Strength in the Trenches
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- North Carolina is blessed with some incredible athletes on the defensive line, and as the offensive line begins to get healthier they are becoming more and more impressive from a weight room perspective.
On the defensive line, the focus is on regrouping after losing some weight room warriors to the NFL.
"We had to replace some strong guys from last year," Connors said. "Cam Thomas is a real strong kid, E.J. Wilson of course had a high level of strength, Al Mullins was a very strong kid, so we had to play catch-up a little bit there."
Marvin Austin's 485-pound bench press helps with maintaining the strength along the defensive line, but there's also some help in the depth chart. Throw in Robert Quinn's off-the-chart numbers (425 bench press, 405 power clean, 33" vertical, 10' 3" broad jump, 4.40 forty, highest ever power quotient for a defensive end), and solid progress among the returnees, plus a new arrival, and Connors is optimistic.
"The good thing about (freshman) Brandon Willis I did want to mention is that I think he was maybe 258 when he came in and right now he's right around 280 (pounds)," Connors said. "He's really making progress and has worked really hard in the off-season.
"Jared McAdoo squatted 600 pounds, which is good. He did very well this summer with conditioning, he got kind of the highest accolade for a D-lineman for conditioning this summer. He's got good lower body strength, and everything else is still a work in progress with him. We're looking for him to definitely contribute depth-wise, because we're going to need it."
Jordan Nix (435), Tydreke Powell (410), and Donte Paige-Moss (405) all benched over 400 pounds. Recently the UNC staff has instituted testing players on reps with 225 pounds, because that's a test used by the NFL. Connors was pleased that he had 37 players bench 225 for 20 or more reps.
Quinton Coples and Michael McAdoo showed up in the top five of several categories for defensive ends, including power clean. Coples power-cleaned 331 pounds, while McAdoo cleaned 342 pounds.
The time and effort put into the weight room and in conditioning pays off, but it also helps that North Carolina has recruited well.
"The guys that have the explosive qualities, and that's what we're trying to recruit, and those are the same things we want to train," Connors said. "Michael McAdoo is 245 right now, which is heavier than he's ever been; he's got some incredible "fast twitch" about him. He's quick, he really is. Going back to that ‘Power Quotient,' he is a 190, which is not common for defensive ends."
The weight room ethic, and results weren't just on one side of the line, however. One player on the offensive line jumps out at Connors - a player he likes to use as an example to other team members.
"Mike Ingersoll power-cleaned 357 - he put 50 pounds on his power clean this summer; he has made incredible improvement," Connors said. "He's definitely one of the most improved players on this football team. He's steady, serious all the time, gets every possible thing he can out of the workout. He's the kind of guy I like because I know what we do works - when you get a guy like that who is going to train the way you want, and you see the results, then you can look at everybody else and say, ‘Hey, look at this guy. He sold out every day in here.'
"He's up to 310, he's gotten progressively stronger. I don't see any reason the guy shouldn't have a great year, and nobody talks about him much. "
Ingersoll, who also recorded a 4.95 in the 40-yard dash, may have made the most progress by sheer effort and willpower, but Connors is in awe of what red-shirt sophomore Jonathan Cooper brings to the table. He compares him favorably to the best offensive lineman he's ever coached – Jason Brown.
"Jonathan Cooper, he's a freakish player," Connors said. "He's stronger in his upper body than Jason Brown was when he was here. Jason was a little heavier and thicker, and stronger in his lower body, but Jon isn't too far behind him."
Cooper was in the top five every tested category as an offensive lineman. Another offensive lineman that posted consistently impressive numbers is Cam Holland. Holland led all offensive linemen, and second on the team, in bench press at 500 pounds. He and Jon Cooper tied for the squat record on the team at 625 pounds, and tied for third in the power clean among offensive linemen at 331 pounds.
Holland (500), Cooper (480), Greg Elleby (435), Ingersoll (425), and Travis Bond (405) all benched better than 400 pounds, and pre-injury Alan Pelc benched 440 pounds.
Connors also furnished a progress report on Pelc and Carl Gaskins.
"Alan Pelc has had a really productive spring and summer," Connors said. "His body weight is down to about 310, and he moves well anyway, so we're really looking for good things from him in regard to his foot quickness and movement.
"Carl had a real good summer, he conditioned real well this summer, and I wanted him to continue to try and put on some weight – he's got a good frame, so we're trying to get as much lean mass back on him as possible on his lower body. He's back up to about 300 (pounds), I'd like to some day get him up to 320, because he can carry it."
Freshman T.J. Leifheit hasn't been able to test since his injury in the spring, but his fellow true frosh offensive lineman, James Hurst, was in the top five among offensive linemen in three categories: back squat at 535 pounds, 40 speed at 5.14, and vertical jump at 26 inches.
Check back later today for Part III of this series …