Strength Staff Mixes It Up

A new strength coach means starting from square one in many different areas. The staff is working to rebuild from the beginning, including technique and the workout regiments. Regardless of sport or workout, the strength coaches want to push the Florida players to be uncomfortable and help build mental toughness. It's a different workout than what Florida players went through last year.

First-year strength coach Jeff Dillman is changing things in the weight room. There's more of a focus on Olympic based weightlifting. Dillman has pushed power cleans, hang cleans and snatches from rarely seen in the Griffin-Oakley Strength & Conditioning Complex to happening daily.

It's different than the program run by former strength coach Mickey Marotti, who left Gainesville and followed Urban Meyer to Ohio State.

"We do more things that are functional to the sport that helped me in the past develop explosive athletes," Dillman said. "The old saying is ‘do what works and save the rest for clinic talks.' This is what works for me. Mickey has a philosophy that works for him, and he has been very successful at it."

Since the switch to Olympic weightlifting, Dillman has focused on loosening up players' hips. He also found out that it has eliminated most stiff post-workout back problems.

Olympic lifting focuses on power. Dillman pointed out that the weightlifters at the Olympics have the highest vertical leaps of any athlete in attendance. It's not basketball and track and field athletes, but the ones lifting. The snatch, hang cleans and power cleans focus on explosiveness through the legs, which Dillman and his staff believe will translate to the gridiron.

"Basically what we do in football is training the total body," assistant director of strength and conditioning Jesse Ackerman said. "We want to make it specific for their sport. This is all-important. We're reeducating them right now of certain motor patterns they lost during the season. We're getting those back right now. What we're doing right now is getting those engrained and will progress them throughout."

Whether lifting or going through team-building exercises, the strength staff's focus is usually on the same thing. It's all about stretching players out of their physical and mental comfort zones. The staff tries to push them into uncomfortable situations, and once they get comfortable with that weight or with that mental situation, they'll push them a little further.

"That's the process of making athletes better," said Matt DeLancey, the assistant director of strength and conditioning. "As they get better through that process, their injury rates come down and their performance goes up."

There's also the relationship with the players. Dillman learned under current LSU strength coach Tommy Moffitt the different workouts he uses today but also the importance of the relationship with the players. In the offseason, Dillman and his staff spend more time than Will Muschamp and the current Florida assistant coaches. They work on team unity and leadership, too.

When Dillman got to Gainesville, his first task wasn't to input the workouts or perfect the team's technique. He focused on showing the players that he cares.

"The transition has been great," Dillman said. "Kids have been responsive and they're working hard for us. That's all I ask—give me 100% every day and we're happy.

"No resistance at all. The kids want to be coached. Everybody wants to be coached. Kids want to know how much you care before they want to know how much you know. They know we care about them and we'll keep it real with them."

Dillman learned early in his career that players don't listen or respect the staff if they feel like the relationship ends when they leave the weight room every day. It's an important part for Dillman and his staff.

"We keep it real with them," Dillman said. "That's the most important piece. Everywhere I've been, whether I've trained NFL athletes or young kids at IMG Academics, Appalachian State or in Baton Rouge at LSU, it has always been about keeping it real with the kids. They can tell if you're real or if you're not.

"You're the same way. You want somebody to be honest with you. You don't want them to sugarcoat it. That's our philosophy here. Coach the kids, because they want to know you care about them. If you put your hands on them and coach them, they know you care."

Because of that, the staff itself has also become closer. The nine staff members and three interns have built chemistry together that they're hoping spills into the teams they work with.

"Our staff is closer," said Paul Chandler, strength and conditioning coordinator for baseball and softball. "I feel like from basketball to baseball to football, I feel like our staff has a little more cohesiveness.

"A lot of that has to do with personality. Jeff's personality is very infectious. I'm not saying Coach Mick and other people weren't solid human beings. It was just different human beings. I think the personalities fit very well with the existing staff."

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