Gator Clause caught up with UF strength and conditioning coach Mickey Marotti last night and talked Florida Gators football for about 30 minutes. For the next few days, Gator Clause will post segments of the interview. (Also, it's time to start leaving comments, Gators Fans!!! If we want this blog to continue, my editors have to know that people are interested and are leaving comments. So join the conversation, folks.)
GAINESVILLE -- Mickey Marotti and his strength and conditioning staff is every bit as important to the Gators' success as head coach Urban Meyer and his assistant coaches. Meyer has said several times this offseason that championship teams are formed in the summer. As early as summer workouts last year, Meyer knew the 2007 season was going to be a challenge. There were just too many youngsters on the team and not enough leadership.
The NCAA limits the amount of time coaching staffs can spend with their teams over the summer. That's where Marotti comes in. Technically, strength and conditioning staffs aren't considered football coaches. Marotti is with the team nearly every day of the summer. That makes Marotti a very important person. Florida's football players lift weights five days a week, run four days a week and compete in agility drills four days a week.
OK, now that we've established the importance of Marotti's role, let's start this blog off with the news EVERYONE wants to know about. How's Percy Harvin? Harvin, of course, had offseason surgery to correct chronic discomfort in his heel. Basically, Harvin is too athletic for his own good and his heel was wearing down under the tremendous strain of all those fast-twitch muscle fibers.
GATOR CLAUSE: How is Percy coming along? Is he full speed?
MICKEY MAROTTI: Nah, but he's progressing where he needs to be. He's full speed ahead but he'll be ready when it's time to be ready.
Harvin's heel isn't near 100 percent, apparently, but Marotti raved about Harvin's upper-body strength. Harvin did a lot of bench pressing this summer (upper body is basically all he could do) and his max is now above 400 pounds. That's pretty remarkable for a guy that weights 198 pounds. Marotti calls Harvin, pound-for-pound, one of the strongest players on the team and says Harvin has the strength of someone that is 250 pounds.
Will Harvin be ready to practice by the end of this month? Doubt it. The coaching staff is not going to hurry Harvin back from his heel surgery and risk further complications. Remember, Harvin started to feel discomfort in his knee last season because he was compensating for his injured foot. Any podiatrist will tell you that a chronic foot injury can work its way up the body. Expect Harvin to be limited this preseason.
We'll end today's post with some brighter news. Miami native Javier Estopinan, the Gators' senior defensive lineman, is working out and conditioning at full speed. Estopinan tore his anterior-cruciate ligament in the first half last season against Georgia. It was Javy's third torn ACL. Instead of giving up on football, Javy endured another painful rehabilitation to be ready for this season. Javy graduated this winter and now he's enrolled in graduate school. That's a pretty good deal, getting your undergraduate degree and most of your graduate degree paid for in full.
Marotti says that Javy's strength is still a little limited because of the injury but Javy remains one of the strongest players on the team. That's pretty impressive for a guy who was recruited out of South Miami as a linebacker and worked his way to starting defensive tackle.
"Javy is coming around great," Marotti said. "He's doing a great job and I'm really excited where he is at right now. He's full go in the weight room, agility drills and running. He's kind of the leader of the defensive line. We're really excited about what he is doing."
Javy told me the weekend of his graduation that he hopes to be a captain this season. He deserves the honor after everything he's given to the University of Florida football team. Here's hoping the coaching staff agrees. I'm guessing they do. Expect Javy to be a captain this year.
While we're on the topic of defensive line, Marotti said that defensive tackle Torrey Davis is working out with the team every day and is now one of the strongest players on the team, along with Troy Epps. Davis is presumably working just as hard in the classroom this summer to remain academically eligible for this season.