Q&A with UF strength coach Mickey Marotti

Published: Monday, May 25, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 12:26 a.m.

The defending national champion Florida Gators are currently going through what head coach Urban Meyer describes as the toughest offseason conditioning program in the history of the football program. The man behind the program is strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti, whom Meyer calls the best strength coach in America.

Earlier this week, Marotti sat down with a handful of writers who cover the team to discuss the summer conditioning program:

Q: How has the offseason conditioning program gone so far?

A: Good. Great. Great attitude. Mature guys who have been through the bumps before and know whatís going on. Weíve changed some things around just to be fresh, and they seem to be doing great.

Q: Whatís the regimen like?

A: Right now, weíre going five days a week. We go four days a week lifting and three days a week running. The running is primarily linear speed training. There is some team-building stuff on Friday. The lifting is upper-lower, upper-lower like weíve always done, split it up.

Q: How big is it having guys like Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes come back?

A: Itís second to none. Itís kind of every strength coachís dream at this level in the summer to have guys like that. I told one of my assistants the other day, ĎThis is how itís supposed to be.í I didnít say a word. The (players) were coaching each other up. Itís not so much from the lifting. That stuff is irrelevant. Spikes made a comment to Jermaine Cunningham. He was doing a lift and guys were saying, ĎCome on, come on.í He said, ĎIím not doing this for me, Iím doing it for you, Cunningham.í To me, thatís kind of cool, because thatís what the head coach preaches. To have guys who were out during the spring be back with the group has meant ... like Lawrence Marsh, all the world because of where he came from to the way he played last year.

Q: Does it help when you have those leaders and they donít have to hear your voice all the time?

A: Theyíre still going to hear my voice. Itís hard every day, but I also try to make it fun. I donít know if that makes any sense. I guess you have to be there. We do our best to make them fresh. I guess thatís the point.

Q: How is this the hardest offseason program in school history?

A: I think itís all about accountability, whether itís having a foot on the line or a specific weight or being on time. Not that we didnít do that before. I think you really grind that stuff right now. Plus, the physical part. I donít know how much more physically challenging it will be, although itís going to be very challenging. The easy thing to do is, ĎWeíve won, weíve got all these guys coming back, weíre going to be good.í No. You train this team different than last yearís team, different than you trained the 2007 team. Theyíre all different, with different dynamics. Youíre trying to find out what those dynamics are.

Q: Is there anything in the new regimen the players are going to dread?

A: It will be the same stuff weíve done. I guess fresher is the word. Iím always trying to find new ways. We always change something every summer so itís new. Weíve changed an exercise here and there. The way theyíre taking to that is whatís impressed me. Theyíre taking coaching.

Q: Expectations are so high. Does that add pressure?

A: I just think itís expectations. They know what they have to do. Itís kind of the theme of what Iíve seen so far. I donít have to have the fake juice of jumping up and down and getting on somebody to motivate them. Theyíre self-motivated. My job is to remind them that, I guarantee you, every program in the country is doing something for the University of Florida (to motivate their players).Ē

Q: Has offensive tackle Matt Patchan gained weight, and how big does he need to get?

A: Heís bigger than he was in the spring. Iím not going to throw out any numbers. Some times they get skewered. He might read it and get (mad). He needs to get bigger.

Q: Do you know in July if a team is going to be really good?

A: Itís hard (to say). I thought we were going to be good last year, I thought we were going to be good in Ď07. Itís easier now because all these guys have played and you know what they can do on the field. You want to make sure they turn over every stone, they look behind every door, they donít take anything for granted. Theyíre on top of their stuff. Last year it was easy, they had a chip on their shoulder. This year, itís different.

Q: Do they have a target on their back?

A: Itís college football, I guess. To me, (last season) was good, great, No. 1. Thatís over. Just because youíve got 11 starters coming back (on defense), that doesnít mean anything. You still have to go out and perform.

Q: Whoís the strongest player on the team?

A: To like lift a bus ... probably (defensive tackle) Troy Epps, because of his build. Heís just so muscular, so strong. If youíre talking about a guy thatís got crazy strength, (defensive end) Carlos Dunlap.

Q: Whatís crazy strength?

A: A guy who can pick up a car thatís overturned when heís mad.

Q: Is Dunlap a guy you have to stay on top of?

A: Iíve got to kick him up and down. You have to be on him like stink on poop. He needs to be pushed. I tell him, ĎThe good Lord brought you down here as a personal challenge to me. He was so immature when he got here. I love the kid. Heís really starting to learn how to go hard.

Q: Who are some of the young guys who have impressed you?

A: I love (true freshman middle linebacker) Jon Bostic. I love him not so much for his build, 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, but for his coachability, his work ethic and his attentiveness. Heís all business. Tebow said something about him today. He said, ĎI like this guy, and not just because of football.í

Q: Is undersized tailback Chris Rainey where you want him to be?

A: No. He doesnít like food. Itís hard to gain weight when you donít like food. Heís eating because he has to eat. He doesnít eat because he likes to eat. He just finally started drinking the (nutritional) shakes (which have 360 calories). He doesnít like the shakes. How are you going to gain weight if you donít take in the calories? I always tell him, ĎChris, I watch football every Sunday. I donít see anyone who looks like you playing at the next level. If thatís a goal of yours, you might want to reconsider your goals.í

Q: Who are the guys in the breakfast club that are gaining weight?

A: Most of those guys that like to eat are out of the breakfast club (where everything the players eat is closely monitored) because theyíve gained the weight. Like a Jermaine Cunningham. He came here at 205 pounds, heís at 255 now. He likes to eat and heís out, he doesnít have to go anymore. Brandon Hicks doesnít really like to eat. Rainey doesnít like to eat. Weíve got (wide receiver) Frankie Hammond in there now. William Green likes to eat. Thatís why heís 235 pounds. He likes to eat and heís going to get bigger. Heís a great kid. I donít know if we have any other skinny guys.

Q: New Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris recently commented that he loves the way this Florida team looks physically. Have you had people calling and asking what youíre doing?

A: Yeah, sometimes. That was cool. That was good for our players. Weíve got a poster of that. That was really cool.

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