GAINESVILLE — The booming voice can be heard long before you see the man, and according to Florida football players that's part of Jeff Dillman's appeal.
Dillman, who in early January took over Florida's strength and conditioning program after Mickey Marotti left to join Urban Meyer at Ohio State, has energized the weight room with a personality that's part drill sergeant, part motivational speaker.
In the process, he has introduced a form of training that he and coach Will Muschamp believe will make the Gators a more powerful, physically tougher unit.
"He's extremely impressive in the way he handles physical and mental conditioning," said Muschamp, who worked with Dillman during his days as an assistant at LSU when Dillman was on the strength staff in 2003. "He's all about toughness and that's what we need."
Dillman has brought an Olympic-style training program designed to provide a combination of total-body and cardiovascular workouts in short workout periods.
"The Olympic-based program stresses things that are more functional to the sport," Dillman said. "I feel it's what has helped me most in the past develop explosive, more powerful athletes. This is a philosophy that has worked for me."
The main ingredients are the snatch, split jerk and power clean in unlimited variations. The objective? Add quickness and power.
"The Olympic-style lifting definitely makes us feel more explosive," senior defensive end Lerentee McCray said. "It definitely gives us a more fiery edge, makes us faster."
Players said the new approach has been embraced.
"Some people (on the team) actually did it in high school, but I never really did because I never really could get it and I didn't really take the time to do it," senior linebacker Jon Bostic said. "But Coach Dillman has been with me every day, one on one, trying to get it down with me, and I've picked it up really well."
Dillman joined the staff from the IMG Academy where he was considered a leader in this field.
Normally, he might have had an opportunity to ease into his new position. But these aren't normal circumstances at Florida. The Gators are coming off a 7-6 season and desperately need to improve dramatically. And because Dillman and his staff are the only members of the coaching staff allowed to work with football players before and after the spring game, his role is more critical than ever.
"This is a very important offseason for us, and he's extremely important," Muschamp said. "Their development and how they improve is in his hands."
According to the players, his style differs from their previous strength coach in that Dillman educates and explains significantly more as part of his training.
"I'm a big believer in do what works, save the rest for clinic talk," Dillman said. "Everything that we're doing here is all about educating people. We don't worry about just how to do it, but the why. The why is very, very important because if you know why you're doing something, how much more effort are you going to put into it if you know it's going to help you on the football field?"
Muschamp said that as he evaluated last season, he recognized quickly that the Gators lacked mental and physical toughness and stamina — particularly in the fourth quarter. Dillman, he believes, is changing the culture.
Florida will enter the fall without a clear starting quarterback, with a new offensive coordinator and with several key players having missed spring due to injuries. How well Dillman and his staff prepare the Gators mentally and physically will go a long way toward determining how they fare this season. Dillman's training is reflecting that, he said.
"We talk about training with aggression, training with energy and intensity," he said. "Actions trigger feelings and feelings trigger actions, so we want guys to have a lot of intensity when they are training so it makes it easier when they get on the field and they go out and play.
"Our job is to make things hard for them in here so when they get on the field it's easy."
Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Follow her coverage at gators.tampabay.com.