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Texas players make big gains in offseason conditioning program

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Gainz on gainz on gainz.

NCAA Football: Texas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

After several false starts, it appears that the Texas Longhorns finally have a real strength and conditioning program thanks to Yancy McKnight.

Where Jeff Madden and Bennie Wylie and Pat Moorer all largely failed to maximize the strength and athleticism of Texas players for about two decades, the benefits of having McKnight are now showing up in the testing numbers.

In fact, head coach Tom Herman spent a large portion of his opening statement during Monday’s press conference heralding the gains made in the nearly two months since the Texas Bowl victory over Missouri.

Last summer, Herman said that his team had shed 500 pounds of body fat, added 380 pounds of lean muscle mass, and increased its combined vertical by an inch and a half.

The average back squat increased by 70 pounds.

And the progress continued.

Herman said that the team now has an average vertical of 31.5 inches, with 46 players now over 30 inches. Forty players can now power clean 300 pounds or more, a lift that translates particularly well to the movements needed on the football field. The list of players who can back squat 500 pounds is now up to 33.

Several players were highlighted for their pure physical strength or improvements.

Senior defensive end Breckyn Hager can power clean 360 pounds (second best on the team), has added 150 pounds to his back squat, and increased his vertical to 38 inches, one of the best on the team. That’s Brian Robison territory, and defensive coordinator Todd Orlando surely won’t make any more mistakes in miscasting him as a linebacker or keeping him off the field.

Fellow senior defensive end Charles Omenihu also has a remarkable vertical leap — 37.5 inches, which Herman claims is 12 inches more than when he arrived. That’s an unusual achievement and one that Omenihu accomplished while dropping body fat and adding 18 pounds.

The top vertical on the team belongs to senior cornerback Kris Boyd, now at 39.5 inches, an improvement of four inches. Boyd has added 10 pounds of muscle and 105 pounds to his back squat.

One of the most surprising revelations was that some of the team’s strongest players haven’t even been in the program for a whole year yet — senior defensive end Jamari Chisholm, a junior college transfer, has a 585 back squat, while three of the four players who can power clean 350 or more pounds also arrived last summer.

The team’s strongest player is sophomore defensive end Ta’Quon Graham, who can now power clean 375 pounds and is up to 290 pounds on his 6’4 frame. Redshirt freshman Sam Cosmi isn’t far behind at 355 pounds, while sophomore B-backer Marqez Bimage can power clean 350 pounds.

While all the training caveats apply — the young players all need to transfer those strength gains to the functional movements on a football field — the numbers are promising and the level of improvement speaks to how well McKnight does his job.

Herman mentioned that some of those players, like Cosmi and potentially Bimage, who mostly played on special teams, were able to add an extra day of workouts during the week when the contributors were practicing.

Both players are also on track to become evidence of the strong evaluations in the 2017 class by Herman and his staff — Herman said the “sky is the limit” for Cosmi, who is a potential Connor Williams starter pack. Both entered college undersized, and while Williams had the benefit of working hard for years to gain strength after he was bullied as a child, there wasn’t any evidence that Cosmi was as far along.

If he wasn’t then, he’s at least much closer now, and that’s extremely promising.

To mention those caveats again, everything that happens during the spring is just talk until the games start in the fall and the players can show evidence of improvement on the field, but the measurable developments in the strength and conditioning program provides legitimate fodder for optimism.