Lou, Part III: Lifting

Strength and conditioning coach Lou Hernandez brings a team approach to his job. It's not about who the top guys are in each lift, it is about overall strength and conditioning of the team – that's what he sees as the secret to success in major college football.

"We've got two boards up in here," Hernandez said. "We've got our 300-pound power clean board and our bench press board, and we've just wiped it all out, we're starting all over. Last year I told Coach (Fedora) that I think we'd be able to have 15 guys that would be able to pull a 300-pound power clean from the floor. At the end of the season we had 32 guys that did that, so we doubled that."

Yet Hernandez fell short of his team goal – by one.

"These guys just exploded and did a phenomenal job. My goal is to have 33 and above every year, that's always been my number for 300-pound power cleans and I missed it this year by one. This year hopefully we'll have the opportunity to have 33 guys or better hit 300-pound power cleans."

Surprisingly, a youngster is the team leader in the power clean.

"Shakeel Rashad, he's pulling a 372 power clean, which is absolutely amazing," Hernandez said.

Despite Rashad's excellence in the particular lift, Hernandez keeps his eye on the total numbers for the team. He feels good about where the team is right now.

"We have about 20 guys right now pulling a 300-pound power clean, which is a real good start for us this early in the season. So that tells me we're on a real good pace to reach our goal of 33 or more by the time the season comes along."

The team concept continues through the bench press numbers.

"On the bench press, going into the season we ended up with 10 guys with 405-pound bench presses or better, which was a great improvement from when we first got here and when we started the season, so with 10 guys with 405-pound bench presses or better going into the season was awesome."

But that's still short of Hernandez's goals for the team.

"We have to try to get to at least 15 guys going into the season, we're at about eight or nine right now."

Hernandez did acknowledge the bench press leader in the clubhouse, as well as some of those already hitting that 405-pound mark.

"Tim Jackson, he's a 455-pound bench presser right now, Bodine is a 400-pound guy, then you've got (J.J.) Patterson, Caleb Peterson, Rashad, and Phillip Williamson, so there's a lot of young guys who are showing a lot of the benefits of these workouts, and we're excited about what they'll continue to do and go from there," Hernandez added.

Bench pressing isn't just for the big guys, though for skill players Hernandez sets the bar lower.

"We've got a lot of the skill guys who are starting to improve, getting to the 315-pound bench presses as well, so we're definitely on the right path when it comes to development of the strength numbers," he concluded.

Some other player-specific observations by Hernandez:

* On the "Blue Dawn" tire battle between A.J. Blue and Travis Hughes: "Unbelievable. What a match up. These guys were going at it and nobody was giving up. Hughes is a leader by example kind of guy, he's an effort guy, and Blue was just non-stop. It was an amazing battle. Blue ended up pulling that thing out there at the end, but it went to the tape."

* On the running backs: "They are going to have to battle it out. Blue, I think he's going to prove himself to be a very durable and every down type guy, he's being pushed by Romar (Morris), so that's going to be a very interesting battle. Both of those guys have great ability. (Khris Francis) is going to be in the mix too, I tell you what, he's a great worker, he's a great kid, he's an effort guy, he's showing a lot of great things in his development. You just hope he continues on this path to get better, has a great spring with us, continues to study in the summer, because I'm not concerned about his physical development. He's making some really nice gains to be effective enough this early in his career, it's just a matter of what he can do when it comes to the playbook."

* On some players coming off injury:

T.J. Thorpe – "He's phenomenal, he's showing some quiet leadership right now amongst that group. He's a competitor, he pushes the guys, he's definitely going to be a leader when it comes to the receivers, and he's on his way to doing some great things."

Darius Lipford – "You know what, the things he's able to do right now athletically are so impressive. When it comes to some of the lifts he's executing, some of the more athletically complicated exercises, it is amazing to see how athletic he is. Watching some of his straight ahead runs, I don't think we have anybody that is as pretty of a straight ahead runner as he is right now. We'll start to cut him left and right during the summer time, I'm real excited about that. I think he's got a lot of athleticism. I think he'll be a no-contact guy during spring, but go through all the drills."

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