Marotti Busy Prepping the Gators for the BCS

Bowl preparation can be very tricky for a football team. There are weeks in between the last regular season game and the bowl game and in the case of the Florida Gators, a month. The tricky part has to do with not having them ready too early. Florida Strength and Conditioning Coach Mickey Marotti plays a big part in getting the team ready and there is no December more important than this one.

Motivation plays a big part of getting ready when the game is so far away. With a game a week away, there isn't time for a let down and the team is always going hard. With four weeks or more, staying up and focused on the opponent is key.

One focus for this team and this bowl game should be the opposing quarterback. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is the Heisman Trophy winner and threw it all over the place in 2008 to earn the award. There is a little bit of animosity built up at Florida over the award this year as Gator quarterback Tim Tebow was left off of over 150 ballots that were turned in.

The question has been asked whether the Gators' defense might have a little extra edge to them in this game given the circumstances.

"We haven't used that yet," said a smirking Mickey Marotti after practice Tuesday. "I imagine Tim will have some motivational things he needs to go for, but we haven't used it."

Marotti couldn't remember if using the Heisman Trophy winner in Troy Smith was motivation for the 2006 team to play lights out in their BCS Championship game.

"I don't know how much we did that other than with the defense," Marotti said. "It is very similar to us playing the number one defense in the conference in Alabama."

This team hasn't really lacked motivation in 2008. They have come out strong and finished strong almost every time out. Marotti puts that back on last season and the rigorous off-season this team went through.

"That motivation started last year in January.," Marotti said using the focus of a disappointing four loss season in 2007. "All we did was put a couple of videos on and showed them the videos (of last season's losses) before they did stadiums. They have really grown up."

There were a few tough lessons in 2007, lessons that many knew they would go through. Still, the Gator players were shocked when they actually lined up and lost a few games.

"I think a lot of those guys were entitled when they came in the '06 class. Some of them played, most of them didn't. They did snow angels in the confetti after the SEC Championship game, they did snow angels at the BCS game. They got big rings and a lot of things. They got invited to parties but hadn't done anything. They didn't do anything and when we went back to work they had a hard time with the work and doing things like the other class did. It went all into the '07 stuff and now they have all matured and kind of grown up a little bit."

Head Coach Urban Meyer has talked a few times about the professionalism of this Gator squad. That professionalism should foster itself in December as the Gators prepare for Oklahoma. Until the short holiday break, the Gators will be going through phase one of their three phase bowl preparation. This time is all about staying in shape and keeping up with their fundamentals.

"This is phase one," Marotti said. "We do a lot of fundamental work on the field and in the weight room we are doing a lot of basic lifting and conditioning and get them prepped and ready to go."

In the SEC Championship, the Gators finally overcame an obstacle they have not been able to in the last two years. They were forced to come from behind in the final quarter of the game to win it. Against the No. 1 team in the country at the time, it was a pretty nice feat for this team. Marotti believes it was more about leadership than actually being more fit than before.

"I don't know if it's how much we did with running (and conditioning)," Marotti said. "I think it's just their approach to everything. They are a grown up team and they matured they kind of understand everything now. Obviously we condition for the fourth quarter like a lot of teams do...the leaders needed to step up and when they do, they bring everybody with them."

All eyes and ears will be on finding out the progress of star receiver/running back Percy Harvin and his health leading up to the game. Marotti said they are taking it easy on Percy now, but he is hopeful the All-American will be ready to go down in Miami.

"It will be the same as always," Marotti said about Harvin's prep work until he can really move on his foot. "He will do a lot of weight work and alternative conditioning. The trainers are doing a great job with him and it is up to them right now to for the time and get him ready to go. I am hoping (he will be 100 percent)."

One of Marotti's responsibilities this time of year is to deal with the possibilities of players that may want to look at their NFL draft options. He said that this staff does not push the question with any of the players but will look into it for anyone that wants to.

"Our approach is we aren't going to tell them what to do," he said. "It's up to them and their families. We just file the paperwork if they come and ask we give them an educated answer of what is out there. But, we never ever tell them what to do."

When the talk is there, they still don't just push for any player to look into the draft status.

"We have been real selective on who we endorse to go do that paper work," he said. "The NFL is getting so many of those, it's a waste of time, so the more that are in they aren't getting great feedback. Percy's done the paper work."

Harvin is the only one right now who has done anything with the NFL paperwork, but Marotti realizes there will probably be more that want to look at their situation.

"Percy and really that's it," Marotti said when asked about Tim Tebow and linebacker Brandon Spikes. "We're still kind of talking among ourselves right now. We haven't sat down yet, but getting a meeting set up. Tim got back (from new York and Heisman festivities) and we haven't had time to talk.

According to Marotti, it is only Percy Harvin that has expressed interest in looking into the NFL option at this time.


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