Offensive Linemen Transformed By Coach Lou

Long gone are the days when college offensive linemen were more known for their size than their athletic ability. Major college offensive linemen combine size with excellent athleticism and strength, and top coaches like Lou Hernandez at Illinois do a great job getting these players in top condition.

Lou Hernandez has enjoyed excellent success working with offensive linemen at Illinois. Several have gone on to play pro ball, and few if any have played out of shape or overweight. Linemen must be both extremely strong and quick on their feet. Hernandez works constantly to find the proper balance between the two.

"My biggest thing is, when these linemen walk into this weight room, I want them to get as big and as strong as they can get, and to still meet the standards of their conditioning requirements.

"If they can do those things, if they can get as big and strong as they can get and still meet their expectations of their conditioning requirements, then I'm great with that. I don't want to send out a weak, small guy up in front.

"Once they start to get a little more experience, we start to tailor what these guys actually need. Jack Cornell was a guy, we got him all the way up to 330 pounds. Last year he was 310, and today he's 305 and still with ridiculous numbers down in the weight room. The weight loss has definitely helped with his athleticism.

"We had Graham Pocic up to 325. Last year, we sent him out for the season at 310. He hasn't been over that at all this winter. He knows and understands to be effective, that's the weight he needs to be at.

"Jeff Allen is a 325 guy every day of the week, until it comes down to the season. He played last year at the 310 range as well, and right now he's back to that after a winter break. Randall Hunt the exact same thing; 330 guy, we brought him down to 308 with great success."

Redshirt freshmen tackles Michael Heitz and Simon Cvijanovic have the opposite problem. They still need more size and strength to compete against mature defensive linemen in the Big 10. Hernandez is working with them to make those gains.

"Michael Heitz came in around 270. Right now in spring, he's at 295. So he's significantly heavier, and he seems to be carrying that weight really well.

"We're hoping he's gonna continue to get in great shape with it over the summer time and hold onto that weight. I think that's a goal for him right now, to see how that's gonna settle for him."

"Same thing with Simon. Simon came in at 270 as well. He's at 280. He got real close to 290 this winter. We've just got to see if he can continue to hold that weight."

Players like Heitz and Cvijanovic tend to lose weight with all the running Hernandez makes them do in the summer. It will be interesting to see what weight they will report at for Camp Rantoul.

Tight ends must often block along with the linemen. Hernandez had the task this winter of adding strength and size to freshman Evan Wilson and junior Eddie Viliunas, the top two tight ends this spring. Wilson gained 10-15 pounds over the winter. Viliunas, a former walkon quarterback, looks like he transformed his body since last season.

"He has. He's actually put on about 20 pounds since he hung up his quarterback jersey. Different positions call for different requirements.

"As a quarterback, we wanted him to be as strong as he could be for the position that he played. The mechanics of throwing and injury prevention, taking care of the shoulder and the balance between the acceleration of power to the deceleration strength, all of those things are important to do.

"Once he hung up his quarterback jersey, let's build from here. He's done a great job of putting on some good weight. He's definitely looking the part. He's starting to move the weight you'd expect a tight end to move. He's definitely moving in the right direction."

In part four, Hernandez talks about noticeable gains made by defensive players. He also shares how the beautiful new weight room has enhanced recruiting efforts as well as his work.

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