As Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard is careful to explain, the goal of Alabama's strength program is to build football athletes--NOT weight lifters. But as a point of comparison to gauge progress, the Tide players are regularly tested on four lifts and two athletic measures: the flat bench press, the incline bench press, the hang clean, the squat, the 40-yard dash and vertical jump.
For example walk-on Mitch Grissett, a sophomore long snapper out of Red Level, Alabama, holds all four weight lifting records for the specialty (or special teams) group. Grissett's numbers include 405 pounds on the regular bench press, 355 on the incline, 600 pounds on the squat and 350 pounds hang cleaning. Placekicker Brian Bostick's 4.81 in the 40-yard dash was the best for his position.
Besides special teams, the athletes are categorized by Offensive Line, Defensive Line, Linebackers, Defensive Backs, Running Backs, Tight Ends (or ‘Ws'), Receivers and Quarterbacks. To account for position changes--which occur occasionally--it's generally required that an athlete actually play at a particular position before his name can go up on the wall.
Since arriving on campus in January of 2001, Pollard has been remaking the Alabama squad to fit Head Coach Dennis Franchione's goal of a stronger, faster team. There are still numerous former players that hold lifting records, but current athletes are rapidly remaking the record board. For example, at last week's Night of Champions, 16 different players either set or were recognized for achieving position and/or program records.
Due to caution regarding last season's groin injury, Tyler Watts didn't compete this year--though he did take part in 2001 on the squat. A leader on the field and off, Watts holds two Quarterback records outright: hang clean (335) and squat (530). And he is tied with Jonathan Richey at 315 pounds on the incline bench press. Richey still holds the flat bench mark at 390 pounds. Scout team QB Matt Miller proved his athleticism by jumping 33 inches and running a 4.68 in the 40, both position records.
Injuries prevented Santonio Beard from running last spring, but this time around the junior tailback's 4.51 set the mark for the 40-yard dash. At the Night of Champions, Josh Smith grabbed the flat bench press mark with a lift of 465 pounds. Fullback-turned-middle-linebacker Marvin Brown still holds the record for squat (585) and incline BP (410). Now graduated, Adam Cox's name remains on the wall with a jump of 36.5 inches. And Kevin Turner (‘88-'91) still holds the hang clean mark for running backs with a lift of 375 pounds.
Under the leadership of Coach Kenith Pope, the Tide receivers are remaking their image from finesse players to tough guys--and Dre Fulgham and Lance Taylor are leading the way. Both players participated in the Night of Champions. Taylor currently sets the standard for receivers in the hang clean (365) and squat (525), while Fulgham owns both the incline (390) and flat bench (420) records. Redshirt freshman Brandon Brooks showed why many are touting him for a role returning kicks, clocking a blistering 4.35 in the 40-yard dash. Standing 6-5, Tarry Givens has jumped an impressive 40 inches.
When the lifting was finished last Tuesday night, most of the record setters lined up for a group photo. Back row, left to right: Tyler Watts, Matt Miller, Josh Smith, Santonio Beard, Lance Taylor, Dre Fulgham and Brandon Brooks. Front row, left to right: Theo Sanders, Justin Smiley, Marico Portis, Cornelius Wortham, Anthony Bryant and Mitch Grissett. Not pictured: Waine Bacon, Nick Signaigo and Brian Bostick.
At the hybrid ‘W' position, which includes tight ends and what used to be fullbacks, Theo Sanders and Nick Signaigo dominate. One of the best all-around athletes on the team, Sanders has jumped 36 inches, lifted 385 pounds in the hang clean, and broke his own squat record last week by hoisting 525 pounds. A walk-on fullback (‘W'), Signaigo ran a 4.60 in the 40, lifted 415 pounds on the incline bench press, and is tied with Joe Yount at 435 pounds on the flat bench press.
A power-lifting champion in high school, Justin Smiley has absolutely lived up to his recruiting hype so far at Alabama. Specializing in the hang clean, where he set the current standard of 415 pounds last Tuesday, ‘Big Smiles' is incredibly athletic, running a 4.87 in the 40 and jumping 35 inches. Fellow redshirt freshman Evan Mathis shares that record on the vertical jump. Senior Marico Portis rules on both bench presses, lifting 510 on the flat surface and 460 on the incline. Now working on the defensive line, former offensive tackle Bart Raulston has squatted 645 pounds.
His eligibility is now expired, but Shontua Ray's name is still around. The former strong safety still owns all four lifting records for defensive backs: squat (550), hang clean (355), regular bench press (430) and incline (385). He's now laboring at A-Back, but Ray Hudson's 4.41 40-yard clocking remains the standard for the secondary. And senior Waine Bacon provided one of the highlights last Tuesday, breaking his own record by jumping an impressive 42 inches.
Like Ray, the now-departed Saleem Rasheed dominates the linebacking records. Rasheed has the 40-yard dash (4.56), vertical jump (38.5), hang clean (380), and squat (580) marks all to himself. He and Victor Ellis are tied at 410 pounds on the incline bench. However, current strongside linebacker Cornelius Wortham's lift of 480 pounds last Tuesday night on the flat bench press set the standard for that lift.
Though former players still hold several records for the defensive line, junior Anthony Bryant is making his mark. At the Night of Champions his 755-pound squat startled both Pollard and Franchione, and the ‘Bear' also owns the incline bench press record at 440 pounds. Senior Kenny King is the man on hang clean, owning the 410-pound record. Rob-E Staten's 560-pound flat bench press remains the standard. And 2001 starter Aries Monroe's 4.62 40-yard dash and 43.5 vertical jump won't easily be matched.
Also featured at last week's Night of Champions were several athletes who achieved personal bests on their lifts. That list included Antwan Odom (480), Brandon Brooks (365) and Jarret Johnson (500) on the flat bench press; J.B. Closner (370), Alonzo Ephraim (455) and Kenny King (410) on the incline; Atlas Herrion (600), Juke King (500), Charlie Peprah (455) and Anthony Madison (475) on the squat; and Clint Johnston (340), Mark Anderson (315) and Shaud Williams (350) on the hang clean.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Fan curiosity regarding every player on the Tide roster is understandable. However, don't expect the Bama coaches to release that information. Such statistics are seen in the same way as teachers view grades. And while the coaches definitely use the numbers to motivate and gauge progress, they are frankly adamantly opposed to doing anything that might damage team morale.