GAINESVILLE -- His hair still wet with sweat, exhausted from stalking the sidelines for several stressful hours Saturday, coach Will Muschamp stepped in front of the media for his postgame press conference.
But before he took any questions, before he reviewed what he liked and disliked after Florida’s 14-6 upset victory over LSU, Muschamp made sure to mention a man he credits heavily for the Gators’ turnaround this season.
“I can’t speak further without talking about Jeff Dillman, our strength coach,” Muschamp said Saturday. “It was very evident out there on the football field [Saturday night] we had a very strong, physical football team that had good endurance against an outstanding, athletic bunch, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Credit to [Dillman] and his staff. Those guys do an outstanding job.”
Muschamp brought in Dillman to replace departing strength coach Mickey Marotti, who came to UF in 2005 but left after last season to rejoin Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
The breakup was mutual, as Muschamp wanted to return to an Olympic-style lifting program that he was accustomed to at LSU from 2001 to ’04 under premier strength and conditioning coach Tommy Moffitt.
The impetus? Florida was beaten up and out of gas in the second half of games last season, as the Gators were outscored 72-22 in the fourth quarter of Southeastern Conference games and struggled to a 7-6 finish.
Dillman was Moffitt’s assistant from 2003 to ’06 before moving on to Appalachian State and the IMG Performance Institute, where he trained NFL and NBA stars in the offseason. And the results of the change in philosophy in the weight room have been displayed on the field already.
The Gators are the only team in the country yet to allow a point in the fourth quarter this season, outscoring opponents 41-0 and outscoring SEC opponents 31-0 with three come-from-behind wins after trailing at halftime.
“Oh, I don’t think there’s any question that a huge amount of that credit goes to Jeff and his staff,” Muschamp said Wednesday. “The players began to build confidence in what they’re doing when they saw themselves getting stronger. … So like anything else, when you invest time in something, then you start to realize it’s working for you and you’re benefitting from it, it motivates you to do it more.”
Thanks in large part to Dillman, the Gators now have a punishing offensive line and run game that can not only withstand SEC defenses but dominate them. They are winning at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and rank second nationally in time of possession with an average of more than 35 minutes per game.
Offensive coordinator Brent Pease said he was so impressed with the players’ conditioning that he sent Dillman a text message after Saturday’s win to thank him.
“When I look down there and they got their hands on their hips, and our guys are still rearing to go, I mean that’s a product of what they’ve done from the summer on,” Pease said.
On Saturday against LSU, a team allowing fewer than 90 yards per game entering the contest, Florida rushed for 176 and ran on 25 consecutive offensive plays to finish the game. The Tigers ran for 238 yards in last year’s meeting, but only 42 this year.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” left guard James Wilson said. “Our whole philosophy this offseason has definitely changed — and it’s awesome.”