Often this fall, Chris Daniels can be spotted working out separately from his teammates at MU football practices, engaging in some sort of conditioning or cardio exercise.
Barry Odom quipped last Thursday that Daniels is on the same program as the Missouri head coach: “That’s weight loss.” It’s a routine, strenuous challenge for linemen — maintaining or losing weight — but Missouri defensive linemen have been especially successful at it this offseason.
Defensive tackle Jordan Elliott noticeably lost 30 pounds after the end of the 2018 season. Junior Kobie Whiteside, who will occupy the other side of the line’s interior, has accomplished a similar feat.
“Last season I got up to 320, 330 (pounds),” Whiteside said. “Beginning of spring, I looked at my weight, I said, ‘Alright, my goal is to get to 305.’ Got to 305, then my goal was to get to 290. I’ve got my goal reached.”
Even in a Southeastern Conference notorious for humongous linemen and borderline-violent pass protection, the Tigers are prioritizing better health, skill and agility in their pass rush. The defensive tackles are typically larger than the end rushers, but Whiteside said the coaching staff stressed the importance of weight loss anyway for him and Elliott.
It’s an initiative that’s increasing camaraderie among the linemen after the position group lost Terry Beckner Jr., Walter Palmore and Nate Anderson at the end of the 2018 season.
“We just try to push each other,” junior defensive end Chris Turner said. “Even the D-tackles, we’ve got a couple who are sometimes coming out to D-end. We’re a unit.”
Elliott has generally led the way on the dietary side of things, with a plan that Whiteside called “insane.” But it inspired Whiteside’s own similar approach, cutting pork and most red meats in exchange for more turkey, chicken and fish. After committing to the diet, it turned out to be actually not so insane.
The other half of a football giant’s weight loss regimen remains important, though: Running.
“Coach cuts you,” Whiteside said. “Coach cuts you. That summer training is no joke man, I’m not going to lie to you.”
The linemen decided to call the main series of cardio activities a “Thor’s Hammer.”
It starts with “85s,” an 85-yard drill that combines a down-and-back shuttle run of 30 yards followed by a 55-yard straight shot. Finish that, then move to the adjacent space for the next task: a 60-yard shuttle run, which is another 15 yards down and back four times.
Then Part 3 to round it off is a newer addition, “20-20s,” which requires that the linemen finish with 20 yards down and back at a full sprint.
So, why exactly is it called a Thor’s Hammer? Not too sure.
“Because when you see us run, and when you do it,” Whiteside said, “you’re like, ‘Oof, there he goes, that’s a Thor’s Hammer.’”
Daniels, another defensive tackle, is now taking part in his own series of weight loss exercises that have included running up the bleacher stairs at Faurot Field with a weighted backpack. Daniels is also on an accompanying diet, and he asked his teammates to help hold him to it. A joking sing-songy warning of “Don’t eat that snack” is commonplace in the MU Athletics cafeteria.
Versatility — in this case, having the body type to play both the tackle and end positions — is an end goal among many of the linemen. Junior Akial Byers has shown he’s capable of doing both, converting from tackle to end this spring.
“He’s like a more athletic, slimmer D-tackle,” Turner said. “He makes it look easy. You put him on that (offensive) tackle , he’s going to be too strong for that tackle. You put him inside, he’s going to be too quick for a guard.”
Turner and others prides the defensive line this year on its depth. — that is, as long as everyone can last through Thor’s Hammer.