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April 14, 2014

Hokies own first quarter

By: Jimmy Robertson

Tech’s four quarters of preparation for the upcoming 2014 football season began with winter workouts in the strength and conditioning program, and the Hokies got off to a good start

Wyatt Teller finished among the top five in four lifting categories during Tech’s winter strength and conditioning program.

The Virginia Tech football strength and conditioning area underwent renovations a year ago that included new flooring in both the weight room and the speed and agility room and new equipment.

This spring, a massive new digital display, paid for courtesy of a generous $50,000 donation from the Roanoke Valley Hokie Club, adorns the back wall of the weight room. It allows for the showing of all Tech’s weightlifting records and for the presentation of videos, presumably for any Tech players who break a record in a particular lift.

The display brings the strength and conditioning program into the digital era.

“They dragged me into it,” Dr. Mike Gentry joked.

Rest assured, though, Gentry, the associate AD for athletic performance, and the Hokies haven’t gotten away from the foundation of their program – hard work. The testing results from their six-week winter training session before spring break indicated that.

In all, 56 players earned honors in the strength and conditioning program, including six 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 six who earned Super Iron honors included Brent Benedict, Augie Conte, Wyatt Teller, J.C. Coleman, Chuck Clark and Donovan Riley.

Also, five position records fell, eclipsing the four set a year ago. Conte, a rising redshirt sophomore from Richmond, recorded a 380-pound power clean to set the standard for offensive tackles, breaking his own 375-pound record from last year. Dadi Nicolas, a redshirt junior from Delray Beach, Fla., also broke his own record by recording a 41-inch vertical jump. He set the record for defensive ends last year when he recorded a 40-inch vertical jump.

Coleman, Dahman McKinnon and Colton Taylor also broke position records. Coleman, a junior from Chesapeake, Va., recorded a 455-pound front squat, which is the new standard for tailbacks, while McKinnon, a redshirt sophomore from Hope Mills, N.C., ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. That time is now the best 40 time for an inside linebacker, and it was the second-best time on the team behind Nicolas’ 4.4 (Nicolas is considered faster because he weighs more than McKinnon).

Taylor, a walk-on from Salem, Va., who serves as a long snapper, recorded a 36.5-inch vertical jump. That is now the new record for a specialist.

Last winter, Gentry and his staff focused more on strength than on speed and agility because he felt the Hokies’ young linemen needed to get stronger. This winter, he didn’t deviate much from that plan.

“I doubled down on getting stronger,” Gentry said. “We went back to the basics of strength. We didn’t have as much variety because, honestly, it’s just a six-week period of training and then a week of testing.

“We brought them back to good, old-fashioned hard work. We turned the music off [in the weight room] for six weeks and concentrated on getting stronger. I know it’s the right thing to do. The closer you get to the season, the more variety you need and the agility work you need, but you first need a foundation to build a house.”

The most notable performances came from a few of Tech’s offensive linemen. Teller, a redshirt freshman from Bealeton, Va., finished in the top five in four categories (bench press, back squat, power clean and push jerk). He also bulked up to 295 pounds.

Like Teller, Conte finished in the top five in four categories. In addition to setting the aforementioned mark in the power clean, he led the squad with a 430-pound bench press and 380-pound push jerk. Benedict, a redshirt senior from Jacksonville, Fla., finished in the top five in four categories as well.

“We’ve got a core of offensive linemen that are strong and like being strong, and that’s infectious,” Gentry said. “They’re taking it as an identity, and again, that spreads. That’s what you want. There is nothing like putting a heavy weight on your back and moving it to make you feel better. You feel stronger and have more confidence.”

At other positions, McKinnon stood out and not just for his 40-yard dash time. He recorded a 39-inch vertical jump and led the team in the 10-yard sprint, running it in 1.59 seconds. In the defensive backfield, Desmond Frye earned Iron Hokie honors, along with sophomore Brandon Facyson, redshirt freshman Deon Newsome and redshirt sophomore Greg Jones. On the defensive line, rising redshirt sophomore Ken Ekanem recorded a 340-pound push jerk and Corey Marshall recorded a 360-pound power clean. Luther Maddy had a 405-pound bench press.

“He had a really good offseason,” Gentry said of Maddy. “He didn’t max as well as he performed in the room. But he had a really good offseason.”

Gentry also had good things to say about Facyson, Detrick Bonner, Josh Stanford and Andrew Motuapuaka, a freshman who took a redshirt year last season.

“I’m sure I’m leaving someone out,” Gentry said. “I think, as a group, we had a good offseason. There wasn’t any one person pulling us back.”

The Hokies went through their winter workouts after spring break with their 5:45 a.m. workouts for the two weeks leading up to spring practice. Tech’s staff changed up the routine this season, splitting the entire team into eight groups and coming up with a scoring system for all the drills just to create a little competition. The workout consisted of four 10-minute periods and four stations, with two different sets of drills going on at two of the stations.

After the fourth period, the team gathered for the finishing segment, which consisted of perfect pushups, perfect sit-ups and perfect up-downs. If they weren’t perfect, then the players had to do them again, not as punishment, but to reinforce the importance of concentrating when tired. Players and teams that scored the most points got rewarded with orange t-shirts to wear at the next workout.

Gentry and his staff consider winter workouts the “first quarter” of their strength and conditioning program, and he feels they won the quarter. The second quarter started with spring practice, and he hopes the team wins that, too.

“I don’t know how good we’ll be, but I like the way we’re working,” he said. “This is the first quarter of our four quarters of preparation. I think we won the first quarter. Spring ball is the next one.”