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Ben Habern Q&A
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OU's stout center talks about football and much more
As a rule, offensive line personnel play in the murky shadows of the trenches, where they spend most of their time toiling away so the rest of the offense can make big plays and create headlines. Thatís the way itís always been and probably always will be.
And the truth is, Ben Habern is fine with that fact of life, his life ó the life of an overworked and underappreciated center.
The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Texas native doesnít crave the spotlight or long for all-star status. He plays the game for the fun of it, if you can truly describe butting heads and swapping sweat with a rabid 300-pound noseguard or defensive tackle fun.
Itís that sort of selfless attitude that has helped make Habern a quiet success at Oklahoma. Heís tough ó having suffered and recovered from two major injuries ó and determined and one of the smartest players on the field at any position. Thatís why coach Bob Stoops and his staff are extremely confident putting the ball in Habernís capable hands for every single offensive snap OU takes.
Sooner Spectator caught up with Habern this summer and talked to him about a variety of topics, including his job with the Sooners and much more.
Sooner Spectator: Are the offseason and summer workouts the most difficult time for players?
Ben Habern: Summertime is definitely the hardest, basically because this is the last prep we are going to get before the season starts. As a team and as individual players, we realize this is where we have to put in our hardest work, this is where we need to get in the best shape and prepare the hardest. Thatís when we are probably pushed the hardest, and it can be a grind, but itís such an important time as we prepare for a 13- or 14-game season.
SS: Do Coach (Jerry) Schmidtís summer workouts live up to their legendary reputation?
Habern: (Laughing) Oh yeah, no doubt. You definitely have to be both mentally and physically tough to get through one of his workouts. People probably hear a lot of different things about Coach Schmidt and how hard he works us, and Iím sure there are different opinions and different ideas out there about strength training and speed training. But you canít argue with success. Coach Schmidt pushes us hard and pushes us to another level, and when you see us playing in the third and fourth quarters, we are going to be the best-conditioned team because of the way we have prepared. As difficult as those workouts are, we appreciate what he does for us because we are always prepared. That also shows up later in the season when the wear and tear of playing a bunch of games starts to show. Other teams will be wearing down, but weíre still going strong.
SS: Whatís the main thing you work on about your game during this part of the year?
Habern: One thing that I feel like I can always get better at is my run-blocking ability. The biggest part of run-blocking is your entire core and your leg strength, and thatís one of my focuses during the summer. At my position, itís so important that I have my legs under me the whole season, which involves getting in the best condition I can be in and working to strengthen my core and base. The other thing is working on my explosiveness coming off the ball. All the power clings and the bungee cord drills we do in training really help with that aspect.
SS: You led the offensive line in number of snaps and knockdowns last season. Is that kind of durability and toughness something you take pride in?
Habern: Well, I donít want to come off as sounding arrogant but yes, I do take pride in those things. Itís cool to see myself get through over a thousand snaps in a season and have the most knockdowns. Of course, one of the reasons I had the most knockdowns is because I took the most plays. So thatís understandable. I was excited about the fact I played all those snaps and made it through all the games without any injuries. It goes back to the way I trained during that last offseason ó†all of that work I put in with my teammates helped get me through the grind of some of those games and a long season.
SS: Looking back at your first couple of seasons, you suffered significant ankle injuries that could have threatened your career. Are you back 100 percent from those setbacks?
Habern: Oh, no doubt. Iím back at 100 percent and Iím so thankful for Dr. (Brock) Schnebel and Dr. (Don) McGinnis for taking care of me with my surgery and getting me all healed up. Looking at all the rehab work I had to put in and all the time spent in the training room, I donít have any lingering effects. Iím completely healthy. Obviously, during the course of the season, you are going to have plenty of bumps and bruises, but thatís all to be expected. Again, the key for me is to make sure I go into the season in the best condition possible and as strong as possible.
SS: When you committed to OU coming out of Liberty Christian High School in Argyle, Texas, there were several other highly-touted Texas kids ó Stephen Good, Justin Johnson, J.B. Shugarts, Sam McGuffie, R.J. Washington ó who were also very interested in the Sooners. But out of that group, only you, Washington and Good are actually playing for OU. Do you find that strange, or is that just part of the process in college football these days?
Habern: Thatís just the way it works sometimes. Players commit to a program and maybe change their minds for whatever reason, and then some of the guys who do sign end up transferring. J.B. Shugarts went to Ohio State and McGuffie ended up going to Michigan and then later transferring to Rice. And Justin transferred from OU after a couple of seasons. Thereís nothing really strange about that, itís just what happens when guys are trying to figure out whatís best for them in the long run.
(Editor's Note: This is a portion of the Ben Habern interview that appears in the 2011 Football Preview Issue of Sooner Spectator. To read more or subscribe, call 1-877-841-8877).