CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- When it comes to running backs, tight ends, and quarterbacks, "top five" lists don't work very well describing those position groups from a weight room perspective. That doesn't mean there isn't a lot of info to impart for these players.
From strictly a weight room perspective, sophomore Hunter Furr has stood out among the running backs in speed and athleticism testing. Furr ran a 4.26 40-yard dash, had a 34 ½-inch vertical, and a 9-9 broad jump. He also power cleaned 342 pounds on his way to the top "Power Quotient" among the running backs (201.1).
"When you look at Furr, and other players who score well in the power quotient, 40 speeds, verticals, broad jumps – they all kind of go together," said UNC S&C coach Jeff Connors.
Senior Shaun Draughn also did well in the "Power Quotient," notching a 195.7, with a power clean of 337, a 40 of 4.45, a bench press of 345 (though he has benched as high as 365 at UNC), and a broad jump of 10 flat.
Fellow senior Ryan Houston, unsurprisingly, put up some good weight room numbers, including a 370-pound bench, a 525-pound squat, and a 308-pound power clean.
The fullbacks left their mark, too. Anthony Elzy led all backs with a 600-pound squat, while Devon Ramsey led the way in the vertical jump with a 36-inch leap.
Connors had high praise for the dedication and unmatched work ethic displayed by A.J. Blue, as the running back/quarterback recovered from a very serious knee injury suffered last season.
"A.J. Blue is a 340 bench, that's pretty good, he's a strong kid," Connors said. "No one works harder than A.J. Blue. It's good that he kept his upper body strength rolling through this whole deal."
One of the surprising things about the running back position was how well walk-ons did in many of the tests, showing a level of dedication in the weight room that is admirable for players who may make their greatest contribution on special teams. Curtis Bryd had the highest bench press (405 pounds), Kenny Owens the longest broad jump (10-5).
Connors offered plenty of results and interesting analysis when it came to the tight ends.
"Zack Pianalto ran well (in the 40-yard dash) this summer, he and Ryan Taylor," Connors said. "Taylor was a 4.6 flat and Pianalto was a 4.65. Pianalto is at 250 (pounds), and Ryan is up around 240 pounds. Pianalto has the record for power clean (for tight ends) at 374 pounds.
"Nelson Hurst benched 390 pounds; I am looking for him to help us with blocking. Ed Barham is back - he did a 560 squat. Another thing about Ed is he had a 32-inch vert(ical), which is pretty respectable. I think he should be able to help us with regard to being able to move somebody off the ball."
Taylor developed into a major special teams weapon earlier in his career, though missed last season after suffering a knee injury during fall camp. He is a player that might be flying under the radar – but not Connors' radar.
"The guy we haven't said a whole lot about is Ryan Taylor," Connors said. "Physically he looks great, he's had a great summer, he can run all day. His leadership and performance on special teams can be impactful. I thought he caught the ball well, he's got good speed, I am really looking for him to step up and do some great things. He's going to rock somebody's world, there's no question about that."
Quarterbacks are a special case in the weight room, as they don't get heavily tested with weights.
"T.J. Yates did very well in the ‘L' drill -- he and Renner," Connors said of the three-cone test that evaluates quickness and footwork. "Renner ran a 6.93 and Yates ran a 6.94 in the drill. We were happy with that because that was indicative of them having pretty good movement. In the ‘Pro Agility,' the 5-10-5, Renner ran a 4.34 and Yates ran a 4.36, so they were similar there. I don't hang my hat on these tests, but they are the (NFL) combine tests so they are indicative of something.
"We were impressed with Renner, high 4.6's and low 4.7's, in the forty, we thought that was good. He made progress from the previous year," Connors added.
Even though they don't win a lot of weight room accolades, Connors also wanted to take note of the kickers.
"Our kickers had done a real good job training this summer, they've been real steady with their work ethic," he said.
Check back tomorrow for the final installment, Part V, which focuses on the freshman class …