Clemson turns to science

Clemson wide receiver Stanton Seckinger (81) comes down with a 25 yard reception against Ball State during the 4th quarter Saturday, September 8, 2012 at Clemson's Memorial Stadium. BART BOATWRIGHT/Staff

CLEMSON — Stanton Seckinger could have played wide receiver at another school. He set a number of receiving records at Porter-Gaud and had offers from several major colleges.

But for him to make an impact at receiver-rich Clemson, Seckinger was told last spring he needed to move from wide receiver to tight end.

The biggest challenge now for the lanky redshirt freshman is gaining weight and strength.

“I’m pretty undersized as far as dealing with defensive ends,” said Seckinger, who is 6-5, 210 pounds. “The blocking aspect is completely different.”

Seckinger’s move to tight end has been aided by and coincided with another change at Clemson: a commitment to nutrition science.

Since 2010, the football program has been studying the body chemistry of athletes to determine how to add or subtract good weight. Clemson is close to a hiring a nutritionist, and the school opened a dining hall facility this year that will eventually house a training table — a program to organize healthy meals for student-athletes.

Loreto Jackson has overseen student-athlete care and performance at Clemson for the last six years.

“What we are not interested in is absolute weight but rather what is the weight being made up of?” Jackson said.

Clemson began using BodPods in 2010 to study players. The machine works by having a player enter an egg-like chamber for several minutes. The BodPod can differentiate lean mass — bone, cartilage and muscle — from fat through air displacement. The machine also calculates how many calories the athlete burns and how many calories are needed per day to reach a target weight.

The machine helped starting tight end Brandon Ford add good weight. He also made the transition from wide receiver.

Through the study, Seckinger learned his body contains little fat. But he also found his body burned a tremendous amount of calories. To gain weight, he has to consume 5,500 calories per day, a plan that has him eating six balanced meals a day — proteins, carbs, fruits and vegetables — and snacking between. His weight has slowly crept up from 195 pounds at the start of summer to 210 pounds.

“It’s hard,” Seckinger said. “They give us protein shakes and those are 360 calories a pop, which is good. I take nutrition bars to class … I’m trying to eat whenever I can.”

The challenge is eating right while juggling classes and football practice.

Jackson said most Clemson players eat the majority of their meals from restaurants. That’s where Clemson’s new dining hall comes in. The facility is completed but Clemson has not yet hired a nutritionist or a chef.

“(The facility) is going to make a huge impact, we just don’t have it right yet,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “It will be nice when we have (a nutritionist) who can be on top of that every single day.”

Swinney also hopes the school will be permitted to provide athletes three meals a day in the future. The NCAA only allows programs to give student-athletes one meal per day.

“There is a lot of deregulation talk going on and the training table is one of those areas,” Swinney said. “To me it is a no-brainer. We overtrain them and under-nourish them. I’m hopeful that gets corrected. Diet is a huge part of their performance.”