Those not actually in Florida’s offseason strength and conditioning program must be thinking Nick Savage has had the Gators locked in workout hell the past two months.
That assumption would be based on some of the tales, some already almost legendary, that have leaked out.
Like the one about the Gators having to do a 10-mile run across campus on the first day of the program. Ten miles.
Or the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” on Feb. 14, a crushing workout that didn’t break hearts, but almost broke the will of some players.
Or the leg workout back in January that left players barely able to walk away from it.
The reality is, Savage has been tough and demanding of the players, and the program has been really, ready hard. The players were told it would be this way.
But he’s not out to break anyone’s will or scare anyone away from the weight room. He has a much more reasonable and productive goal.
“I want them to be uncomfortable,” Savage said after Saturday’s practice. “They need to learn how to be uncomfortable. Because at some point in the game, in the offseason, whatever it may be, someone is going to be uncomfortable.
“My job is to make sure they understand what being uncomfortable is all about.”
As the players can attest, Savage has many different methods of making them uncomfortable, and then seeing how they respond.
They never know from day to day what Savage is going to throw at them.
“I want it to be a surprise,” he said. “Some have handled it better than others.”
But all are handling it in some way, Savage said. UF coach Dan Mullen spoke a few weeks ago about how the players had bought in to Savage and his program. Savage concurs.
“Obviously, change is hard for a lot of guys,” he said. “(Especially) when you talk about the kind of work level and demand we put on our offseason conditioning program. But from day one we’ve had zero issues in terms of attitude and effort.
“Guys have been completely in. Now, obviously, some individuals have got to develop more than others. That’s all of college football. But in terms of attitude and effort throughout the program and what we expect, it’s been right there.”
Savage said some of the players were initially shocked by the demands of the workouts, but that has worn off as everyone has started adapting to the change.
The players seem to have embraced Savage and his staff, and the program he’s putting them through.
“Savage, he’s lovely. I love his energy every day,” middle linebacker David Reese said. “That’s a man that puts on his work hat every day and he’s going to give you his all. So it’s all love with that guy. He’s amazing.”
And he’s getting results.
Quarterback Feleipe Franks said that at the start of the program the players’ measurables were recorded, things like height, weight, percentage of body fat, and since then there have been significant changes in many of the players.
“You can already see the results,” said Franks, whose body fat has gone from 12 percent to 10. “Our bodies have already changed, how much weight we’ve gained, and how much body fat we’ve lost and the amount of muscle (we’ve added).”
Junior safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson was already a workout warrior under the old staff. He said Savage and the new staff have taken him, and others, to another level.
“It’s probably the best program I’ve been in since I started lifting weights when I was a kid,” he said. “A lot of players have gotten way bigger and stronger.”
Gardner-Johnson was asked how the program has improved him.
“Weight, speed, change of direction. You name it,” he said. “It’s really everything beginning to improve. It’s not just one thing. Last year, you look at all of us, we were stiff, really stiff. Now we’ve got a flexible team. Everybody probably be doing some backflips. It’s crazy, but you guys will see it once everything gets going.”
As for the workout hell part of it, that 10-mile run on day one was just a 2.7-mile run with four workout stations (abs, push-ups, pull-ups, bodyweight squats).
And that Feb. 14 workout, it really was sort of a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
It started out with the players walking into a weight room dressed up in Valentine’s Day decorations, including hearts and Cupid.
Then Savage put the players through a little bit of hell.
“Our main goal is to program that brain that no matter what’s in front of us, we’re going to go attack,” Savage said. “That was the ultimate goal (of the Valentine’s Day Massacre).
“Yes, it was (the most challenging workout of the year). Every day through the offseason it’s gotten progressively harders. But that day likely will stick in their minds.”