CHAPEL HILL – After dropping 22 pounds during the summer, RB A.J. Blue says he’s making moves he hasn’t made ‘in a while’ and is now in a position to be a team leader.
Blue has trimmer more than 20 pounds from his 6-2 frame since the beginning of the summer
Offensive coordinator Blake Anderson in particular had some good things to say about the work the junior from Gastonia, N.C. put in over the summer.
“I think he did a great job over the summer and he trimmed his body down,” Anderson said. “I think he went through the spring heavy and wasn’t at his best. He got with the nutritionist and strength guys over the summer and changed his body. He’s been a vocal leader and he leads by example everyday. His body is in better shape so he’s making more plays. He’s been a bright spot, he’s going to give us more depth at that position and more leadership which is hard to come by.”
Blue spoke with reporters on Wednesday about his transformation and emergence as a leader on offense.
“It all started back with Coach (Butch) Davis who wanted me to lose 10-pounds,” the North Gaston product said. “I just… I don’t know… I didn’t get it done. Then the new coaching staff came in and I really wanted to make a good impression. I really wanted it not to be for me but for them as well. I just put my boots on and I lost about 20 pounds.
“I really have to thank Coach Lou and the conditioning staff because they really helped me. They had me doing a tremendous amount of work and now I feel a lot better.”
Blue trimmed off more than 20 pounds from his heaviest weight at the beginning of summer conditioning.
“I was 234 at the beginning of the summer in early June and that was the heaviest I’ve been,” he said. “I’m about 212 right now. I wanted to be 215 by the beginning of training camp and I got there. Now I’m pushing for 210 and if I can get lower than that then it would be even better.
“I feel a lot different. The past two scrimmages I made moves that I’ve made in the past but not the recent past. I feel like I’m getting back to my old self and I can make the shakes. I don’t have to be a legit bruiser every time I get the ball. I can cut and make moves in space.”
The junior running back thinks that his being slimmer has only helped his transition to the spread offense.
“It’s definitely mandatory to be faster in this offense. That’s what we want to be. We want to be fast and slash the defense and have them gasping for air. I feel like the faster I am the better chance I have to leave the defense gasping for air.
“I think it gives us an opportunity to make big plays. It’s not a grind and pound type offense. It creates big plays for us because you have to put so much emphasis on the pass. The lanes are going to be so big and I think with the weight I’ve lost I’ll be fast enough to hit the holes when the open.”
The lighter weight has also help Blue continue to recover from a devastating knee injury he suffered during the ’09 season.
“It’s definitely helped with my knee. Over the summer it took a toll on me as far as conditioning. We did a tremendous amount of reps and I wasn’t worried about it in the past but it got a hold of me this summer.
“Couch Lou put be with the skill guys over the summer and I was running a lot better with them. It was a task to keep up but as the weight came off week by week I found myself keeping up with them. My knee just got better as I went on.”
Both Gio Bernard and Romar Morris have remarked that Blue has become not just a leader in the running back group but also on offense. It’s a move that has come naturally for Blue but also one that took some time.
“Being a leader was just something that has come natural,” Blue explained. “I’ve been on the ‘back end’ since I’ve been here with my injuries. I finally got my confidence back and I feel like I can speak up when I need to.
“In the past we had leaders like T.J. Yates, Bruce Carter, Shaun Draughn and them boys and stepping up and speaking over them didn’t seem right at the time. But now I feel a lot better, more mature, a lot smarter and in a position where I can just lead the team.”