Bulls embracing newest 'Coach O'
For all the crunches and cardio work, all the max-outs and military presses, the most excruciating part of Irele Oderinde's sessions may be the drill not included in his normal curriculum.
If you're late to one of Coach O's workouts, the whole team hits the field for up-downs -- dozens of them.
"It's a reminder," USF's new strength and conditioning coach said. "As men, we all need to do right. As young adults they need to do right. It's kind of one of those things where it was instilled in me with my mother; when I didn't do right she gave me a reminder."
By all accounts, the tough love has been embraced. It's the pronunciation the Bulls still are struggling to master.
Raised by a single mom but Nigerian on his dad's side, Irele Vinegar Oderinde says his first name (EAR-lay) means "peace" and his last (oh-DARE-in-day) means "ruling house." Vinegar? It's his mom's maiden name.
"He brings energy; he's a great guy," Bulls senior WR Andre Davis said. "He's definitely like another dad, another coach."
A former fleet, undersized (245 pounds) nose guard at Western Kentucky, Oderinde arrived earlier this summer from West Virginia, where he served as the Mountaineer football team's strength and conditioning coordinator. His predecessor at USF, Hans Straub, resigned in mid-May, three days after issuing a disparaging tweet about former Bulls DE Aaron Lynch.
Less than a month later, Coach O -- not to be mistaken with new men's hoops coach Orlando 'Coach O' Antigua -- was brought on board.
“My relationship with Irele goes back a long way," said Bulls coach (and fellow WKU alumnus) Willie Taggart, a Hilltoppers assistant during Oderinde's playing career. "He is terrific at what he does and has had the opportunity to be part of many outstanding programs and gain a wide range of knowledge in his field.”
A member of WKU's 2002 Division I-AA national title team, Oderinde harbored aspirations of being a college position coach, but found few openings upon graduating in '03. The Hilltoppers, however, did have a graduate-assistant vacancy in their weightroom, and Oderinde had been a two-time state powerlifting champ at Scott County High in Georgetown, Ky.
"So I got in the weightroom and after a week I was like, 'This is it. This is what I want to do,'" said Oderinde, married with no kids. "And ever since, I've fallen in love with it. I don't go to work; every day is a great day and fun day."
His GA gig was followed by stops at Notre Dame, South Carolina, West Virginia and one other stint at WKU. His objective: To craft workouts for each kid in an effort to make them a better player. If they happen to become powerlifters in the process, that's gravy.
Sometimes, the gravy oozes. On Wednesday, Oderinde spotted for DT Todd Chandler when the fifth-year senior squatted 700 pounds.
"He's just a very good guy," Davis said. "He's a guy that, you can get in there with him and...he just brings it all out of you. He makes you want to grind for him and for the team."
His long-term impact remains to be determined. The Bulls made tangible strides under Straub, with the average weight of their five starting offensive linemen rising from 297 to 310 pounds over the winter. In his two months on the job, Oderinde says the team's overall work ethic has been stellar. If the Bulls can maintain a high level of hunger, strength will come, he indicated.
"This is not a knock on anybody that was here before, but we needed to get stronger," Oderinde said.
"Strength-wise, we're not at the top, but we're not at the bottom now either. We have a chance to be okay for sure, especially (considering) where we started from. We could be okay, especially with guys wanting to get better, and that's the main thing. I've been to places where they didn't
really want to work, and here it's been contagious."