Updated, 7:28 p.m. ET
Tommy Bohanon came to the Jets as their seventh-round selection in April out of Wake Forest, not exactly one of the biggest programs in college football. ("Hey, we're in the ACC," he reminds with a smile.) Yet he's been attacking our fullback position with a quiet confidence and professionalism that belie that background.
"Definitely, I didn't have any doubts, because of all the work I put in," T-Bo said about making it as an NFL fullback. "I try to be the hardest worker I can be and do everything I can to put myself in the best position to come in and do all they ask me to do."
Late leavers from today's open training camp practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, during which the heat index reached 90°, might have noticed some of that hard work being put in by No. 40. He took his three-point stance in front of a four-foot-high contraption called "the Chute" that looks like Paul Bunyan's boxspring, then ran bent over beneath the springs to deliver a forearm shiver to the Rogers 1-Man Mod Sled stationed under the far end.
Why was he one of the last Jets on the field, putting himself through these two gridiron torture devices combined into one?
"It's just to work on my technique, to keep my pad level low and go low through the blocking, and to be able to come in and do that in any situation in a game ... especially when I'm tired," he said.
Revisiting with Tommy Bohanon is entirely appropriate this week because head coach Rex Ryan said today that we've lost fullback Lex Hilliard for the season due to the shoulder injury he suffered during Tuesday's practice. Ryan didn't specify what the injury was, although he said yesterday it reminded him of his own shoulder dislocation back in the day. Hilliard has been placed on Injured Reserve and will need a medical procedure to fix his damaged wing.
The prospect of starting a 22-year-old rookie at fullback might seem daunting for many NFL coaches — except that Ryan and coordinator Marty Mornhinweg have already started Bohanon in the first two preseason games with Hilliard sidelined by rib issues, and he's been up to the task.
"We'll look at every opportunity out there, but certainly Tommy's been impressive in these camps and in practice, so I feel good about him," Ryan said at this afternoon's news conference. "We also have Konrad [Reuland], who can play fullback as well. Tommy's kind of the garbage man. Whatever it is, he's going to do it — tight end, U, fullback, whatever."
"T-Bone? He's a monster," QB Mark Sanchez said this afternoon. "He's physical. He picked up the system fast and has no problem with contact. That's a good quality in a fullback."
Bohanon, who has his degree in communications from Wake, took his time to craft the right message about his situation now that Hilliard has been taken out of the equation.
"It's definitely unfortunate that it happened and that Lex got injured," he said. "I guess it just makes me focus in more and know all the ins and outs of everything I have to be able to do and just make sure I can do everything that's expected of me."
If the ins and outs of the Chute are any indication, he's on his way.
Stephen Hill bounced back from his collision with CB Antonio Cromartie earlier in practice (see Charlie Frankel's Hill feature later this afternoon) with a beautiful leaping TD grab on a slightly wobbly Matt Simms downfield throw late in practice. ... RB Bilal Powell continues to maneuver sharply and freely behind the first O-line's blocks. ... Ryan said he'd like to see RB Chris Ivory get in a lot of work, not only to run the ball but to protect the QBs, which he said Ivory's improved on. "Today he attacked a linebacker like he was a guard," Rex said, "so that was encouraging to me."
Ryan still isn't tipping his hand on Geno Smith's condition and availability heading toward the Giants, but he was happy to see the rookie QB's showing today. "It wasn't brutal, that's for sure," he said with a chuckle. "I don't know if that was his best day because he's had a lot of good ones, but he had a great day today." ... The attendance for today's last open practice of the training camp period was 1,401.