FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
This marks the eleventh off-season in which Inside the Gators has interviewed an anonymous departing player in order for him to share his thoughts on an array of topics regarding Florida Gators football.
In the past we have conducted these far-reaching interviews in late summer, however, two years ago we began them in the spring. That set-up seemed to work best, so that's how we'll do it again in 2022.
Over the next couple of weeks, and then months, we'll be conducting shorter interviews with a couple of anonymous players in order to give our readers a better understanding of what happened last season, what is currently going on, and some players they should be on the lookout for this spring.
As an aside, allowing a player to comment anonymously obviously has its benefits and downside. The goal of this feature is to give our readers an honest and freely expressive look at the Florida football team, but we also acknowledge the nature of anonymous comments and the stigma that can come with them.
Today, as spring practice is set to begin, we take a look back at the first two phases of the offseason.
With Phase Three beginning tomorrow, we want to go back over the first two Phases.
Really the new phase started today (Monday) with a workout, meetings, and a walk-thru, but the first practice is tomorrow.
I stand corrected. Still, describe what Phase One was like.
Phase One was lifting for an hour and a half with an hour and a half run later that day. The lifts did a great job of getting us into the weights again after our winter break and were all about bar speed, exploding through the lifts. I don't know if it was because we missed time with Covid, but last year we eased into it. The conditioning runs were tougher this year than they were before but really got us into running shape quickly. For example, we had 12 100-yard sprints with a minute from start to start. Or speed curves from the 40-yard line to the 10-yard line and around to the other 40-yard line.
What are some of the other things the team did?
The lifts were a lot of functional movements like snatches, power cleans, squats and bench. Those are considered Olympic lifts, and we were doing them heavy, but going as heavy as we could while still going as fast as we could. Looking to build explosive strength instead of bulky, raw strength. There were also a lot of odd movements nobody had ever seen before that were very technical – like split snatches and split cleans. The runs consisted of a big aerobic portion as one half and speed training as the other half. We focused more on agility and change of direction speed this off-season than we did the last two years.
Who were some of the standouts?
Jeremiah Williams went hard every lift and every run and stood out to me. Justin Shorter was always at the top of the workout lists. Nothing has changed, he always has been. Lloyd Summerall was always up there for workouts too the last two months. It’s better than he did the last two years. Noah Keeter doesn't get a lot of publicity but he is one of the hardest workers on the team. Trey Dean is our Superman. If there is any kind of drill, run, lift, anything, he is one of the top performers.
How did you feel the players adapted to the new strength and conditioning staff?
I think we adapted very well. They kept coming like a never-ending flow of hires, it seemed like every day there was a new hire. But they are all personable and made an effort to connect with the players on the team.
Describe what Phase Two was like.
Phase Two consisted of the same speed and conditioning paired with a hard aerobic run and on the other two run days, we started doing drill stations. Lifts were three days a week and runs were four days a week just like in Phase One. The lifts changed a little in that we lowered the reps a little bit but kept the same exercises on their designated days and kept the focus on moving the weight quickly and not on how much weight we move. Each run was 1½ hours and so were the lifts. The runs always started at 4:00 p.m. and we had meetings before every run, beginning as early as 2:30 p.m. sometimes. Lifts were in four optional groups based on class schedule.
We did a lot of conditioning, I thought too much at first because I was afraid I was going to lose too much weight, but with the new nutritionists and food they are serving along with the mandatory meals, I gained some weight. It whipped us into really good shape. We didn’t really retain much muscle due to the extent of the runs and low weight in the weight room, but if that was the goal we nailed it. We are aerobically in amazing shape. We did a few runs in the stadium until Phase Two started, then we were strictly in the indoor.
Speaking of the food. Your thoughts?
The first thing, the food is great. We have mandatory breakfast, but it’s worth it to go over for it because of all the food options from eggs to meat to potatoes and yogurt and fruit and so on. The dinners have been absolutely amazing from sushi to steak to chicken wings. Before they would have a plated example of what someone in your group should be eating and that’s how they oversaw it. Now, there are nutritionists giving feedback from start to finish. Some guys based upon nutritional needs also get snack bags or custom protein shakes and so on but everything we eat, every meal, is so much better than before.
I know it's not easy to say, but who were some players who were disappointing?
I'm not in their shoes or position in life, so I don’t believe I am the one to name the names of those who may not hold the standard. Personally, I don’t even think there were many that didn’t hold up to the standard, but there are still a couple of younger players who aren't completely bought in. None of them have been counted on to have to step up in the past, so maybe that has something to do with it. We still have a couple of players who are more Twitter famous than they are good players who can be counted on.
Anthony Richardson went down with a knee injury last year, how has he looked these first two months of off-season conditioning?
It isn't like he is limping around, but he was not able to participate in any of the runs due to the injury. He was in the “Pit” with the other injured players.
The same with Jaydon Hill. How is he performing coming back from his ACL?
If you didn't know he was hurt, you wouldn't know it by how he did in the first two Phases. He was unnoticeably hurting to me. You wouldn’t have even known there was ever anything wrong with his knee.
The coaches joined the workouts during Phase Two. What was it like having them out there? Who are the most vocal of the new coaches?
Shoot, they are all extremely vocal. No one was screaming 90% of the time, but they are all high-energy and brought that energy to every workout and run. One of the biggest differences is that all of these coaches come off as they want to be here and want to coach us. I have no problems with any of the old coaches, but some of them you would think their purpose in life was to be miserable and make everyone else feel it. Some of them you would think that they loved yelling and getting on people more than they liked coaching and teaching. They were loud to be loud.
How do you feel like the players are adapting to Billy Napier?
I think it's going great, or can I say he's doing very well? Does that sound better? There's not much bad you can say about the man. If I describe him like I want to, you're going to think he is some sort of overlord, dictator type and he isn't, but he's not the fun and games type when he is around the team. He means business all the time. There's no joking or lightheartedness, really ever. He means what he says and he gets in and gets it done. Then when it's not about football, he has a softer side. He’s not your buddy, but he genuinely cares about how we are doing, not only how we are doing as far as it benefits him.
What is your impression of him?
I think he's a great leader, and whether you agree with the way he's doing things or not, you get behind him and work at doing it to your best ability. He demands respect and it is given to him. This is a little example. When Coach [Dan] Mullen would come in the room or get up in front of the team, it would take 15-20 seconds of hushing everyone up or quieting them down to get everyone's attention. When Coach Napier walks into a room, the room gets quiet. He never has to quiet us down or get on us, for all the eyes are already on him. There is more of a seriousness about him. He has more command of the team – but not like we are afraid of him, but more like we are taking on his personality about football being serious. As players, we loved and respected Coach Mullen but it did feel like it started to fade some at the end of 2020 and he was never able to get it back completely.
Are there leaders starting to emerge? If so who and how are they distinguishing themselves?
Justin Shorter works his butt off every chance he gets and it's seen by the team. He's not the most vocal but he is definitely in that leadership position. Josh Braun has stepped out as a leader on the offensive line for sure. He works hard but is mainly that vocal guy. Ventrell Miller is both. He works hard and is vocal and is undoubtedly seen in that leadership position.
Who are two or three players on offense and defense you think will really take off during spring practices?
On offense, I'll say Justin Shorter, Lorenzo Lindguard and Josh Braun. On defense, Ventrell Miller, Trey Dean, and Princely Umanmielen.
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