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April 5, 2013

More than 60 players earn honors in recent strength and conditioning testing

By: Jimmy Robertson

Defensive end James Gayle is one of the Hokies’ strongest
athletes, as evidenced by his 550-pound squat in recent testing.

On March 27, the Virginia Tech football team participated in the first of its 15 spring practices.

Before that, though, the squad put in the really hard work.

In the 10 weeks leading up to spring ball, the players spent four days a week in the weight room, working with Dr. Mike Gentry, Tech’s associate AD for athletic performance, and his staff. The players finished those grueling workouts before spring break, concluding them with a series of tests to see how much they had progressed.

In all, 63 players earned honors in the strength and conditioning program, including 11 who earned Super Iron Hokie status – the top rung on the strength and conditioning ladder (the levels consist of Super Iron Hokie, Iron Hokie, Hokie, Orange, and Maroon). The 11 who earned Super Iron honors included Brent Benedict, Augie Conte, Laurence Gibson, James Gayle, Greg Gadell, Michael Holmes, D.J. Coles, Brian Rody, Nick Bush, Kyshoen Jarrett and Donovan Riley.

Also, four position records fell. Dadi Nicolas’ 40-inch vertical jump was the best by a defensive end, while three position records in the power clean fell. Conte’s team-best 375-pound lift is now the standard for offensive tackles, while Gayle’s 370-pound lift is the new mark for defensive ends. Last, but not least, Trey Gresh owns the quarterback mark after his 330-pound lift.

That Tech’s linemen recorded solid marks – and not just the award winners, but also up and down the roster – pleased Gentry. He and his staff tweaked winter workouts this year to place an emphasis on the linemen.

“We really placed an emphasis on the line of scrimmage – on both sides – just in terms of getting stronger,” he said. “Now, generally we focus on strength this time of year, and then as we go into summer, we’ll focus on other areas. But we really focused on the linemen and just doing things consistently in a tough and effective manner. We got good buy-in from the guys with their effort and attitude, and I’m pleased with that.”

All of J.C. Coleman’s lifting numbers were up after a strong
offseason in the strength and conditioning program.

Some of the changes included implementing low-box squats and doing more sled pushes. Low-box squats are essentially traditional back squats, but players had to squat a little lower for a repetition to count. These types of squats took the place of the front squat, a good lift in its own right, but one that works a little different area of the body.

The sled pushes also worked the lower body of each lineman – and developed a little toughness along the way.

“When you think about where your power comes from, it comes from the hips, legs and lower back,” Gentry said. “We want them to be able to create that push on both sides of the ball.

“You look at our roster, and we had a lot of young linemen coming back. We want them to be more physical. Guys like Brent Benedict and Andrew Miller, who was coming off that ankle injury, made great strides. Laurence Gibson was a Super Iron for the first time, and Augie Conte is a Super Iron and he’s only been here a year. Nick Acree had a 500-pound squat coming off an ACL. Dadi Nicolas, his future is unlimited. Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy made strides, and of course, James Gayle, Corey Marshall, and J.R. Collins are great strength athletes.”

Obviously, the focus on the linemen doesn’t mean that Gentry and his staff ignored the skill players. On the contrary, he and his staff changed up the workouts for that group as well.

In past years, skill players lifted twice a week and then did speed and agility workouts twice a week. This winter, though, they lifted four days a week, and it certainly didn’t affect their speed. In fact, 10 skill players ran the 40 in under 4.50 seconds.

Also, Holmes, Jarrett and Riley earned Super Iron Hokie honors for the first time. Riley, like Conte, has only been in Tech’s strength and conditioning program a year, having played last year as a true freshman (Conte redshirted).

“Everyone was doing the same core lifts,” Gentry said. “The workouts were a little different, but the core stuff was similar. We were focused on getting this team stronger.

“I’m not saying we’re Herculean strong. But I think we’re stronger and tougher, and that’s a pretty good place to start. This group has a great attitude and work ethic, and I’m confident we’re going to be better next fall.”