Connors is reluctant to single out many players because the entire team has put in so much effort over the summer, but he had high praise for the senior leadership in the weight room. “The leadership being provided by this group jumps out at me,” Connors said. “In particular, Larry Edwards has been outstanding in that regard.”
He expects big things from another senior tight end Jon Hamlett. Hamlett built on what Connors thought was a great winter and spring and broke the squat record for tight ends at North Carolina. With a big year on the field, Hamlett is a candidate to get his name called in the NFL draft next year.
A couple of Tar Heels previously limited because of injuries are now back working full steam. Senior cornerback Jacoby Watkins and red-shirt freshman Jordan Hemby are participating at 100 percent in all the workout drills. “ Jordan Hemby is very explosive,” Connors said. Hemby notched a 40” inch vertical leap in testing. Sophomore offensive lineman Calvin Darity ”is back to full” according to Connors.
Connors had more encouraging news for other Tar Heels overcoming injuries. “(Cameron) Sexton has done an outstanding job of rehabbing his ankle while at the same time getting bigger and stronger. He’s in the low 190’s, but we’d like to get him up to about 200 pounds.” Connors also noted that sophomore Mark Paschal, who played as a true freshman last year, has rehabbed from a shoulder injury and been able to make solid gains since his recovery.
Sophomore offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds has been impressive in conditioning, turning in “skill” type times in running drills. “He always finishes forty yards ahead of the other linemen,” Connors said. Pretty impressive stuff, since Reynolds weighs in at 304 pounds. “Reynolds and (Kyle) Jolly realize how important it is for them to be ready to play this year,” Connors said.
Red-shirt freshman Bryan Dixon has put up “really good numbers in the weight room,” according to Connors. Testing won’t be completed until next week, and Inside Carolina will check back at that time for test results such as the names of players who make the “Super Ram” designation established by Connors to recognize those who have excelled in strength and conditioning.
Connors has also been impressed with some of the true freshmen. “The three receivers (Hakeem Nicks, Denuta Williams, and Ryan Taylor) came in showing they had been preparing hard on their own; they look good,” Connors said., “I’ve also been impressed with the running backs; Johnny (White) looks good and (Anthony) Elzy does too.” White reported at 200 pounds, and Elzy at 213. Connors also mentioned linebacker Logan Buchanan as a freshman that had prepared well before enrolling in summer school.
Connors reflected a bit on what he has seen at UNC since his arrival in 2001, “Over the years, through better recruiting, we’ve seen more guys on both sides of the line come in with the genetic potential to grow and develop through strength and conditioning.. With the teams we play inside the ACC and out-of-conference, it requires depth to compete. We are now seeing more depth across the board instead of wondering who might be able to step up and fill a starter’s spot.”
With the commitment shown by the players this summer, the leadership being displayed by the seniors, the health of the team improving, true freshmen reporting as if they plan on playing next year, and more depth across the board, the strength and conditioning news just adds to the good vibes emanating from the football program this summer.