It’s typical for a football team’s strength coach to be the most energetic and outspoken member of any given staff, and it’s no different with Florida Gators strength coach Mark Hocke.
He brings an infectious charisma that captivates an audience like no other, which became evident during his first media chat on Tuesday earlier this week. This energy – and probably five times more with the team itself – has already been felt by the team itself.
Of course, it’s not just Hocke bringing the juice, the entire staff has been working to shift the energy. QB Alligators Anthony Richardson says he can already feel a difference with the transition to a new staff.
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“The energy is very different,” Richardson said. “There’s more structure, so a lot of people are in a different place at a different time, so you can work with different people at a different time. I feel like that’s a good thing that will help the ‘team.”
Part of the difference, however, is in the weight room and the conditioning part of football – a year-round process, Hocke pointed out.
Every strength coach for the different position groups has had experience with that position in the past, having played it. It’s something new that Hocke is bringing to Florida this year, allowing the various position groups to understand exactly what they need to do to perform to the best of their abilities.
“We are going to train them to be the best at their job. How do we do that? We are hiring position trainers in the weight room. All of our strength coaches have played in that position,” Hocke said.
Tiger Jones, a former receiver at Louisville and someone who spent nine years in the NFL will work with the offensive skills guys. Alex Watkins, who played linebacker in the SEC and briefly in the NFL, will work with inside-outside linebackers. Ed Thompson will work with the defensive skills guys, he played with UL as a defensive back from 2014-16.
Finally, Karmichael Dunbar will work with the players in the trenches, a place where the game is won and lost, exclaimed Hocke. Dunbar, of course, was a defensive lineman with the Ragin’ Cajuns from 2012-16.
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“These positional trainers in the weight room work hand-in-hand with the positional trainers that have them in season,” Hocke explained.
“That’s where colleges differ. You’re just with the strength team four months out of the year. You’re not with your positional coach, so it’s very important to have synergy between your coaches positional strength coaches and positional field coaches.”
Coupled with the team’s use of position-focused strength trainers, the program takes a different approach to How? ‘Or’ What the players also practice.
“For the last staff, they were trying to make us bigger and a lot stronger,” Richardson explained. “But, Coach Hocke, he wants us to be like a faster team, because you can’t really teach speed, but you can get the guy’s body to move a little faster. And that’s pretty much their goal.”
This new approach is what could change the way players stay healthy throughout the season and move while continuing to develop at a young age. In fact, Florida personnel under the previous regime never had much in the way of training or speed training, now they do.
This is just one way the team will be different in the future when it comes to training and practice. The program wants to create an environment where training is more difficult than the competition itself, which Hocke says is what HOF NBA player Michael Jordan said his approach to things was during his playing career.
“It’s a physical game. It’s a violent game. So getting under a heavy back squat bar is demanding, it’s adverse situations. The repeatability of the sprint, okay, the the days of miles and three hundred are over,” Hocke said.
“We run 40-meter sprints, 20-meter sprints, repeatedly. 25 seconds, hurry to attack, can you force your gut for four to five seconds, rest for 25 seconds with excellent language bodily, then do it again and again and again.”
The Gators are building Something and it is clear that these changes do not only affect the position of the coaches themselves, but also the weight room, nutrition and the sports science department.
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