GAINESVILLE, Fla -- Sitting at his locker Saturday night, Trey Burton was peeling off tape after Florida’s 14-6 beating of LSU.
“We absolutely manhandled them out there,” Burton said.
The win marked the first against a ranked opponent in eight tries for the Gators (5-0, 4-0), dating to the 2009 season, but more importantly was a statement in physicality against a Tigers team that won the Southeastern Conference last season and played for a national championship in January.
UF plowed LSU, winner of 18 straight regular-season games, over in the second half, not unlike the bulldoze jobs it rolled on Texas A&M and Tennessee, making for a third game this season in which the Gators had come from behind in the second half to win.
Florida has now outscored its five opponents 68-13 in the second half and 44-0 in the fourth quarter.
So the question to Burton: What happened?
“Coach Dillman happened,” Burton said. “We’re a physically and mentally tough football team -- and you’re seeing it on the field now.”
Take a bow, Jeff Dillman.
UF fans heard a lot about him during the offseason. Now they’re seeing why Coach Will Muschamp was delighted when he lured Dillman from the IMG Performance Institute to become his director of strength and conditioning.
Dillman’s Olympic-style training methods, which emphasize explosiveness at the point of attack, are getting universal praise from the coaches and players, all of whom are seeing the results with the work put in.
“We’ve been reaching new personal-bests on power cleans and squats and on bench press, yet our bodies are still fresh, so whatever he’s doing, he needs to keep it up,” junior center Jonatthan Harris said. “Every game, in the second half, we come out like we didn’t even play a first half.”
Maybe that’s because some of the greatest adversity the Gators have faced the few months happened in the weight room.
Dillman and his staff know how to push buttons; know when to verbally challenge a player with some tough love and when to be a little more nurturing (football-style, of course).
Ultimately, though, their goal is to get each player to embrace pain and build the fortitude to play harder, stronger and just as fast in the fourth quarter.
“There’s a key to every player and Jeff does a good job of identifying what those keys are,” Muschamp said. “Some guys like in-your-face [tactics], some don’t respond to that as well. Jeff is not all in your face all the time. That’s part of being a good coach, good instructor or a good teacher. There’s a key to every person. Everyone is different.”
The players say Dillman, who’s got something of a Mr. Clean look about him, is a little different, too. He’s a constant presence during practice and an emotional leader on the sidelines during games.
The latter was especially applicable Saturday’s brutally physical slobberknocker -- and thus a game after Dillman’s heart. He was up and down the sideline all game with his normal “Four quarters!” chant, while also performing his “get-back guy” duties in keeping the Gators off the field and “back” on the sidelines.
Dillman had a little extra skin in the game, too. He was assistant strength and conditioning coach at LSU from 2003-06.
“He was into it, man,” senior linebacker Jon Bostic said. “He’s the one who tells us to get back ... but a couple times we had to get him to get back.”