Xazavian Valladay

University of Wyoming redshirt freshman running back Xazavian Valladay, left, celebrates his 21-yard touchdown run during the first quarter of the Cowboys' 31-3 victory over New Mexico on Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018, at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M.

Developing football players in terms of strength in conditioning is a lot like building a house.

That’s how University of Wyoming director of sports performance Ben Iannacchione and his top assistant, Eric Donoval, approach their jobs.

Both are entering their second year at UW.

“It was a feeling-out process on both sides,” Donoval said. “The program was very vanilla at first. We had to lay that foundation.

“Now, in year two, that trust and buy-in has been built. The foundation has been laid. The basement is in, and now we can paint the walls, put up those big-screen televisions and those types of things.”

Iannacchione wanted to develop a culture where players wanted and enjoyed working out, whether it be during the winter, summer or even in season. That seems to have been accomplished.

“They really care about us and how we succeed,” said UW senior linebacker Ben Wisdorf, who is a Cheyenne East graduate. “They go above and beyond in that area. You would run through a brick wall for them, if they asked you to.”

What Iannacchione and Donoval are asking players to do now is different than at this time a year ago. Donoval said the workouts players went through this past spring were similar to what they did last summer. As time passes, workouts for players and their specific positions evolve and change.

“The guys have adapted to it well,” Iannacchione said.

They also are seeing the gains.

For example, a priority for sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay was to add muscle, and maintain it. Valladay is UW’s leading returning rusher from last season, and likely will be the starter this season. Valladay played at around 190 pounds last season, and the fear was he couldn’t he take the pounding of being the starter without more bulk, yet also maintaining his speed.

“It was a little bit of a surprise. It was just hard work, dedication and trusting the process,” Valladay said.

The work done by Iannacchione and Donoval goes beyond putting muscle on players, although that is a big part of their job and what a lot of fans want to see from one season to the next.

Iannacchione said junior defensive tackle Ravontae Holt went from 260 pounds last season to 275, with a lot of that weight gained in his lower body. Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Blayne Baker of Sheridan is now 305 after being listed at 260 in UW’s 2018 media guide as a true freshman.

However, Donoval said senior wide receiver Austin Conway slimmed down to about 175 pounds, but has a better body composition. Senior cornerback Antonio Hull has done a good job of maintaining his weight at around 190 pounds with diet and workouts, so he doesn’t get too big and lose speed and quickness.

“We are excited where we are at right now, and even more excited to continue to work with these guys,” Iannacchione said.

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