Hype for Hood

Hype for Hood

GREENSBORO, N.C. – Elijah Hood arrived at North Carolina in January with a five-star recruit ranking and lofty expectations in tow. UNC head coach Larry Fedora didn’t shy away from adding to the hype surrounding his rookie running back at the ACC Kickoff media event on Monday.

“He’s special,” Fedora told reporters at Grandover Resort. “You don’t have a lot of kids like that in any program I’ve been in.”

Hood, a consensus top-10 running back in the country and the U.S. Army Game Player of the Year, is a true power back with a slick set of wheels.

“He’s 225 pounds, he’s got great speed and he likes to run into things,” Fedora said. “He really does. When he breaks through, he’s not necessarily looking to avoid contact. He’s looking for somebody to run into. Our team, their team, it doesn’t matter to him. It’s just that he wants something to hit.”

Hood lived up to his billing during UNC’s 15 spring practices, prompting Fedora and offensive coordinator Seth Littrell to consider utilizing more two-back sets to maximize the talent at running back.

While it’s too early for Fedora to speculate about Hood’s role in the offense – UNC opens training camp on Aug. 1 – a planned red-shirt is off the table.

“He’s going to play in the first game if he’s healthy,” Fedora said. “His production is going to determine how much he plays in the next game and the next game.”

Hood’s center of gravity and vision were on display during the spring game, while his 605-pound squat made the rounds on Twitter on Friday. Fedora told reporters that the Charlotte, N.C. product could have squatted more had the strength and conditioning staff not stopped him.

“I've seen offensive linemen doing that, but he's a running back squatting 605?” quarterback Marquise Williams said on Sunday. “I've never seen that a day in my life.”

One overlooked aspect of the running back’s role is pass protection. Sophomore T.J. Logan admittedly struggled in that regard last fall. For Hood, however, blocking hasn’t been an issue.

Fedora praised the freshman for his ability to grasp the protection concepts, including blitz recognition and understanding who to pick up.

“He blew me away in how quickly he picked those up,” Fedora said. “Faster than any freshman running back I’ve ever had. And the way he picked up the offense… he was doing things I’ve never had a freshman running back do. And I’m talking protection; I’m not talking about carrying the football.”

Which, by all accounts, is how Hood (3,690 yards, 53 TDs in '13) earned his five-star recruit ranking.

 

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