Strength and conditioning coach Yancy McKnight watched on as the defensive line dominated the offensive line for several reps during blocking drills at practice on Tuesday.
Recently hired offensive line coach Herb Hand was visibly frustrated, while senior defensive end Charles Omenihu started chirping at the offensive line.
“We need some assholes out here,” McKnight said laughingly, as both sides of the ball lined back up for another rep.
McKnight arrived as a part of head coach Tom Herman’s staff from the University of Houston two years ago. Since then, Herman praises him for his contributions in the weight room any chance he gets.
After just one offseason of McKnight’s workouts, the team lost 525 pounds of body fat and added 385 pounds of muscle mass, according to Texas Sports.
“I definitely felt his presence immediately,” senior defensive back PJ Locke III said. “ … In the first year we saw substantial gains. It was crazy. Then again this year we just did a couple of max outs right after a full conditioning workout and had guys’ maxes jump up 100 pounds. It just shows you coach McKnight knows he’s doing.”
During Big 12 Media Days, Herman dedicated a portion of his opening statement just to McKnight and his team’s accomplishments in the weight room. He reported 42 players who can power clean 300 pounds, 34 players who can squat over 500 pounds and three who can squat over 600.
At the moment, these just seemed like meaningless numbers. Then Texas football released a video of a moment in the weight room. Every player on the roster crowded around sophomore Marqez Bimage who successfully squatted 700 pounds.
“People are just so happy to see our teammates get personal records or squat that much weight,” junior wide receiver Collin Johnson said. “That’s unreal. That’s unheard of. When he does it, I feel like I do it too. That’s the whole team atmosphere. When he got under that bar with 700 pounds on it, we were all ready to see him do it.”
What the team’s celebration said about the culture McKnight and the Longhorn coaching staff has instilled is nearly as impressive as Bimage’s 700-pound squat. Herman confidently said McKnight is “as good as there is in the country,” and was adamant that this was stated without hyperbole.
“He’s as good as I’ve been around at blending toughness with relatability,” Herman said in a news conference on Thursday. “ … He’s a guy that can be so hard on our players but they also know that the reason he is, is because he loves them and he has their best interest in mind.”
McKnight was later asked about what the secret was to unlocking the perfect combination of toughness and relatability that Herman attributed him with. He spent a decent chunk of time answering the question but returned to three words: consistency, discipline and time.
“Some of these guys come from different backgrounds,” McKnight said. “So when you can offer that and then they know you care about them — they’ve got to filter through that sometimes, you’ve got to explain some things to them, especially the young guys. That’s the blend of being tough and firm and not going over the line per se.”
The Longhorns have completed their second offseason under McKnight, and while his job is never over, it’s fair to say he’s been successful at Texas thus far. And not just because of the numbers posted in the weight room.
“They’ve just got to know you’ve got their back. That requires long hours, that requires early mornings and spending extra time with them,” McKnight said. “That’s the stuff you’ve got to do as a coach — strength coach or football coach it doesn’t matter, but the good ones, that’s what they do.”