In Linemen Win Games, Jon Osterhout has built a program that’s launched many to the next level
By TREVOR HORN | Contributor
Whether he knew it or not, Jon Osterhout was sitting on a gold mine.
Three years ago, the former Sacramento State All-American offensive linemen knew there was an untapped number of talented linemen on both sides of the ball in the Sacramento area that were not getting the proper training in the offseason.
With a multitude of training facilities honed in on skill positions like quarterbacks, receivers, linebackers and defensive backs – Osterhout knew that linemen, the backbone of a successful program, were not given the same chance to practice and improve.
So in April of 2011, Osterhout created Linemen Win Games.
With his 10-plus years as an offensive and defensive line coach at Sacramento State, Nebraska and now American River College, Osterhout enlisted a few of his local coaching comrades, pulled together a few local linemen and started something special.
Osterhout runs the camp on Saturdays and Sundays from February through the end of July at the practice field of American River, where he is the offensive coordinator for one of the top junior college programs in California.
“My purpose in building Linemen Win Games was to advance and maximize the potential growth of the student-athlete,” Osterhout said. “I wanted to instill and empower the linemen with the core fundamentals and advanced skill set to guide them to excellence on and off the football field.”
In the three years since LWG first started, linemen from Pop Warner to the NFL have spent time training with the program.
Currently eight offensive linemen in the Pac-12 Conference have ties to LWG, including Eddie Vanderdoes (Placer) and Nate Iese (Sheldon) at UCLA, Oregon State starting right tackle Gavin Andrews (Granite Bay), and Aaron and Matt Cochran (Buhach Colony) and Steven Moore (Elk Grove) at Cal.
Zach Nash, a linebacker with the Arizona Cardinals, also trains with LWG. Osterhout coached Nash at Sacramento State and the two have remained close.
And all of them credit the fundamentals they learned from LWG as a big factor in their development.
“(Osterhout’s) the best at what he does,” Nash said. “He’s the best. He is a coach through and through.”
Iese was a one of the first players to begin training at LWG. As a raw talent with loads of potential, it seemed a perfect fit. Iese said Osterhout “felt I had a lot of potential. It benefited me a lot.”
“(Osterhout) helped me a lot,” Iese said. “When I first started there, there wasn’t a lot of players.”
Andrews is a sophomore at Oregon State and has been listed as the starting right tackle since spring ball. The Granite Bay product credits LWG as a launching pad from high school to college that has helped his maturation process on the field.
“I definitely look at Coach O as the next step between high school and college,” Andrews said. “I feel like I had an advantage (heading to OSU). It’s great to have the knowledge. He teaches universal techniques so you understand. But he doesn’t interfere with what your coaches will teach you.”
During the two-hour training sessions, Osterhout, with his tall and stout former linemen physique and deep baritone voice will occasionally remind players what to expect from different coaches they may have or in the schemes they will run in college.
“I felt like I knew things (other incoming freshmen) didn’t know and I was ahead of the game,” Moore said about the knowledge he has gained at LWG before arriving at Cal last summer.
LWG works offensive linemen in a timely fashion between drills with running drills early in the session followed by pass protection.
“In the offensive line portion of LWG on Saturday practices, we spend the first half on run emphasis and the back end on pass protection,” Osterhout said. “The reasoning behind structuring practice that way, is to get the offensive linemen accustomed to work their pass fundamentals when tired.”
Osterhout has also taken knowledge of other sports into consideration.
“I use the analogy of golf with the players all the time in regards to muscle memory,” Osterhout said. “It is no different in football. In golf, if you want to be great you have to stay steady at the practice fields. You have to hit your woods, irons, wedges, and get around the green and chip and putt. Each of those has a specific skill set and body structure that changes for you to be successful. This takes discipline and a willingness to take what you learn and apply it at home on your own during the week. “
Despite having a large number of LWG clients now playing at four-year universities, players from Pee Wee levels to junior high and high school train right alongside the big boys on a weekly basis.
Tyrus Barnett started working out at LWG as a seventh grader and now is slated to start this fall as a sophomore at Antelope High.
“It is very gratifying and I feel fortunate to be a small part of helping them maximize their potential as a student-athlete,” Osterhout said. “There is no better feeling than seeing the light bulb go on after weeks/months of trying to master a specific skill set.”
That mindset has rubbed off on the players that have come through the program.
