Bombastic bench press

Tennessee may not have the finest pair of guards in college football this season but the Vols probably have the STRONGEST pair.

Jacques McClendon recently broke the program record with a 645-pound bench press, and fellow guard Vladimir Richard cracked the 600-pound barrier, as well.

Even Vol strength coach Johnny Long is impressed.

"Six hundred pounds is hard to ROLL," Long quipped during a 50-minute media opportunity at UT's weight room earlier today. "When it's on the ground, it's hard to push it."

McClendon, a 6-3, 330-pound junior from Chattanooga Baylor, shattered the previous program record of 550 pounds set by former UT offensive lineman Albert Toeaina in 2005.

"To see Jacques with those numbers is really impressive at such a young age," Long said. "Now comes the time to be smart."

Being "smart" means making sure McClendon has the necessary flexibility to utilize his strength. Football is a game of motion, so McClendon needs agility, as well as raw power.

"We're never going to sacrifice weight over technique," Long said. "If we can move a weight, we need to make sure we're moving it fast and become explosive athletes. That's mainly what we did with Jacques this offseason – work on his flexibility. He had flexibility issues, so we started doing yoga classes."

The mental image of a 6-3, 330-pounder doing yoga is somewhat amusing. McClendon didn't find it so amusing in the beginning, however.

"He didn't like that too much at first," Long said. "But now he's bought into it and seen that flexibility is what he really needed."

McClendon, Richard and the rest of the Vols will taper off their weight-lifting work now that the first day of preseason camp (Aug. 2) is just two weeks away. That's a precautionary measure.

"I don't need to see them hit 600 again before football season – strain a pec (pectoral muscle) or tear a pec," Long said. "Then we can't have ‘em for two-a-days.

"You want to work ‘em up heavy because we have such a short period of time (prior to fall practice) to gain strength. But, at the same time, I can't risk injury at any time, so they won't be hitting those numbers again.

"They'll be hitting up in that 500 range. Jacques can probably hit 500 any day of the week two or three times, but I don't need ‘em to hit it right now. I need ‘em to get ready for two-a-days."

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