SEC Country/file photo
Florida running back Jordan Scarlett took full advantage of the Gators' offseason strength and conditioning program.

Player testimonials show hype for Florida strength coach Nick Savage was real

Ryan Young

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Gators show off gains from offseason strength and conditioning program

Nick Savage, Florida’s new director of football strength and conditioning, met with reporters Saturday for the first time since his hiring, and all the hype that has followed it.

Savage followed coach Dan Mullen over from Mississippi State with Mullen promising in his first news conference to overhaul the Gators’ offseason strength and conditioning program.

By all accounts, he and Savage have delivered on that pledge.

“Our main goal is to program [the] brain, no matter what’s in front of us, we’re going to go attack. So that was the ultimate goal there,” Savage said. “… I think every day as we progress through the offseason has progressively gotten harder.”

Read more about Savage here.

A day later, Florida’s players took to Twitter to show off the physical gains they had made with before-and-after pictures. The differences were indeed dramatic.

Running back Jordan Scarlett posted that he went from 199 to 210 pounds while dropping from 7.6 to 5.2 percent body fat since January. Already a physical runner who specialized in yards after contact when he led the Gators in rushing two seasons ago, there’s no denying he’s in the best shape of his time at Florida.

Gators right tackle Jawaan Taylor was another, tweeting his transformation photos from January to March.

Wide receiver Trevon Grimes, a transfer from Ohio State, was another.

And redshirt freshman linebacker Nick Smith …

And on and on. How it translates on Saturdays remains to be seen, but after much griping about the strength program the last couple of years, that certainly won’t be a target of fan ire moving forward.

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Spring practice underway for Florida football

  • Florida opened its first two spring practice to fans Friday and Saturday and had more than 1,000 people in attendance for the second session.
  • SEC Country’s Zach Abolverdi posted detailed observations from the Friday practice and the Saturday practice, with notes on the Gators quarterbacks, who lined up with the first team and the defensive playmakers who made their presence felt.
  • Mullen also spoke to reporters after the Friday practice, praising the way the players have bought into the new demands he’s brought to the program. “The biggest thing that jumped out to me was [Friday] we were starting meetings at about 2:30, and at 2:25 everybody was in the meetings and ready to go,” Mullen said. “That just shows me those are guys that are hungry, that love football and that really jumped out at me.” Read more of his comments here.

Recruiting roundup

  • Among the recruits who visited Florida this weekend were the No. 1- and No. 6-ranked prospects in the Class of 2019 (according to the 247Sports composite). Abolverdi caught up with both to get their thoughts on the experience.
  • Five-star defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the top overall recruit from Thousand Oaks, Calif., raved about the way the Gators practice and had some strong praise for Mullen. “Coach Mullen is honestly a great dude,” he said. “I respect him as a man. I respect his morals. It was actually a great experience to talk to him 1-on-1 and really find out who he is. … He’s just straightforward. He’s not a used car salesman like most coaches are. He is who he is.” Read more about Thibodeaux’s visit here.
  • Meanwhile, 5-star running back Trey Sanders, the No. 6 overall prospect in the class and top-ranked RB, liked the differences he noticed since Mullen took over the program. “It was really good. This is my third time coming to Florida. I liked the vibe. It’s a lot different than the last time I came. Coach Mullen and that staff have a different plan and I like it.” Read more about the prospect from IMG Academy here.
  • Along with Thibodeaux, the Gators hosted another highly ranked defensive end in 4-star Derick Hunter of Fort Myers, Fla. “I got the full experience of what it’s like to be a Gator and I love it,” Hunter told SEC Country. “From being in the film room to watching practice and being with these boys in the locker room, I really got to see what it’s like to be a Florida player.” Read more about Hunter here.

Gators reflect on basketball season, heartbreaking NCAA Tournament loss to Texas Tech

Florida baseball wins opening SEC series

  • The No. 2-ranked Florida baseball team opened SEC play over the weekend by winning two out of three games at South Carolina.
  • The Gators won 7-3 on Friday, as ace Brady Singer (5-0) allowed just 2 hits, 2 walks and 1 run over 6 innings. He racked up 7 strikeouts to stay unbeaten. Offensively, Jonathan India continued to blister the baseball, going 2 for 4 with a homer, 2 runs and 2 RBI. Nelson Maldonado was 2 for 5 with 2 RBI, and Blake Reese was 2 for 4 with 2 RBI.
  • On Saturday, South Carolina prevailed 15-7. Jackson Kowar got knocked around for 5 runs on 7 hits and 3 walks over 5 innings. Wil Dalton clubbed 2 homers and India and Nick Horvath had 1 each in the loss.
  • And on Sunday, the Gators took the series with a 3-2 win. Tyler Dyson (4-1) was solid, allowing 2 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks over 5 innings with 5 strikeouts. Dalton and JJ Schwarz staked Florida to an early lead with solo homers in the first and fourth innings. And India stayed hot, going 2 for 3 with a triple and a run. Michael Byrne notched his fifth save of the season.

  • India now leads Florida with a .400 batting average and is tied with Dalton for the team lead with 8 home runs.
  • The Gators improved to 18-4. They’ll host Jacksonville at 6 p.m. Tuesday before a three-game weekend series with Arkansas at McKethan Stadium.

What they’re saying on Twitter

  • The NCAA Tournament has been as unpredictable as ever …

  • Add Florida defensive end CeCe Jefferson commented on the Gators basketball team:

  • Florida basketball signee Noah Locke is ready to leave his mark on the program:

  • Several players retweeted this video by local television sports reporter Megan Plain capturing Mullen’s high-energy approach to practice:

  • Like junior safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, for one:

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