“Coach O is really committed and is in it for the kids,” Iese said. “I love doing it. (The younger players) look up to us. It’s really nice to know they like us helping them and we are giving back.”
One of the current high school clients at LWG might be the most highly recruited player in the region.
Roseville senior offensive tackle Kolton Miller gives very high praises for LWG and Osterhout.
Miller, a mammoth of a human being at 6-foot-8 and 290 pounds, said he credits Osterhout with “really like 95 to 99 percent” of the reason why he has been offered by Arizona State, Arizona and Texas Tech among the near dozen schools seeking his services.
“All of the technique I learn here, it helps,” Miller said. “I have the height, but without this, I wouldn’t have my 11 offers right now.”
Osterhout takes great pride in helping mold players like Miller and Eddie Vanderdoes, Iese, Moore and Andrews before him.
With the praise that Miller gave to the coach, it was reciprocated right back on the Roseville senior.
“Kolton has a tremendous upside,” Osterhout said. “He has several things that you just can’t coach. Additionally, he is a very good athlete and most importantly has a high football IQ with a burning desire to improve every time he steps foot on the lot.”
Osterhout also runs Winning Up Front, a three-day, full contact camp at Sheldon High that incorporates everything the players learn in shorts and t-shirts to pads.
“We go out here, we’re sharpening up the knife,” Miller said of LWG. “But when we go to the camp, it raises your skill level so much higher. The camp is really the boost to put it all together with the pads.”
Thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the lives of so many young men, Osterhout is ready to tackle the next opportunity to mold another lineman.
“LWG has given me the ability to work with all walks of life and help make an impact on a larger audience of young men as they prepare for their upcoming season,” he said. “Additionally, not only are we giving them skill sets in the sport of football, but we are working to improve their practice habits, character development, and football IQ. J
Reach Trevor Horn at email@example.com and follow on Twitter @trevhorn
LWG HALL OF FAME (so far)
Following are the top 10 perfomers to go through LWG since it began in 2011, with thoughts by Coach Osterhout
1. Zack Nash, DL, Vacaville/Sacramento State/Arizona Cardinals — Hands down, the best player I have ever coached. Has all the redeeming qualities of a consummate professional.
2. Nate Iese, DE, Sheldon HS/UCLA — Physically gifted, freakish athlete. He has a motor that runs non-stop and has a burning desire to be successful. No doubt in my mind, the most fluid defensive player I have worked with in my 14 years of coaching.
3 Eddie Vanderdoes, DT, Placer/UCLA — Size, shear power, explosiveness, nimble and cat quick. Eddie has a lot of the redeeming qualities that Ndamukong Suh flashed in my duration working with him at Nebraska.
4. Steven Moore, OL, Elk Grove/Cal — Size, strength in lower body. He has a great ability to maintain a low center of gravity with tremendous structure and extremely swift feet.
5. Gavin Andrews, OL, Granite Bay/Oregon State — Mountain of a man. Thick upper and lower body, ability to stay thick and square while maintaining leverage position on defenders. He’s a finisher who wants to be great and is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty.
6. (tie) Aaron/Matt Cochran, OL, Buhach Colony/Cal — When these two young men walked into the program for the first day, I thought ‘No wonder Buhach Colony doesn’t lose very often and now that both are at Cal. I think the future is very bright. Both are extremely blessed with great size and tremendous athleticism.
7. Misi Taifane, OL/DL, Grant/ARC — Big, thick, square individual who is blessed with extremely light feet. One of the most flexible big men I have ever seen. Very comparable to Eddie in terms of his explosiveness and athleticism. Multi position player who brings a lot of value.
8. Nick Kelly, OL, Casa Roble/ARC/Arizona State — Tough as nails! Absolutely loves ball and will do everything possible to ensure he solidifies himself in the lineup. Leader, competitor, a coach’s dream. The highest football IQ of any player I have ever coached.
9. Kolton Miller, OL, Roseville — He reminds me of a kid I coached at Sac State named Marco Cavka who ended up being a fifth round draft pick by the NY Jet. However, Kolton is much thicker and polished fundamentally than Marco was at the same age.
10. Robert Ash, DL, Cosumnes Oaks/Boise State — Making the transition to OL this year and I think he future is very bright at the OC or OG position. Engaging personality who loves ball and has a burning desire for greatness. Very coachable, high football IQ and has the strength, build, and quickness to be a very solid player.
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