When the Minnesota Vikings drafted Pittsburgh tackle Brian O’Neill in the second round of April’s draft, many thought that the former tight end was going to be a project and would have to wait a year before having any noticeable impact on the purple. However, it appears that he’s taking all the necessary steps to inject himself into the conversation at the starting right tackle spot this season.
According to Courtney Cronin of ESPN, the Vikings are trying to get O’Neill to put on weight before the start of Training Camp in about six weeks. O’Neill, who weighed in at the Scouting Combine with 297 pounds on his 6’7” frame, is apparently hoping to get up to 305 before the start of Camp. Luckily for O’Neill, he’s no stranger to putting on weight.
See, O’Neill was originally recruited by Pitt as a tight end, and took a red shirt year in 2014. When one of the Panthers’ starting tackles went down during the 2015 offseason, the coaches explored the possibility of having his switch from tight end to offensive tackle, and O’Neill was happy to do so. The Pitt coaching staff then needed to bulk him up, and from late June to early August of 2015, O’Neill put on thirty-five pounds, going from 250 to 285.
Now, for regular schmoes like us, adding thirty-five pounds doesn’t sound like a problem. . .just eat, like, way more. But for an athlete like O’Neill, there has to be an actual method to the madness. To that end, O’Neill generally didn’t let himself go more than thirty minutes without eating, and would regularly get up for snacks at all hours of the morning.
“It takes an awful lot of discipline,” (Pitt strength and conditioning coach Dave) Andrews said. “We did daily and weekly weigh-ins. Body weight is an attitude as well. I’d tell him I want to see him up a pound tomorrow, regardless of whether it was water weight or true fat gain, true muscle gain. At that point, I just wanted to see something change on the scale. You’re talking about a 35-pound difference in a six-week period. That’s about a pound a day. Not all good weight, but the main emphasis was to get him to a point where he could anchor down at 285.”
As Cronin’s story details, the added weight didn’t cause O’Neill to lose any athleticism. He had a vertical leap of 28 inches when he weight 250, and at the Combine. . .where he weighed nearly 50 pounds more. . .his vertical had increased to 29.5 inches. Not to mention that he put up the fastest 40-yard dash time of any lineman at the Combine and excelled in the other drills as well.
I don’t know if Brian O’Neill is going to be ready to take over the starting right tackle spot for the Vikings in 2018. But, if he isn’t, it certainly won’t be because he didn’t pull out all the stops in trying to get there.