Photo: Mark Hocke; Credit: Alex Shephard
When Florida Gators head coach Billy Napier was introduced as the team's next head coach, he promised the Gator Nation an "army" when describing his incoming coaching staff.
The staff would consist of assistants who have gotten recognition around the college football world as some of the best in the game.
"We're going to hire an army of people here," Napier said on Dec. 5 last year. "We're going to create an infrastructure not only in the personnel department but also from an on-campus recruiting, creative media, name, image and likeness. We're going to create -- we've got a great vision for the organization that we're going to create here."
Napier, of course, was referring not only to the assistant coaches that he would eventually lock-in but also to the enormous support staff - comprised of 48 individuals that were eventually brought on to help build out the staff.
With that said, over the last couple of weeks, AllGators has been releasing profiles to get to know each assistant coach, including their background, recruiting history, quotes and more.
Though not an on-field coach, our final profile covers strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke, who is going to be one of the more important coaches on the staff under Napier.
Hocke, 37, was one of the first hires of the Billy Napier era as the program's associate head coach/director of football strength and conditioning - officially hired on Dec. 6, 2021.
It is his first season with the Gators, but he had spent the past four years with Napier at Louisiana in a similar role.
Hocke would first run into Napier during his time at Alabama, where Hocke began his collegiate coaching career as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. In 2011, Napier would arrive as the program's offensive analyst for a year and then return in 2013-16 as the program's wide receivers coach.
Hocke stayed at Alabama from 2009-14. Ready for a larger role, Hocke would get an opportunity to be the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Georgia in 2015 before moving on to Florida State a year later, becoming the program's co-associate head football strength and conditioning coach in 2016.
Hocke's final stop prior to working under Napier would be at Texas A&M, again as the program's Football Strength and Conditioning coach. Hocke's coaching career would begin at the prep level, coaching wide receivers, and defensive backs, and as the team's S&C coach at Jesuit High School in New Orleans (La).
The role of a strength and conditioning coach is incredibly important. The position allows for the coach to have real hands-on experience with the players throughout the year, but particularly in the offseason, molding the players into athletes that will put them in the best position for them to succeed.
As an S&C coach, Hocke's duties will be with the players that are currently on the team already, not as a recruiter for future prospects. However, his history and popularity amongst the players already in the building could be something to sell to players that are looking to join the program.
How it's going:
Hocke has already begun a major shift in mentality for the Florida Gators football program. Instead of the program relying on strength and bulking up, Hocke has incorporated more sensible, speed-based programs within his strength-training regimen.
"He wants us to be a faster team because you can't really teach speed, but you can get guy's body right so they can move a little faster," Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson said during the spring this year.
"And that's pretty much been their focus. You know, just getting people right. Making sure they're sleeping well, making sure they're eating right. So just getting the body right and allowing us to move a lot quicker on the field."
In fact, Florida has just begun its fifth segment of Napier's eight-phase plan: the regimen phase, the program's strength and conditioning period.
"Regimen is essentially a nine-week training block," Napier said a couple of weeks ago.
"It’s a four-week, 28-day workload, one week off, (another) four weeks, 28 days. We have some time between that and training camp. We have a weekly routine Monday to Friday. What that entails is we get eight hours a week with the players. Strength and conditioning, skill development, simulated training. Film review. It’s by the minute."
Hocke will be front-and-center of that phase with coaches not able to be around as often as they are during the spring or fall activities. It will be up to them to get everyone off to a great start heading into fall camp.
"I think that goes back to hiring really good people. Not only people that are experts at what they do, but also sincere, authentic people that care for the players, and that's where we start with hiring people,' Napier said when asked about Hocke earlier this year.
"Mark fits into that category, he's just a very genuine guy that cares for the players, they sense that. He's also a great leader and we've hired a great staff around him."
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