GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As athletic director Scott Stricklin formally introduced new Florida football coach Dan Mullen on Monday, one point of emphasis seemed telling.
“Dan is going to do a tremendous job at implementing accountability and toughness through a well-coordinated strength and conditioning program,” Stricklin said.
Even more telling, though, were Stricklin’s later comments on the matter in a less-formal setting following the news conference.
“I think it’s critical. It’s the backbone. I think any successful program has a really strong strength and conditioning program that builds accountability, and I think programs that aren’t as successful usually are lacking in that area,” he told reporters.
Florida, of course, was not successful this season and the Gators have been routinely dominated up front by physical defensive lines in recent seasons, be it Florida State, Alabama, Michigan, etc.
That, along with the Gators’ persistent injury woes, has led many fans to take whatever percentage of their ire wasn’t already focused on the offensive play-calling and the quarterback and direct it at strength and conditioning coach Mike Kent, a veteran of the business who followed former coach Jim McElwain from Colorado State to Florida.
McElwain made a public emphasis of improving the Gators’ toughness and physicality up front as he sent the team into the offseason last year, but the results didn’t quite translate into the 2017 season, starting with that embarrassing debut against the Wolverines.
Stricklin, meanwhile, seems to be making his own public emphasis that he believes the football program has been lacking in its strength program and that he and Mullen are intent on making it a priority moving forward.
And that’s the very message the new head coach delivered to the players when he met with them Monday.
“I told them to rest up over the month of December,” Mullen said. “Because when they come back in January, it’s probably going to be something they have never even experienced in their life before, our offseason conditioning program.”
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