UF strength coach Marotti teaches players chemistry
Published: Saturday, June 7, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 7, 2008 at 12:07 a.m.
Urban Meyer calls him The Godfather. The players call him The Man.
What Mickey Marotti really is right now is the acting head football coach at the University of Florida.
It happens every spring (and summer).
Once May arrives, Meyer and his assistants can have only limited contact with the players. This is when Marotti and his strength and conditioning staff step in and take over. The Gators are in their demanding hands now.
"I have no problem with that responsibility," Marotti said. "This is our main time right now. Some people ask what you do all summer. When there's a week left in the summer and we're going into camp, they may say, ‘Now it's the time to crank it up.’ Well, I've been cranking since May 12. This team has been cranking."
From the 6:30 a.m. runs, to the combative one-on-one mat drills, to the lifting sessions in the weight room, Marotti's offseason conditioning program is legendary.
It is designed to build strength, character and accountability, and to create chemistry and a strong bond among the players.
Apparently it's working.
"Mickey is the man," sophomore center Maurkice Pouncey said. "We all love him like a father. He pushes us to the limit, where we can't go anymore, and he makes us better. He's one of the biggest guys who motivates us. The players have really responded well to him this summer.
"Everyone loves him and looks up to him. He's the first one out there at 6:30 in the morning. We're all motivated. It's a big difference from a year ago. There is a lot of chemistry on this team."
Meyer can have only limited contact with his players, but not with Marotti. "He's probably tired of me calling him all the time," Meyer said.
So, what is Marotti telling Meyer these days?
"Everything is good," Marotti said.
In the spring, Meyer said building team chemistry was a priority, because last year's team, with so many young players and so few seniors, was not very close coming off the national championship season.
Meyer's goal is Marotti's goal.
"I've seen a lot (of chemistry) develop," Marotti said. "I tell them every day that I'm doing my part with team functions and workouts and team stuff, but you have to do it off the field, maybe hanging out and eating together. A bunch of the guys went to Ginnie Springs the other day and did stuff and had fun together. That's kind of how you develop chemistry.
"They're taking pride in (developing chemistry), more so than just running stadium steps together or team workouts. You can't play for a teammate if you don't know him, if you only work out together eight hours a week."
Marotti said he gave the players a little chemistry test earlier this week, and they passed.
"I (randomly) called two guys out at a time and said, ‘When was the last time you hung out with this guy?’ ” Marotti said. "I did it six times and couldn't stump anybody."
Pouncey said this year's team is much closer than last year's.
"A lot of guys are hanging out together, and not just the same guys in small groups like a year ago," Pouncey said. "We're like a big family. We were all young last year. Everyone has grown up. I'm glad we're all closer. It's more fun now, especially the workouts."
Along with building team unity, the summer program also is about getting bigger, stronger and tougher. Marotti said the Gators are making significant progress in those areas as well.
"I see a more mature team," he said. "It's kind of the evolution of a program. These players who were so young last year are maturing. They've always worked hard. Now, they're working with a purpose. It's that entitlement thing Coach Meyer is always talking about.
"My whole thing is maturity and the chemistry. To me, if you've got those two things, I think you're heading down the right path. I think that's where we're heading."
The Gators work out Monday through Friday. The schedule consists of running four days, lifting four days, and two days of speed conditioning, agility work and position work, Marotti said.
Marotti said some seniors have emerged as leaders, led by offensive linemen Phil Trautwein, Jim Tartt and Jason Watkins, wide receiver Louis Murphy, tailback Kestahn Moore and defensive tackle Javier Estopinan, who has recovered from knee surgery.
"Those three senior offensive linemen have been as strong as anybody I've ever coached. They've got that (offensive line) where you want it," Marotti said. "Estopinan, to me, is like the mother hen of the defensive line. It's him and a bunch of sophomores and freshmen. He's back doing everything. To me, he's a must-have guy for a lot of reasons.
"Murphy has come a long way in his four years, and Kestahn Moore is a big-time guy that's got that running back group really busting it. He's come to the forefront."
Here are some other highlights of the summer program, according to Marotti:
* Wide receiver Percy Harvin's rehab (following heel surgery in the spring) is on schedule and, pound-for-pound, he's one of the strongest players on the team. "He has really gotten strong," Marotti said.
* True freshman defensive lineman Matt Patchan has gained weight and strength, and the goal is to get him up to about 270 pounds for the start of two-a-days. "He's on schedule. He's a gifted athlete," Marotti said.
* Outside linebacker A.J. Jones, middle linebacker Brandon Spikes and defensive tackle Lawrence Marsh are among the most improved. "We needed Brandon Spikes to step up, and that's what he's done," Marotti said.
* The goal to get tailback Chris Rainey up to 180-plus pounds is on hold while he's still running track.
* True freshman Omar Hunter has been impressive. "He's a great kid with a great personality with a lot of juice. He's very strong, but he's still only a freshman," Marotti said.
* True freshman center Sam Robey has made dramatic gains, in weight and strength, and is zooming toward the 300-pound mark. "He's a great kid and he works hard," Marotti said.
It's been a busy summer so far for the Gators, and Marotti is right in the middle of it all. He's basically the head coach right now — and Meyer is cool with that.
"If you don't trust your strength coach, you've got a problem. That's not an issue here," Meyer said. "Mickey's the Godfather (of strength coaches)."
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