Summer Conditioning: Position By Position

With the season about to kick off with preseason practice, and the Night of Cahmpions tomorrow night in Gallagher-Iba Arena at 7 p.m. it's time to find out how the summer program went. We asked strength and conditioning coach Gary Calcagno to take us through the position groups and brief us on how the squad did with the summer program.

OSSR: Let's start with the freshmen. You had maybe the best participation ever by an incoming class.

Calcagno: We had so many in early, and the only time that they left was to play in the Oil Bowl or in another all star game. We've had most of our guys in all summer long. It was a smaller group because we had Robert Reid, Stephen James, Roderick Johnson, Nathan Peterson, Maurice Cummings, and Phillip Jones come in back in January. About the only guys we didn't see much of this summer were Martel Van Zant, Jason Ricks, Prentiss Elliott, and Jeray Chatham. Walter Thomas came in late, but he is big and strong and we will be able to get him ready for the start of the season.

OSSR: Which groups impressed you the most?

Calcagno: I was really proud of, the two best groups were safeties and the corners, top to bottom, everybody in those groups just did phenominal. Vernon Grant, Robert Jones, Darrent Williams, you couldn't ask for any better from those guys all summer long. Daniel McLemore was very strong the first half of the summer and finished strong. Jon Holland is always a worker. As a group, among the whole team, they have really been doing it since January.

OSSR: There has been a lot of talk about Donovan Woods over the summer as he is suspected to be the starting quarterback. How was his effort?

Calcagno: Donovan Woods has had a very good summer. He's worked hard and is big, strong, and lean. His brother D'Juan is as lean and in condition as he has ever been.

OSSR: Let's look at the defense, you already bragged on the secondary. What about the linebackers?

Calcagno: I thought the linebackers really stepped it up this summer. Lawrence Pinson's rehab has gone awesome and Paul Duren has had a great summer. This is the first time he has really committed himself to strength and conditioning and he has become bigger and stronger this summer. He's done a great job. Pagitte (McGee) always does a great job. Roderick Johnson was a guy I thought was floating a little bit because he's young, but he's done a great job and is ready to step in and contribute. Victor DeGrate always works hard. Coach Clay should be very happy with those guys.

OSSR: Okay, how about the defensive line?

Calcagno: It's been sporadic. Efe (Mowarin) had shoulder surgery and XLK had knee surgery and both have been coming back, but we've had to work around it. Clay Coe has had another great summer. He really is strong and is such a good athlete. Cody Townsend is a guy that has stepped it up. He's weighing nearly 300 pounds and he is a pit bull type of guy that is going to go in there and fight you. He'll be a guy that will make sure people bring their game. (Darnell Smith) has gotten bigger and stronger. He loves the weight room. Then Walter Thomas has come in late, but I can tell you he is strong. Jerry Don Bray has had a great summer. He's stronger, and I've backed him off running some days to keep that weight he has added on. As a group the defensive ends have done well.

OSSR: Okay, no over to the offense, starting with the offensive line.

Calcagno: Corey Hilliard had a great summer. Corey Curtis is doing great, weighing 290. They have dropped weight and are looking better. Kellen Davis is a little too lean right now, we need to get him back to 290. Sam has lost weight. Doug Bond is down to 299, so they've had a good summer collectively as a group. Chris Akin is weighing 303, but still runs well and that was never an issue for him.

OSSR: Which position group is the best on the offensive side?

Calcagno: I will tell you Josh Henson is a lucky man. He's got Billy Bajema, Charlie Johnson, Brandon Pettigrew, and Paschal Smith,who is in the best shape of his entire life because he had never wanted to make the commitment to lift and run the way he needed to. He has had a great year from Janaury to a helluva summer. Justin Waller is fantastic for a freshman If I were Josh Henson, I'd be very excited. That Brandon Pettigrew is phenominal. All the players kid Justin Waller because he is a mini Billy Bajema. Seth Newton is a little Eric Allen. Chris Simon looks like Sam Mayes. They seem to bring in clones of our older players. It's like little Sam, little Billy with the players, that comes from the player. It doesn't take those guys long. (Charlie Johnson) is big, strong, and mean, and he doesn't mind snatching somebody out there on the field if they are not doing what he wants them to do and what they are expected to do. I love that guy.

OSSR: What other group on offense are you eager to brag about?

Calcagno: The running backs, well, Mike Hamilton came in weighing 240 and has dropped 20 pounds to 220 and has never missed a day. He just comes all the time. All those guys are pretty impressive with their shirts off. If I was Seymore Shaw I would never wear a shirt.

OSSR: You didn't mention Shawn Willis. He has always been a dynamo in the weight room.

Calcagno: Sometimes we take him for granted, I call him furious from the ad in the paper. He's had a great summer and Julius Crosslin has had a great summer. He's put on some weight, not as much as I would like, but he has put on an incredible amount of strength. Still want him to get a little bigger.

OSSR: Each year we ask you who should be the first player off the bus to initimidate the other squad. Who should it be?

Calcagno: Walter Thomas, he looks the part, big, strong, and mean.

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