HOOVER, Ala. — The second Summer of Savage apparently has been even tougher than the first.
That’s the word from the Florida players at SEC Media Days commenting on Nick Savage and his notoriously demanding offseason strength and conditioning program.
“Coach Savage has ramped up the workouts, preparing us mentally and physically,” senior defensive end Jabari Zuniga said. “He is one of the best strength coaches in the country. He brings that passion and enthusiasm to every workout, no matter what time it is. He is going to come in ready to work and make sure you are ready to work.
“We feel like this season is going to be one to remember.”
Just like last summer, the players have bought into Savage and his methods, quarterback Feleipe Franks said. The result has been a tougher — and maybe even more promising — offseason for the Gators.
“We worked extremely hard this offseason,” Franks said. “We are ready for this upcoming season. There is a lot of momentum built up, and I think we have all prepared the right way. We have done everything the right way this summer, going into fall camp, to prepare us for the season. So I think it is all just preparation-based, and our team has done a great job.”
Senior running back Lamical Perine said the players have embraced the demanding offseason conditioning program because they saw the results last season, especially late in some games.
“I just feel like his workouts help us out with a lot of things that we do,” Perine said. “For instance, when we are down in games, we never get sad-faced or anything like that, because we have been working so hard through the off-season and the summer. Just working hard so we are prepared for all moments.”
Once spring practice ends, coach Dan Mullen and his staff turn the team over to Savage and his staff. Mullen will have a chance to see the results of the offseason program when preseason practice begins July 26.
“It’s hard for me to judge all that until we start practicing,” Mullen said. “I talked to our guys (Monday). They said, ‘Hey we’re getting close because of the early game. We’re 11 days from reporting to training camp.’ So they got to now start transitioning back into football. You go through offseason and you transition from football to spring ball, then you get back into offseason training, getting bigger, faster, stronger. And now you’ve got to get back into getting ready for football and you start transitioning to that.”
Riding the Van
Ole Miss transfer Van Jefferson had a productive first season at wide receiver for the Gators last year, leading the team in receptions with 35 for 503 yards and six touchdowns. Based on the work he’s been putting in this summer, he might be looking to have a major breakout season this fall.
“He is a worker,” Mullen said. “He’s one of those guys that is constantly working every day on being a better route runner, working on his hands, studying the game, understanding the game.
“Coming back this year, he’s a guy that has great maturity to understand and say, ‘OK, here’s the parts of my game that I need to work on to make it to the next level.’
“Our program is about hard work. And that’s something he believes in, so I think it’s a great fit for him to be in a program that really has the same values that he has.”
Studying the portal
With all the roster subtractions the Gators have gone through the past two months, Mullen and his staff are still looking for the possibility of adding a graduate transfer or two between now and the start of the season.
“I think we have a couple of initial (counter) spots still open,” Mullen said. “What we’re trying to do now is balance out the numbers over several years. How many initials do we want to try to make sure we save for people leaving and the number of transfers as you continue to move (forward)?”
The NCAA transfer portal still has many players who have not landed at a new school yet.
“It’s kind of the new era of college football,” Mullen said. “We’ll see if it starts to slow down. There’s so many things that guys don’t know. I think a lot of the players that are in it think it’s one thing and then they realize it’s something different.”