A few days before FIU opens its 15th football season against Indiana, FIU football strength and conditioning coach Chad Smith makes his annual visit to the blog to tell us about the Panthers offseason training.
FIU tight end Jonnu Smith is stronger than ever coming back from his knee injury last season. Smith, who has NFL scouts coming out in droves to see him at FIU practice, gained four inches in his vertical jump after his injury going from 36 inches to 40 inches. Smith has increased his squat from 540 pounds last summer to 625 pounds this summer. Smith squats the most weight on the team.
"Jonnu is so physically gifted that he is almost near his ceiling," Smith said. "It's hard to make gains as a senior but he did so because of his work ethic. I tell all the NFL scouts that Jonnu doesn't let things beat him. He's the prized cow."
The other Panther that NFL scouts are taking a shine to is tackle Dieugot Joseph because of how he has developed. Joseph increased his bench press from 335 to 375 pounds in the span of two months (5/16 to 7/16). Joseph also went up in the squat from 420 to 480 and even added almost two inches to his vertical going from 28.5 to 30.
"One of the first things NFL scouts have told me this year is they can't believe how good Dieugot looks," Smith said. "Dieugot is an extremely strong human being. Scouts really love his feet and the way he moves on the line."
When it comes to which position group rules the FIU weight room that would be the linebackers according to Smith. Linebackers Anthony Wint, Treyvon Williams and Davison Colimon lead the way for the rest of the team.
Williams added 50 pounds to his squat to 450 pounds despite Smith saying that the squat is Williams's "Kryptonite". Williams tacked on 40 pounds on his bench press from 360 to 400.
"Treyvon has always been upper body strong," Smith said. "I think he is hungrier from missing most of last season to injury. He's motivated and when he talks people listen."
After Jonnu Smith, Wint squats the second-most on the team at 600 pounds. Colimon has added 95 pounds to his squat since his freshman season from 320 to 415 pounds.
"Colimon is the pitbull of the team," Smith said. "He makes sure everybody walks the straight line. Makes my job a lot easier. The linebackers have the best weight room numbers and work ethic. They run this weight room. They are locked in."
While the linebackers set the pace, Smith likes to point out that defensive lineman Leonard Washington is also up there as far as strength and leadership. Washington benches 435 pounds and squats 540 pounds.
"Leonard has always been strong," Smith said. "He is the hero of the preseason training. He has established a culture of accountability and has had an influence on the younger players. He gave one of the most powerful speeches about how everyone has to be held accountable if this team is going to do special things. The kids followed him after that speech."
Smith has high hopes for some of the newest Panthers such as safety Olin Cushion and receiver Tony Gaiter.
Cushion reported to FIU at 161 pounds in January and is up to 181 pounds now. According to Smith, Cushion couldn't bench 95 pounds and now is hitting 225 on the bench.
"You started to see the Miami Central come out in him," Smith said. "You see the reasons why Miami Central won all those titles in Cushion. Gaiter has such a tremendous work ethic. You can see that he's the son of a coach. He's small but strong. He's going to help us right away. He's the biggest standout among the freshmen."
Other notables from the offseason program according to Smith:
Cornerback Emmanuel Lubin: "His maturity changed. He's developed and he's definitely stepped up knowing he will play a major role in the secondary."
Cornerback Isaiah Brown: "He was 5 to 10 yards ahead of everyone when we ran gassers and he wasn't even breaking a sweat. He's developing and he has pushed the older guys."
Quarterback Alex McGough: "The leadership he has on the field translates to the weight room. He will go to failure and he is not afraid of pain. Tough kid. His mental game has certainly improved."
Center Michael Montero: "He's the blue collar worker of the group. He's pretty damn strong. His vertical went up 3.5 inches which is not normal for an offensive lineman."
Receiver Thomas Owens: "He had a really good offseason. His confidence started to come out in the weight room. His vertical is not good but somehow when the ball is in the air he always seems to go up and get it."