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(Sam Young profile)
Before the camp that was held under the lights at The Swamp, Young had gotten a bit of a heads up from Florida's Doc Holliday, who coaches safeties and recruits South Florida. But even though he had a general idea of what was coming, the novel approach really got his full attention.
"It was really different," said Young, who bench presses 370 and has run a 4.9 40-yard dash. "I had been talking to Coach Holliday so I had a little idea about what was going on, but what they did was really creative. I think Coach Meyer came up with what is an ingenious camp idea. I think it was really good because it was new and different yet he was still able to get his point across."
Young didn't participate in the mini-camp but he was more than just a casual observer. Florida is one of seven schools still on his recruiting radar (Southern Cal, Penn State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Miami and Stanford are the others) so spending the time talking with coaches and absorbing the atmosphere was probably more important than working out.
"Personally, I think may be even more important how you get along with the strength coaches and your position coach," said Young Sunday evening. "The head coach is one coach for 100 kids. Your position coach is one coach for 20 kids, tops. Your position coach is the one who is going to be getting on you constantly.
"Then there are the strength coaches. You're with them every day of the week, sometimes two and three hours every day. Of all the coaches, those are the ones you'll be with most often."
He likes the developing relationship he has with Florida's strength and conditioning coach, Mickey Marotti. He sees Marotti's demanding, tough demeanor but he's learned that the Florida strength coach has a creative style about him. The goal is to get the best out of every player even if the methods see a bit unconventional.
Young stayed over Friday night to watch the strong man competition Saturday morning among the Florida players. That gave him another insight into the way Marotti goes about his business.
"Coach Mickey Marotti is a coach I've gotten to know a little bit better since I've been in Gainesville so often," he said. "I think he knows what he talks about and I think he understands how to push players' buttons to make them give all they have. I got to see him with the team Saturday morning for their strong man competition and it was fun to watch."
What impresses Young the most about Marotti's tactics is the way that there is a winner and a loser in everything that is done. The competitive nature makes even the toughest drills go by more quickly but it also adds an element of fun to something that could be rather dreary.
"They compete in everything that they do with Coach Marotti," said Young. "If you're going over sand bags or doing a hurdle drill … anything … you don't do it by yourself. There's always somebody right by you competing. There is always a winner and a loser.
"They have a chart that they mark down every drill and everybody knows who wins and loses. They keep a running total and let everyone know what they've done. They're definitely adding atmosphere but they're getting the job done … that's what it boils down to. They line up and compete but the bottom line is they get the job done. I think Coach Marotti and his staff are about the best I've seen at getting people to do stuff."
He also likes what he has seen of Florida's offensive line coach, John Hevesy. Hevesy is a big guy with a deep, raspy voice who has a no-nonsense approach on the field but a keen understanding of the tactical side of the game. Young has taken a long look at the success that Hevesy had with Coach Meyer at Utah and before that at Bowling Green.
"He's got a good philosophy about what will work and what won't," said Young. "All you have to do is see what he's done at Utah and other places to know that his philosophy works. Marcus (Gilbert, St. Thomas Aquinas teammate and offensive lineman) got a chance to stay around a little bit and talk X's and O's with him. We got to see what his philosophy is up close and by his track record, you can see the things he does are successful."
Gilbert, who is 6-6, 285, plays the other tackle on the St. Thomas Aquinas offensive line. He also doubles as a defensive tackle who is a terror in the middle. Gilbert, Young and St. Thomas Aquinas center Daniel Wenger are all among the top offensive line recruits in the nation but they are also good friends. Young and Wenger already had Florida offers before the Friday mini-camp, but Gilbert came away with an offer, too.
"I was really happy that they (Florida) offered Marcus," said Young. "The three of us are real close and we talk all along. We talk about the recruiting process, what coaches we like and stuff like that. Seeing Marcus get offered was really great."
Whether it is text messages, hand-written letters or other things that arrive daily in the U.S Mail, the recruiting process is never-ending for Young, who finds it amazing that college football coaches pay so much attention to him. There are days when the process is a real bore, but he's trying to warm up to it, noting that this is a once-in-a-lifetime situation that he's in.
With a 3.4 in the classroom and a qualifying test score, he doesn't have to stress out about the academics during his senior year. He has good study habits so he knows he will continue to make good grades. Meanwhile, he's working diligently with his St. Thomas Aquinas teammates to have the kind of season that will provide a lifetime full of memories. Aquinas made it to the state championship finals last year but lost to Lakeland. This year's team is dedicating itself to getting back to the championship game for one more shot at a state title.
"We really haven't come up with an official theme for this season but unfinished business is in the back of our minds," he said. "We had a tremendous spring and we're working really hard every day. We've got Chris Carter (former All-Pro wide receiver with the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles) working out with us every day and he's really improving our quickness, speed and agility. He is making sure everyone is in top shape.
"As far as unfinished business, we'd love to have another chance to play Lakeland if it all worked out that way, but right now we're just focusing on taking it one game at a time. If we don't look past anyone and make the next game we're playing the most important, I think we can have a great season. Our goal is to win a state championship but we're going to reach that goal taking it one game at a time."
The first game of the year will pit Aquinas against perennial Dade County power Carol City. There will be a championship-game atmosphere and a huge crowd to watch these traditional powerhouses square off.
"We're really excited about the chance to play a Dade County team, especially one that has as much pride and tradition as Carol City," said Young. "They're always one of the top teams in the state so it will be a real honor for us to play them, especially in the first game of the season. It's going to be exciting."
Young is nowhere close to making a commitment to any college that's recruiting him right now. There are seven schools on his list and he has indicated that he'll narrow that to five. He's planning to take all of his official recruiting visits, too.
"Whatever choice I make, I'm going to make sure it's the right one," said Young.