The OSU offensive line was battered by injuries last season. Yoga sessions gaining popularity among OSU players are helping to combat that problem.
On Tuesdays at 4 in the afternoon, teammates large and small file into Oklahoma State’s football facility for yoga sessions.
Cole Birmingham, OSU’s 6-foot-5, 325-pound left tackle, might pull up a mat next to Brennan Presley, a 5-foot-8, 175-pound receiver. Regardless of size, the exercises are the same. A yoga instructor helps players build strength, balance and flexibility. Sometimes players work with tennis balls and foam rollers, and sometimes body weight is all that is required.
“It’s not necessarily the most fun thing, but once you can find things that better your craft that not everybody is going to want to do, it’s how you separate yourself,” senior right guard Preston Wilson said.
The sessions are making a difference; helping players feel stronger and more limber. That is especially important for players on the OSU offensive line that injuries brutalized in 2022.
Birmingham tore his right ACL the last week of spring practice in 2022 and did not play last season. He’s found yoga sessions helpful enough to become a regular attendee.
“I try to get the whole (offensive line) to go,” Birmingham said. “More than a couple attend. It really helps with power. It’s getting into position on blocks. It’s a lot easier in that you’re more flexible and can move around.”
The Cowboys were 97th in the nation in rushing yards (125.6 per game) and 109th in yards per carry (3.4). Coach Mike Gundy was quick to point out that, oftentimes, his running backs simply did not have a hole, and that was a byproduct of having to shuffle linemen
“We’re better now because we’re healthy,” Gundy said. “Up to this point, we’ve stayed healthy at the offensive line for 15 practices in the spring and then however many practices we’ve had now — 18 or 19, whatever it’s been. That plays a big role in it. We’ll be a better run-blocking team, and we’ll be better overall on the offensive line when we play next week.”
Wilson said Rob Glass, OSU’s strength coach, initially suggested yoga in the offseason. After missing three conference games last season, Wilson was in. After attending sessions regularly, Wilson has experienced tangible benefits. He is much more flexible and his ankle is back pre-injury form.
Combined with an offseason operation to inject stem cells “wherever it hurt,” Wilson is in position to help anchor a unit crucial to OSU’s success.
“It’s the most pain free my body has ever been in my life which is crazy being a college football player,” Wilson said.