Saturday, August 8, 2009

Fletcher on the road to recovery

UW senior John Fletcher

By Richard Anderson

It won’t be long for John Fletcher to be back to his old self. Something tells him that the up-tempo practices will take care of that sooner than later.

One word describes the way the senior defnsive tackle feels now after battling back from mononucleosis.

“Sore,” Fletcher said Saturday during the annual Wyoming Fall Media Day.

Fletcher went out early with the illness as Dave Christensen and coaching staff were just beginning to make their mark on the Cowboys during spring drills.

Despite his muscular 6-foot-6, 272-pound frame, Fletcher could only watch and wait to for get his strength back and get back out on the field.

It wasn't until mid June before he felt good enough to get in some consistent workouts.

"I talked to the coaches, and they told me to just be patient,” Fletcher said. “That’s probably one of the biggest problems that I had was coming back and not being able to do what I was used to do."

Of course, even after a month or so of preparation for the season, he is far from being in football shape.

“I only had three practices in the spring, so I am just getting back to the football side of the training,” he said. “It’s a whole lot different than coming out here and working out all summer. It’s been a rough couple of days for me, but I will get the hang of it."

Standing on the sidelines was discouraging for Fletcher this spring, but as the Cowboys approach the season opener against Weber State (Sept. 5), each day will get him closer to game shape.

“The way that we practice is going to make the games easy to play in,” he said. “Our conditioning is going to be tremendous to what it has been. Just being able to go out there and go 100 miles an hour, to the ball, that will be a big plus."

Being on the sideline wasn’t just a physical disability.

“You want to be out there with your guys, especially with the three seniors that we have up front on the d-line; you want to be out there battling with those guys,” he said. “It’s terrible standing on the sidelines.”

At the same time, with the retention of Marty English as defensive coordinator, it’s not like Fletcher has to learn a new defensive system, which he said is difficult to do.

“We can just go out there and play and not have to think about what we have to do," he said. "We can just react. That’s one of the biggest things when you play at this level, knowing when to react to what the other team is giving you.”

Still behind the 8-ball in learning new defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery's techniques, Fletcher said that will come along with his conditioning.

“Our d-line coach is teaching us that there is a lot more technique and it is going to help us all out up front,” he said.

After a breakout sophomore season in which he had 10.5 quarterback sacks, Fletcher became a focus of constant double-teaming and had just 4.5 sacks.

Fletcher expects more attention this season, but he is not discouraged.

“They have another thing coming if they think that I am the only one on the defense that needs to be keyed on,” he said. “Mitch Unrein is just as good of an athlete that I am; he’s probably better than I am now just because he practiced in the spring, learning all of the new techniques. He’s going to have some double teams, too, I think.”

After what he went through this spring, Fletcher will be ready.

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