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Elijah Hood already impressing UNC coach, teammates

By Andrew Carter
acarter@newsobserver.com

GREENSBORO Elijah Hood has yet to play in his first college game but already he is doing things at North Carolina that people around him have never seen. Some of those things involve physical feats and others are more mental.

First, the physical. Hood, a former standout at Charlotte Catholic High where he became one of the most sought prospects in the nation, recently squatted 605 pounds. Quarterback Marquise Williams, also from Charlotte, was there and was, predictably, impressed.

“I’ve seen offensive lineman doing that, but he’s a running back squatting 605?” Williams said Sunday during interviews at ACC Kickoff. “I’ve never seen that a day in my life.”

Hood enrolled early at UNC, arriving in Chapel Hill in January. His strength, apparently, is something that comes naturally to him. So is coach Larry Fedora’s up-tempo spread offense.

Fedora raved Monday about Hood’s grasp of the offense. Keep in mind that Hood has yet to go through his first preseason practice, and that he’s still more than a month from his first college game.

“In what we do, (the running back has) got to be able to pass protect, he’s got to know protections, he’s got to do a lot of things,” Fedora said. “I will tell you that (Hood) blew me away in how quickly he picked those up.

“Faster than any freshman running back I’ve ever had, in the way he picked up the offense. I mean, he was doing things that I’ve never had a freshman running back do. And I’m talking protection, I’m not talking about carrying the football.”

As much as anything, Hood’s grasp of the offense and his ability to pass protect – if it translates to the field on game days – could lead to early playing time. The offensive line is likely to experience some early growing pains while it figures out how to adapt amid the loss of two key starters a season ago.

The ability to block effectively, then, will be essential for UNC’s running backs. Hood, perhaps the most heralded member of the incoming class, will compete for time in a crowded backfield that also includes T.J. Logan, who was among UNC’s best incoming players last season, and Romar Morris, who has excelled at times the past two seasons.

Logan and Morris are known for speed and elusiveness, while Hood, listed in UNC’s media guide at 6-foot and 220 pounds, runs with a more punishing style. Fedora said Hood would prefer to run through obstacles, not around them.

“He’s 225 pounds, he’s got great speed and he likes to run into things,” Fedora said. “You know, he really does. When he breaks through, he’s not necessarily looking to avoid contact. He’s looking for somebody to run into. Our team, their team. Doesn’t matter to him. It’s just he wants something to hit.”

Fedora finished his thought and then began to smile. He said, joking, that it might be fun for reporters to come out and experience first-hand what he was talking about.

“I think it would be a great thing, maybe, (for) you guys to come out to practice and suit up one day and we let Elijah just like run into each one of y’all,” Fedora said. “I think it would be fun. … It’d be fun for him, too, it really would.

“I think it’d be a good experience for you. You would get the true understanding of what it’s like.”

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