Weight is on for Gopher linemen

Updated: August 25, 2003, 8:43 PM ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- The master plan to pack the pounds onto the University of Minnesota defensive line during the offseason started with a list and directions to the nearest Rainbow Foods.

Or so it went for Darrell Reid, anyway. At 255 pounds, he was an undersized defensive tackle in 2002. But instead of a steady diet of protein shakes or eggs crushed in a glass, the strategy for beefing up was simple. Strength and conditioning coach Dwayne Chandler gave Reid a grocery list for things such as meat, bread and vegetables, pointed him to the nearest store and made sure Reid brought him the receipts afterward.

"As a college student you don't think about getting things like that for yourself," Reid said. "You go to the grocery store, you get frozen pizza and chips. So he just gave me a basic list. After that, I knew what I needed and I knew what I liked. So I just went from there."

He went directly up, actually, to the Big Ten Conference-friendly weight of 270 pounds. And he's not the only one. After getting trampled by big offensive lines late in 2002, the Gophers have improved en masse -- or is it on mass? -- for 2003.

The top six defensive linemen last season averaged 252 pounds a man -- not counting 315-pound freshman Anthony Montgomery, who didn't catch on until late in the season. This year, the top seven linemen average 273 pounds.

"Last year we were getting pushed around a little bit, and this year, we've got that mass behind us," Stephenson said. "I'm not saying we're a brick wall, but it's a little harder to push something heavier than something lighter."

Gophers coach Glen Mason called the added weight an offseason objective, turning a relatively Lilliputian group of defensive linemen into something more resembling a Big Ten front.

"Last year, we were an undersized defense," Mason said. "We used to look small because we were small. We don't look gigantic, but I don't hear anyone saying we're small now."

From their playing weights listed in the 2002 media guide, Stephenson and defensive end Paul Nixon each have added 20 pounds. Reid added about 15. Defensive end Mark Losli added 10. And nose tackle Montgomery now has the 315 pounds better distributed.

"His body type has really changed in a year," Mason said of Montgomery. "He hasn't gotten any bigger, but he looks better."

In the last four regular-season games of 2002, the competition steamrolled the Gophers for a whopping 404 yards rushing per game. Massive offensive lines at Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin especially had their way with Minnesota's defensive front.

The size of opponents' offensive lines wasn't going to change. So the size of Minnesota's front across the line of scrimmage had to.

"They're not small lines -- they're big lines, 315-plus all the way across," Reid said of the opposing offenses. "Playing that as a 255-pound defensive tackle, you can't get it done. You can't play up to your capabilities against big lines like that."

Now, after an offseason of eating and bulking up, the change has occurred. And the Gophers, matched up against a pretty solid offensive line of their own during two-a-day workouts, could tell the difference.

"You could basically see how the defensive line is real dominant up front compared to last year, just by what we've done in the offseason," Stephenson said.

"All of us took our bumps and bruises," Reid said, "and got that out of the way last year."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index