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INSIDE THE FORT, Part 1: Ben Herbert on impressive Michigan players, including J.J. McCarthy, Blake Corum and ‘an absolute beast’

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INSIDE THE FORT, Part 1: Ben Herbert on impressive Michigan players, including J.J. McCarthy, Blake Corum and ‘an absolute beast’

CLEVELAND — spoke exclusively with Michigan Wolverines football head strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert, who dished on players who’ve stood out during the winter and spring training cycles, on the team’s spring trip in Ohio.

Herbert said there’s a “laundry list” of players in the mold of former Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, who came to him before the 2021 season and asked Herbert to “wring me out” every day in the weight room. That’s the culture that’s been built, and Herbert is more than happy to hold guys back (when needed), rather than talk them into doing more.


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Junior quarterback J.J. McCarthy is in that group. He gained 12-14 pounds since last season, he revealed this spring. His Michigan strength coach believes it’ll benefit him greatly in a number of ways.

“He’s an incredible example of doing what he needed to do — training-wise, nutrition-wise, fueling-wise,” Herbert stressed. “Any time you have some additional lean mass on your frame, in my opinion, when you strike or get struck, it allows you to tolerate that better.

“Never sacrificing one thing for another, so all of his traits — movement-wise, strength of power-wise — he’s in an incredible place. It’s all across the board, the key performance indicators across the board are in an incredible place. 

“Upon contact, [the added weight] makes a difference. He’s a great example of a guy that, [there’s a] fine line of enough and too much. The dude will go and will go and will go and will go. For him, to find that sweet spot.

“He’s one of many that I have to watch these guys like, that’s right where we need to be.”

A program source told us last season that senior running back Blake Corum is the most “trustworthy” player on the team. He never misses a practice, workout class — and his habits are elite. Rehabbing from a meniscus and MCL injury suffered late last season, Corum was active working his upper body in the weight room. He said he’s gained 10 pounds of muscle (up from 210 last season), which is almost hard to believe given how jacked the Heisman contender already was.

“The biggest thing for Blake is, you go into spring practice … for some of the guys who were limited, it’s like, ‘OK, you can’t do this, but we’re gonna do that,’” the Michigan strength coach explained. “The most important thing for me is that at the end of spring ball, there’s going to be no doubt in your mind that you’re better than you were. That’s the goal every time those guys train, especially during practice with the guys that are limited. When they get done with those 15 spring practices — ’oh, yeah, I know I got better.’

“You just redirect the focus. That’s exactly what he did, and that’s why it was so important. He had done 28, 29 reps, and then we created the opportunity for him to put up 30 in front of his teammates. That’s a big deal, because he’s a guy who’s incredibly well-balanced across the field. His movement traits, combined with his strength of power, are very, very rare. That’s just one example of it.”

Herbert has no concern with his weight gain, either, stating that it’ll “organically take care of itself.”

“Once his movement capabilities are back to where they need to be, then it’s going to take care of itself,” Herbert said. “Wherever that number is, I look at the traits. The number, whether it’s 220 or 209 or somewhere in between, making sure that he is doing the things that he’s capable of doing and that he needs to do.”

And they track everything, Herbert said.

More Michigan players who took big steps in offseason

Herbert was extremely pleased with the Wolverines’ offseason program — five weeks in the winter, five in the spring and four after spring practiced concluded. Now, some time “off,” before the summer cycle begins. Several players — too many for Herbert to name — made big strides.

“The biggest thing I look for is that, the guys that everyone knows, the guys that are at the forefront of our program are our hardest workers, they’re our smartest workers and they’re the most committed,” Michigan’s strength coach said. “That’s the most important thing there.

“And then young guys that people got a taste of last year will make a significant impact on this football team. Guys like [sophomore defensive tackle] K.G. — Kenneth Grant — [classmate and D-tackle] Mason Graham, what [junior safety] Rod Moore has done.”

Herbert raved about Moore, who broke out late in his freshman season and thrived as a full-time starter in his second campaign. Moore collected 4 interceptions and was a key force stopping the run, as well, ranking third on the team with 71 tackles.

“Moore was ‘Little Rod.’ I called him ‘Little Rod.’ He was a 168-pound guy,” Herbert said of when the defensive back entered the Michigan program. “Then he became ‘Rod.’ He was in the 180 range — 182, 183 range. Now he’s ‘Big Rod.’

“He’s 195 pounds, 196-pound guy. That’s significant. His ability, all the things he does so well, but now for him to come down hill — the physicality portion of what he needs to do, combined with now he still has all of his speed and athleticism, is significant.”

And then there’s the “alien,” as former Michigan wideout Ronnie Bell would describe sophomore cornerback Amorion Walker, who switched from wide receiver to defense this spring. His 6.10-second three-cone drill this winter turned heads. He and senior wideout Roman Wilson — another speedster — have been competing.

“Amorion Walker is … what his traits are, what he’s done — 158-pound guy that’s now 187 pounds and is as freaky as they come,” Herbert said. [The three-cone drill] is incredible. And Roman Wilson, he and Roman Wilson … He ran a 3.71 20-yard shuttle and is a 6.17, 6.15 [three-cone drill] — and that gets overshadowed because A-Walk ran that 6.10.

“But those two feeding off each other. Seeing Roman and Amorion compete against each other and pushing that envelope has been fun to facilitate.”

Others have been freaky in with their agility, too.

“Cornelius Johnson,” Herbert began. “J.J. runs a 6.26-second three-cone. C.J. runs a 6.28, and everybody’s looking around like …”

Wilson, though, is one who could take a big step and have a big season for Michigan in 2023.

“Beast. He’s an absolute beast,” Herbert said emphatically. “And his urgency and his maturity, he’s in a great place. But that dude is a monster. I think he’s going to have a huge year.”

Watch for part two of Inside The Fort on Friday, with plenty more intel to come on Michigan football and basketball.

The post INSIDE THE FORT, Part 1: Ben Herbert on impressive Michigan players, including J.J. McCarthy, Blake Corum and ‘an absolute beast’ appeared first on On3.

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