Nittany Lions Coming on Strong

Penn State players experiencing significant strength, speed improvements in second year of Craig Fitzgerald's program.

The Penn State football team has spent more than a year in strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald's intense program. Spring semester testing revealed significant across-the-board improvements by the Nittany Lions.

Of the players tested: 68 percent boosted their 40-yard dash times and 70 percent improved their NFL shuttles; 72 percent improved their broad jumps; 88 percent improved their squats; 73 percent their benches and 83 percent their cleans; 97 percent posted better strength indexes.

Here are some individual highlights:

• Defensive back Adrian Amos ran the fastest 40-yard dash among defenders at 4.45 seconds, had a 35.5-inch vertical leap and broad jumped 10-6. His strength index of 608.04 ranked among the top three on the team, earning him a “Pound for Pound” award. He received a special T-Shirt with “IRON LION” on the front and “POUND FOR POUND” on the back.

• Linebacker Mike Hull had the highest strength index on the team at 625.29 and as such won a Pound for Pound award (and shirt), too. Hull ran a 4.55 40-yard dash and a 4.25 NFL shuttle, squatted 475 pounds and cleaned 315. Hull weighed 226. Hull also won the “Hair on Fire” award (for players who … you guessed … trained like their hair was on fire) and an IRON LION T-shirt with “HAIR ON FIRE” on the back.

• Offensive lineman John Urschel won the third Pound for Pound award. He also won the BAMF award (and a shirt with “IRON LION” ON the front and “BAMF” on the back) for being the toughest man on the team. Urschel benched 405 (tying Hull's team record under Fitzgerald set last year), squatted 500 and cleaned 315. He also ran a 5.06 40.

Garry Gilliam, who moved from tight end to offensive line, tested out extremely well at his new position. Despite gaining 30 pounds (he now goes 6-6, 297), he ran a 4.90 40 and 4.53 NFL shuttle. He also had a 32.5-inch vertical and broad jumped 9-3. Gilliam's 40 was .18 seconds faster than his previous best.

• Receiver Allen Robinson uncorked a team-record (under Fitzgerald) 37-inch vertical and broad-jumped 10-8. At 213 pounds, he ran a 4.5 40 and had a 4.14 NFL shuttle.

• Tight end Jesse James, who measured in at 6-7, 256, ran a 4.6 40. That is the fastest of any “horse” (tight end or fullback) since Fitzgerald took over. He improved his time by more than two-tenths of a second since he was last tested. James won a Hair on Fire award (and shirt) for the offensive bombers (tight ends and fullbacks).

• Running back Akeel Lynch ran 4.45 40 (best among RBs) and bench-pressed 315. His bench was up 70 pounds over the previous testing period. He won a Hair on Fire Award (and shirt) for the offensive jets (tailbacks and receivers).

• Offensive lineman Donovan Smith, who goes 6-5, 334, ran a 4.49 NFL shuttle (best among OLs) and 5.17 40. He benched 405, squatted 500 and cleaned 300. His bench was up 30 pounds from the previous testing session.

• Wideout Trevor Williams ran a 4.0 NFL shuttle, the fastest at Penn State under Fitzgerald. That was a .24-second improvement over the previous testing session. He also ran a 4.5 40.

• Running back Zach Zwinak ran a 4.26 NFL shuttle and had a vertical of 34 inches. He ran a 4.61 40 and squatted 455.

• Titus Morris, a linebacker transfer from North Carolina A&T, broad-jumped 10-9, just edging Robinson for the team's best ever under Fitzgerald. He also had a 32.5-inch vertical, a new record for 'backers.

• Running back Bill Belton ran a 4.53 40, improving his time by .17 from the last time he was tested. He had a 4.18 NFL shuttle, best among the RBs this year.

Steven Bench set a record for strength index by a PSU quarterback at 508.3. He improved 98 points from the previous testing session. He ran the 40 in 4.82. He also set team QB records in the vertical (30), broad jump (9-5), squat (355) and clean (265).

• Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones also tied the team record in the bench (405).

• Receiver Alex Kenney, who holds the team record in the 40 (4.43 set last year), had a 4.10 NFL shuttle this year. He also set a WR record with a clean of 265.

• Safety Ryan Keiser also ran a 4.10 NFL shuttle.

• Other Hair on Fire award winners included: P Alex Butterworth (specialist); S Malcolm Willis (defense jets); DL Anthony Zettle (defense tanks -- he had a 4.79 40 and cleaned a team-best 335); C Ty Howle (offense tanks -- he squatted 475 and cleaned 300).

• Tight end Kyle Carter won the “MAN IN A WELL” award (and accompanying IRON LION T-shirt) for the player who is rehabbing “with a vengeance.” The All-Big Ten pick missed the end of last season with a wrist injury.

• Players who improved their strength index by more than 100 points included DT Brian Gaia (up 123), DT Derek Dowrey (up 122), DT Austin Johnson (up 121), Lynch (up 119), WR Jonathan Warner (up 109) and WR Eugene Lewis (up 106).

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