Five summer suggestions for UF football

Strength and conditioning coordinator Jeff Dillman will work with UF players until August.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 13, 2012 at 12:25 a.m.

After a disappointing six-loss season in 2011, the Florida football team has managed to generate some early momentum in 2012.

It started with the Gator Bowl win over Ohio State on Jan. 1, followed by a top-five recruiting class in February and continued growing with a productive spring and yet more success on the recruiting trail.

The Gators are on a little bit of a roll.

But now comes the critical time of the year when all college coaches worry about losing momentum (and other things), the time when the coaches have precious little contact with their players.

Following last Saturday's Orange and Blue Debut, UF coach Will Muschamp pretty much handed his team over to Jeff Dillman and the strength and conditioning staff for the next four months.

Between now and the start of training camp in August, Dillman basically will serve as the team's surrogate head coach. He's the guy leading the Gators now.

So, how do Dillman and the players keep the momentum going through the offseason?

Here are five suggestions:

1. Build that bond

During the spring, numerous players said they had bought into Dillman and the Olympic-style lifting he's brought to the weight room. Dillman helped numerous players get bigger and stronger in a short period of time. Over the next few months, the players will have a chance to really get to know Dillman, and vice versa. The Gators were very close to former strength coach Mickey Marotti. They trusted him; he trusted them. It was a special bond that helped ensure positive results in the offseason conditioning program. Dillman and the players need to establish that closeness and trust over the next few months.

2. Bury that ‘Soft' label for good

The Gators got off to a good early start in meeting Muschamp's edict to get stronger and tougher for 2012, especially on the offensive line. But it's only just a start. The players, with the help of Dillman and his staff, have to take it to another level over the next four months in the weight room and in conditioning. The promising gains in the spring will mean little if the Gators fail to build on them this summer. Time to grind like never before.

3. Show some initiative

With no coaches to coach them, the players have to organize themselves and conduct their own practices over the next few months. Muschamp said after the spring game that the guys who really have to step up are true sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel. If they want to lead this team in 2012, it has to start with those summer workouts and many hours in the tape room. This is the time when a team's true leaders will emerge — and they will do it more by example than anything else.

4. Get up and go, freshmen

The true freshmen (other than the early enrollees) will not be on campus until the start of the Summer B semester in July. But they need to start hitting Dillman's strength and conditioning plan right now. UF is going to count on some of these true freshmen to come in and have an immediate impact. There are four that quickly come to mind — Dante Fowler, Jonathan Bullard, Matt Jones and Kent Taylor. With Buck end/linebacker Ronald Powell out for four to six months with a torn ACL, Fowler will have a chance to come in and compete for immediate playing time at the position if he reports in shape and ready to play. The same goes for Bullard. He's a five-star defensive end and the Gators are low in numbers at the position. Jones, the lone running back signed, could contribute right away at tailback, where depth is a potential issue. With the uncertain future of tight end A.C. Leonard, Taylor has a chance to be the No. 2 tight end if he comes in and performs like the coaches think he can. So, freshmen, start getting ready now.

5. No problems, no arrests

Given UF's track record in recent years maybe this should have been No. 1 on the list. This is a program that can't afford any more embarrassing arrests. The players need to take it upon themselves to do the right thing and stay out of trouble this summer. College kids (including football players) are going to party. The Gators need to keep it at home instead of taking it downtown like they have in the past. Nothing stalls momentum quicker than a player's jail mug shot showing up in the media. The players need to make sure that the only thing criminal this summer is what the offensive linemen put away at some of those all-you-can-eat buffet lines around town.

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