Camp Amato: Bigger, Stronger T.A. in 2004?

<B>Raleigh, NC -- </b>You can't help but notice it. NC State running back T.A. McLendon has gained weight this offseason, and he looks as fit and as muscular as ever.

There are even rumors going around that the junior from Albemarle, North Carolina is carrying nearly 245 pounds on his 5'11 frame.

"[Laughing] No, that's not true... I'm about 230 though," McLendon said. "Last year I was consistently about 215 pounds, but I like the new weight. I don't feel any slower, I can tell you that."

"I think it's good weight," he added. "It really came from a lot of lifting."

McLendon spent the offseason lifting weights and working to get stronger. He believes that the added weight could give him more durability this season, but he quickly pointed out that he won't change his hard-nosed running style.

"It won't change the way I play," he said. "I can't say it's helping me right now because I haven't had a lot of full contact drills yet. I just know that I'm bigger this year and feel just as fast as last season."

McLendon has been sidelined the past week with a hamstring injury, but prior to that he had been "phenominal" according to Wolfpack Head Coach Chuck Amato.

But with McLendon and sophomore Reggie Davis on the shelf with hamstring injuries, incoming freshmen Bobby Washington and Darrell Blackman have received the majority of reps during fall practice.

Both young running backs have impressed the highly-regarded McLendon.

"I feel real confident that they are going to help get the job done," McLendon said. "They are going to do a real good job... no doubt about it. Just like all of us they are excited about playing and they've done a good job of holding it down while I'm not in there. I commend them on doing a good job, and I just want them to keep up the good work."

Amato even went so far as to say that the injuries to McLendon and Davis have been a "blessing" because the young players are now receiving those added reps.

"I can't really say it's a blessing but everything happens for a reason," McLendon said. "I think it was meant to be for those guys to get in there and get reps with the first group. They are getting a feel for the college game and how fast it is. Ever since I've been out I've seen the intensity pick up everyday."

"The more they get in there, the more they see they have to play hard," he added. "[Laughing] They may be tired, but there's been times when I was tired when it was just me and Josh Brown."

The buzz at NC State's recent Media Day suggested that the Wolfpack would take advantage of its immense talent in the backfield. Can we expect NC State to run more this season than in previous years with Philip Rivers at the helm?

"When you've got a group of guys like that... why not?" McLendon said. "We have a group of different running back types, and when you have that it's hard to stop all of us. Play fakes are going to be very important this year, and we also have receivers who can go deep or across the middle to catch the ball. When you have all of that, it shows that we have a great offense."

Although McLendon feels he really can't compare the running styles of Washington, Davis, Blackman, and himself, he did give a quick analysis of what he thinks they all can do well.

"I can't really distinguish what everybody can do differently," he said. "Both Bobby and Darrell are pretty fast guys... Bobby can really cut you up. Darrell has good weight and he can run between the tackles or break it deep. Reggie's a real between the tackles runner, and he can pound the defense with his size and strength."

"I don't know what I can do... I just go out there and play," McLendon added. "It's like a soup here. Everybody adds their own spices and in the end it just makes the soup even better."


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