the needs of their size and their position. Then he stays in touch throughout the year, checking in weekly or more often with nutrition advice, changes in workout routines, film reviews, etc.
"That's what makes him so special," said center Weston Richburg, the Giants' second-round pick in this year's draft and another Bentley protégé. "He's made it specific for each different person, and you can call on him at any time for anything you need."
Schwartz said his nutrition program is different than Richburg's, since Richburg is about 40 pounds lighter and has different needs. The rookie might need to add weight during the season, whereas Schwartz wants to take some off or maintain. Schwartz said he no longer eats carbs in the offseason, which has been driving him crazy during his wife's pregnancy but has helped to change him as a player. Schwartz signed a four-year, $16.8 million contract with the Giants in March after emerging as a star at guard with the Chiefs last year. He doesn't think it's any coincidence that 2013 was his first year in Bentley's program, and neither does Bentley.
"The idea is to be able to put yourself in a situation where you're in top shape year-round," Bentley said in a phone interview Monday. "I always equate it to a bank account. Most big athletes take so much out, and bigger withdrawals every time with the effort they put in athletically. And when you compound it with poor choices in terms of quality of life, then you're not putting anything back in. Or what you put in isn't big enough to make up for those withdrawals. Little guys, leaner guys like wide receivers have a bit more of a head start. They can eat those candy bars and get away with it."
Schwartz and Richburg, who could form two-fifths of the Giants' starting offensive line in 2014, are converts. And Bentley believes the Giants, whose offensive line issues were thoroughly devastating in 2013, will look a lot different because of them.
"Now you're able to open up your playbook as an offensive coordinator," Bentley said. "Chris Snee was like that for the Giants for so long, and with guys like this they're getting back to that -- versatile guys who can play tough and strong and quick and athletic and anything you need. With these guys, you're not limited in terms of your ability to be creative as an offensive coordinator. I know for sure they have two guys who can address every need in terms of offensive line play. As a matter of fact, these two guys expand what you're able to do."
Bentley is a fan of Justin Pugh, the 2013 first-round pick who started all 16 games at right tackle for the Giants as a rookie. And Snee is still on the team and hoping to hold up for a season at right guard. If Richburg can beat out J.D. Walton for the starting center job, his responsibilities in new coordinator Ben McAdoo's offense will be extensive, before the snap as well as after it.
"I felt Weston was the most pro-ready center in this year's draft class, and I still stand firmly on that," Bentley said. "He can do exactly what Ben wants him to do. In terms of his mental decorum, he's built for this. He's designed to take on a lead role. And he's not, for lack of a better term, some nerd who's only out there because he can make the calls. He's a bona fide football player."
Richburg and Schwartz both believe they're better football players for having hooked up with Bentley. The Giants, who needed all kinds of help on the offensive line, stand to benefit a great deal from that in 2014 and beyond.