It was just after 5 a.m. a few days after Ohio State lost to Florida in the Gator Bowl in January 2012, and Mickey Marotti was yelling instructions at the returning players who would make up the bulk of coach Urban Meyer's first team.

It was just after 5 a.m. a few days after Ohio State lost to Florida in the Gator Bowl in January 2012, and Mickey Marotti was yelling instructions at the returning players who would make up the bulk of coach Urban Meyer's first team.

The workouts were going to be at 6, but when a couple of players blew off the first team meeting early in the morning after returning from the bowl game, things were accelerated. And Marotti - the new assistant athletic director for football sports performance - was in charge.

"The guy comes in and starts screaming at you, and you don't know what he's all about," said left tackle Jack Mewhort, now a senior. "But over the last couple of years - I've never met anybody like coach Mick, how much he cares and loves us. He's an unbelievable mentor, he has been since he got here, not only training wise, but leadership and everything else."

It explains Marotti's fancy title.

"He's not (just) a strength coach," Meyer said. "He does it all."

Known to be a taskmaster with the rest of his staff, Meyer has afforded Marotti the freedom to run the strength and conditioning program - with input at times - because he knows it yields results.

"Anybody who has their hands on our players, they don't necessarily report to him, but they meet. I am talking about our trainers, our doctors, our nutritionist, our equipment guy," Meyer said. "I think one of the issues when you are 18 and 19 years old, and you have mixed messages … that's the beauty of (having Marotti). It's all right there."

Marotti began as just a strength coach in the 1980s. He was an assistant at Ohio State when he met Meyer, who was a graduate assistant coach under Earle Bruce in 1986 and '87. Marotti became an assistant at West Virginia and then the strength coach for the entire athletic department at Cincinnati, and he started to make a name for himself as an innovator in developing position-specific training for football players while also promoting leadership.

"I think coaches started to view it as, 'this is real important,'" Marotti said. "It was a way to get an edge, and not just by how much weight you were lifting and how fast you were running, but how they were working, and things you were planting in the program to help get over the top."

Meyer, an assistant at Notre Dame in the late 1990s, urged coach Bob Davie to hire Marotti in 1998. Marotti stayed there until joining Meyer at Florida in 2005 and since then, including national championships in 2006 and '08, they have been together. Marotti was Meyer's first major hire at OSU in late 2011.

Along the way, Marotti and others like him at major programs have turned their profession into a science. He enjoys an advantage that position coaches do not. He and his staff are allowed to work with players year-round, not just during spring practice and the fall.

"It's a science of physiology, but it's also a science of psychology," Marotti said. "Strength coach has evolved from just being the guy you lift weights with and have a running program with in the offseason to now where it is at a completely different level, with completely different expectations. …

"What I care about is team leadership, and team unity, and toughness, because that's the stuff you see on the field. That's what really makes your team special."

Marotti started a class in May that, through readings, lectures and the like, taught the players how to become leaders instead of expecting it to happen by chance.

"He is so involved in the leadership component of it," Meyer said. "It's all about teaching them the fight-or-flight mentality, backing them into a corner … teaching your mind how to handle a tough situation. And really, the only place you can do that is in the weight room."

It always circles back to putting in the work in the weight room. Marotti's regimen includes weights, sprints, mat drills, and working on modern machines. But it also has such back-to-basic activities as mixed martial arts, using heavy dummies that the players flip and toss, medicine ball drills, and picking up sand bags and carrying them for a distance. They sculpt the players in much the same way as a construction job or farm chores might have done decades ago.

"They develop your functional strength," Mewhort said. "And you can definitely tell the difference, having gone through it."

It's part of the job, Marotti said. But not the only part.

"If I don't train them as hard as we do, and if I don't give them opportunities to learn about leadership and what it means to be a grown man, then we're doing them a disservice and need to move on," he said.