An Interview with Jim Nowell - Part 2 of 3

In part-two of a three-part interview, MSU head strength coach Jim Nowell talked about a few of the players (veterans and newcomers) and his impression of their conditioning.

I know a lot of the veterans have improved a lot since last season. Are there any that have really come a long way since last year?
"Deljuan (Robinson) comes to mind right off the bat. I remember him last summer making those ugly faces while he was running. It looked like he was absolutely dying. He wasn't worried about being tough or running hard or making times. It got to a point where he just wanted to survive it because it was so demanding. He would bend over, his back was hurting, he was gasping for air. I don't see that person anymore. And I haven't seen him in a long time. And Deljuan is a guy that I really believe we can count on. I know we can. He's always been a great guy, a high character guy, but he hasn't always been as tough as he is now. That is one area that I know Deljuan has changed in. He does the things we ask of him. We asked him to get down to 285. He gets down to 285. He runs well. He's encouraging people. He's helping other people become better. He's standing tall. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And Deljuan is certainly one of the stronger links. I hope he can stay healthy. Last year, I don't think a lot of our fans got to see the real Deljuan Robinson because he did have some issues with injuries.

"Deljuan reminds me of Chad Lavalis, a defensive end at LSU when I was there. He was a great player and a great kid. Chad's power clean max was 231 pounds. And he bench pressed 325, which isn't very strong for a defensive lineman. When I left, he was either a sophomore or junior, so I'm sure he got stronger. He is with the Falcons today because he has a great motor and never quits. He plays hard and is very coachable. Deljuan, who is stronger than him, is starting to develop that toughness and drive where he just always kept coming after you, kept coming after you."

I know you haven't been able to work with the new freshmen. But, just eyeballing them, what is your impression?
"Those are some good-looking guys. I did weigh them all in. Quinton Wesley is what you want guys to look like. Yeah, some of them (linemen) probably are a little overweight. I've been in the situation where we've had to whittle down new signees. As for what they are like personally, I've only been with them in the weightroom for one hour, so I haven't been around them long enough to form an opinion. You only get one chance to form a first impression. And they all made a great first impression on Thursday. They were coachable, they paid attention and they gave effort."

Is Quinton not too slim?
"Quinton is 253, believe it or not."

But his arms don't look that big.
"We aren't going to play the game with our arms. We are going to play with our total body functioning as a single unit. That is what I like about the olympic lifts, the power cleans and the olympic movements. They are a total body summation of power. And that is how you play the game of football. We aren't going to play this play with our arms and the next play with our legs."

"A lot of times people put too much emphasis on looks. They say a guy is a little soft or has a little belly. Hey, they aren't going to look like Mr. Olympia. The people you see on tv in the bodybuilder shows - a lot of times those guys are the most unathletic guys you have ever seen in your life. We are into training athletes, not bodybuilders. Sure, we want to minimize fat. Anytime you carry something around that is not muscle, it can prevent you from being the player you can be. However, muscle size is not always an indicator of muscle strength. Otherwise, all of the olympic weight lifters would be real big and muscled up guys. And if you have ever watched the Olympic Games you have seen the guy from Turkey they called Pocket Hercules. He weighs something like 130 pounds and clean and jerk 413. If you saw him on the beach, you would think he is a little bitty guy who doesn't even have muscle tone."

I'm curious about one of the new offensive linemen, Johnny Carpenter. He dominated Jerrell Powe in the Mississippi-Alabama All-Star game. And Powe was considered one of the top high school defensive linemen in the nation last year. Have you formed a quick impression of him since he's been at State?
"I like Johnny. I'm expecting a lot of good things from him. He is a tough guy. I didn't see him play against Powe, but I've heard about it. Johnny has a nasty streak in him."

There has been some talk among folks on my message board about how some of the linemen have a belly on them. Is that a concern to you?
"How many pro linemen are going to have a six-pack? And these guys are making millions of dollars. They are the best of the best. If I'm an offensive lineman, I want to look like Chris McNeil. He is what you want to look like. He is 6-4, 295, runs fast, can run forever. Is strong. He benched 450 pounds in the spring. He did 35 reps with 225. And that was two weeks after spring football."

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Roland Terry has really impressed me with how much better he looks. How much has he improved since last season?
"Roland Terry came in at 260 and is now 299. And he's a good 299. He can run and do all those things. We are just trying to get his aggressiveness built up and get him tougher.

"Another one that is impressive is Dio Herrera. Dio weighs about 315 and he made all 19 of his half gassers. Last year, he came in about 315, but he wasn't a good 315. Now, he's a good 315. He can run, moves well and is strong - he benches over 400. His legs have gotten so much stronger than they were. His upper body has always been strong. Dio has all the physical tools. The mental part is yet to be determined because he hasn't done it on the field, yet. But he's a redshirt freshman."

Two signees from last February are defensive back Keith Fitzhugh and defensive lineman Antonio Johnson. You've had the chance to work with both of them. What kind of impression have you formed of them?
"Keith impressed me from the start because he is a very mature kid. He enrolled in Mississippi State in January. For most kids, I wouldn't recommend that, but he was able to handle it. Keith is a great guy, the kind of guy you want to be around. He is the type person we want at Mississippi State. I look for big things from Keith Fitzhugh. He just needs to get his conditioning level up a little. But I'm not concern about that with him.

"Antonio is a good guy. He is a quiet guy who doesn't say a lot. It was a shock to him when he first got here because he wasn't accustomed to the amount of work that we demand of our players. But his conditioning level has gotten better every day. He's gone from 320 to 307. We ran 19 half gassers Friday morning and I think he made 15 of them. After we were through, he stayed after and ran his 4. Antonio is in very good condition. And we still have a month to go. So, I'm not worried about him."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by email at swindoll@genespage.com.

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