- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The impact that Jeff Dillman has made as Florida's strength and conditioning coordinator is quite noticeable. The players look bigger and stronger, especially along the offensive line.
But coach Will Muschamp is hoping for an even greater effect that probably won't be visible until sometime in October: a lot more in the tank in the fourth quarter.
The Gators struggled in the final period in 2011, getting outscored 72-22 in eight Southeastern Conference games and failing to score a point in a winless October.
"A lot of that, to me, goes to the weight room," Muschamp said. "You have to be stronger, well-conditioned.
"We need to finish."
Florida outscored only Kentucky (7-0) and South Carolina (6-3) in the fourth quarter. The Gators gave up at least 10 points five times and were outscored 45-0 in October losses to Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Georgia. Former strength and conditioning coordinator Mickey Marotti wasn't to blame -- especially since he was the strength coach during Urban Meyer's tenure, and the Gators were fourth-quarter closers then -- but after Marotti left for Ohio State, Muschamp hired Dillman to implement an Olympic-style lifting program.
Olympic lifting provides a total-body workout and a cardiovascular workout in a short period of time. It results in a stronger core and better coordination and balance. Linebacker Jonathan Bostic said he had never worked in an Olympic lifting program before, but he's a believer now because of the changes he's seen in his body and those of his teammates.
He also believes the switch should help the Gators in the fourth quarter.
"I think it's going to help us a lot," he said. "A lot of the guys on the team were glad they were getting a fresh start. They didn't feel like they got the start that they wanted and really can see how much that new air really brought more energy to this team with a lot of players.
"A lot of guys [are] really into the workouts, trying to do extra, trying to do more, ready to get this thing back on track where it was at."
Improving the strength and conditioning on the offensive and defensive lines was perhaps the most important challenge Dillman took on, especially in the wake of Muschamp calling the team soft after the embarrassing loss to Florida State last November. Muschamp was pleased with what he saw out of the offensive line in the spring -- he said they were better at that point than at any time in the fall -- and that was after just two-and-a-half months in Dillman's program.
Now that the players have had a full offseason under Dillman, Muschamp is hoping that means the Gators won't wilt in the fourth quarter in 2012.
"Jeff Dillman, I feel like is really doing a good job with our players," Muschamp said. "You've seen the transformation of our bodies.
"We wore down late defensively in some games, had a hard time getting off the field. That's something I think we have improved. I want to see us do it in the fall."
10hEthan Sherwood Strauss