Penn State players transform into workout warriors

Centre Daily Times (TNS)
  • Penn State recently had five players run 4.3s in the 40-yard dash.
  • Penn State’s winter-workout bench press average was 348 pounds.
  • Penn State had 14 players who benched 400 pounds or more.

Rap music blared in the background Friday as a crowd of Nittany Lions surrounded running back Andre Robinson at the Lasch Football Building.

“Ayyy, let’s go Dre!” offensive tackle Andrew Nelson yelled, hanging from an adjacent machine. “You got this, Dre, you got this,” tight end Mike Gesicki chimed in on Penn State’s final “Max Out” day of winter workouts.

Running back Saquon Barkley is coming off a sensational sophomore season and is just one of a number of Nittany Lions receiving immense preseason hype.

Robinson, a 5-foot-9 rising redshirt junior, squatted more than 400 pounds with ease — and his teammates went nuts.

Every minute or so on Friday afternoon, that was the atmosphere as player after player improved on last year’s numbers and tried to one-up each other — and strength coach Dwight Galt loved every second of it.

“I’m so excited with where they are and what they did,” Galt said, moments after the weight room cleared and music halted. “The best thing is they’re so motivated right now. They’re positive, aggressive, humble but confident. It’s a blast for me.”

Galt was as jacked about the numbers Penn State posted as he was the energy.

When Galt arrived at Penn State with head coach James Franklin in 2014, they had two players — Adrian Amos and DeAndre Thompkins — run in the 4.4-second range in the 40-yard dash. This go-around, the Nittany Lions boasted five players in the 4.3s — Thompkins, tailback Saquon Barkley, cornerback Grant Haley, wideout Saeed Blacknall and January walk-on transfer corner Jabari Butler — with 13 guys in the 4.4 range.

The Nittany Lions bolstered their bench press and cleaning, too. Galt said Penn State’s winter-workout bench press average of 348 pounds is the best-ever under his direction at Penn State — and 14 players benched 400 pounds or more.

“I haven’t had that since the mid-80s at Maryland,” the coach said, seemingly still surprised.

Meanwhile, the power clean is “where the explosiveness is,” Galt noted. Of the 93 players participating, 61 cleaned 300 pounds or better.

The Nittany Lions have “ultra cleaners,” as well, guys who do 350 pounds or more. Typically, a program has one to three of those, but Galt said the Nittany Lions had 15.

“We’re really doing a good job of not just getting 300,” Galt said. “We’re really maximizing our explosiveness.”

Ultimately, Galt and his staff grade players on a “Tier 3” to “Tier 1” basis, the former being elite performers and the latter representing those who have plenty of room to improve, mostly freshmen.

Last year, Penn State finished with nine players in the Tier 1 category. Now, the Nittany Lions are at 19, with 53 players in Tier 2 and 29 in Tier 1.

Saying that alone brought a smile to the coach’s face.

“We continue to evolve in that program,” Galt said. “That system I think is refining and improving as we’re learning how it works.”