Florida senior defensive end Cece Jefferson has a request for new strength and conditioning coach Nick Savage and his notoriously difficult workouts.
“Coach Savage, bring it on,” Jefferson said.
Savage and his staff actually starting bringing it on last Tuesday, and those workouts have been as hellish as anticipated, leaving the players spent after each one. But Jefferson said he and his teammates are fine with that. They’re ready for more.
So, bring it on, coach Savage.
“It’s some pretty good stuff,” Jefferson said. “Coach Savage and his staff, whew, man, I wish you could feel how I’m feeling right now. I wouldn’t have to explain it to you.
“(The workouts) have been getting tougher each day. This team and myself, we’ve been attacking it every day, just embracing this change. Oh, man, he is (killing us). He’s a great guy. He has a plan for us that’s going to have us where we need to be mentally and physically. Everybody is just attacking it and everybody is happy to be working again and getting back in it.”
Jefferson, for one, is happy to be here, happy to be back working harder than ever after recently making his decision to return for his senior season rather than declare for the NFL draft.
Jefferson, the father of a 2-year-old son (Luke), said he thought long and hard about leaving. But it ultimately came down to this: he did not want the final chapter of his UF career to be a 4-7 season.
So, he’s come back to try and make things right under Dan Mullen and a new coaching staff.
“I feel like things didn’t go the way myself or this team wanted it to go last season. I couldn’t end on that note,” Jefferson said. “I got with a couple of the older guys, the seniors, we just talked about it. We all made the decision to come back. We know we’re better than what we were last year. We want to show the world.”
The turnaround starts in the weight room and on the conditioning fields with those Savage workouts.
The workouts are tough, demanding, exhausting, but Jefferson said the Gators know this is the way it has to be if they are going to have the kind of bounce back they expect from last season’s mess.
Jefferson said the players are all in with Savage and the new coaching staff.
“We’ve been accepting them with open arms,” he said. “Everybody is just attacking it, embracing change. Everybody is just enjoying it. It’s kind of like when you start your first day of school. You don’t know what to expect. Everybody’s still got a little jitters in their stomach.
“Slowly but surely, just being around these coaches, it’s just making everybody more comfortable. Everybody is buying into to what Coach Mullen has in place for us and what Coach Savage has in place for us. I feel like this team has taken a huge step from last year. I think it’s going to be pretty good.”
Jefferson said there’s a feeling among the players that things are going to get turned around quickly with the new staff and the new approach.
“Oh, yeah. There’s a huge feeling,” he said. “Everybody is embracing this new coaching staff, what they have in place for us. Everybody is fired up and ready to go. We believe in what they have for us and they believe in us. Pretty excited to see where it goes from here. I definitely think everybody thinks we can have a huge turnaround from last year.”
For Jefferson, the coaching change likely is leading to a position change — from defensive end in a four-three alignment to outside linebacker in a 3-4 that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is expected to implement.
Jefferson played some outside linebacker in a 3-4 at Baker County High School, so the transition should be fairly seamless.
“It’s whatever these coaches have planned,” he said. “I’m sure it will be a great fit for everybody. (The coaches) have a lot of experience. I did a little three-four in high school, catching a couple of picks on my Hudl highlight. It’s something I’m used to. I feel like I’m pretty athletic and I’m pretty sure I can cover pretty decent in space. I’m excited and I’m just ready to get to it and just see what they have in store for us.”
Jefferson does not want to share the feedback he received from the NFL. He said there’s nothing specific he plans to work on to improve his draft status.
“I want to just work on being the best Cece that I can be for my teammates,” he said. “When I step on that field, I don’t want my teammates to have any doubts. I’m just working on being a better me. Just playing my role and making this team successful and helping out my brothers win games.”
It all starts with those Savage workouts.
To those, Jefferson has only one thing to say: bring it.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or email@example.com. Also check out Andreu’s blog at Gatorsports.com.