FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
- Terrific 10 Targets Part I
- ITG Mock Signing Class 6.0
- Recruiting Road Trip Insider Notebook
- Four-star Langston talks recruiting
- Four-star Rucker recruiting for Florida, but could take visits
- Family weighs heavily on Slaughter's decision to flip
- Today's Take: Mullen has a history of doing more with less
With the season (hopefully) only a little more than a month away, the Gators held their first practice since December on Monday morning. Afterward, coach Dan Mullen joined the media via Zoom to discuss the first practice, how his team has handled the new health protocols, his thoughts on the movement to create a players union, and more.
Here are the highlights.
- They practiced in only helmets and took things a bit slower than they normally would on the first day of fall camp. They’ll slowly build up over the next week as the players reacclimate to playing football.
- He said they had some initial problems with COVID-19 when the players initially returned to campus in June for voluntary workouts. Since mandatory workouts began in July, their positive test results have decreased drastically. He believes this data shows that having the structure that football provides helps keep the players safe. He credited the medical personnel and coaches for creating a safe environment for the players. The players have adapted well.
- He was clearly agitated by the SEC’s decision to push the start of fall practice back from Aug. 7 to Monday and reducing the number of allowable practices from 29 to 25. He doesn’t know how safe it is to reduce the number of practices the players get after already missing out on most of the spring and offseason program.
- The next challenges regarding the virus figure to be students returning to campus and traveling to road games, Mullen said. He expects his players to handle everything well.
- They've changed meeting locations and split the locker room in half, he said. No more than 40 percent of the team is ever in the locker room or weight room at one time, and they’ve changed how they serve meals. Players wear a neck gaiter at practice that they pull up when speaking to each other. "Safety is our number one priority, and we've done a good job of that."
- He said it's good that they have a lot of experienced players, but they're not going to be able to make up the lost development from the spring and reduced training camp. "That's one of the great tragedies."
- “A couple guys” didn’t practice on Monday, and he wouldn't be surprised if a couple of players or coaches opt-out. He'll support anybody who makes that decision. He wouldn’t divulge the names of the players who missed practice or confirm that they had officially opted out. "I think the team that's going to be able to adjust the best is the one who's going to be holding up the national championship trophy."
- UF still hasn't heard back from the NCAA on Justin Shorter's or Jordan Pouncey's immediate eligibility waivers.
- Despite the loss of offseason activities, Mullen won’t grade on a curve this fall. His expectations for his players remain the same, and it’s the coaches’ responsibility to get them there.
- He said it will be unique but not ideal to play against Feleipe Franks this season. He has great respect for Franks and how he conducted himself at Florida. But, he was excited for Franks to get a fresh start at Arkansas, and he doesn't know if it's beneficial for him to get his past brought back up again.
- He's all for players having their voice heard and his players have a great voice in his program, but he doesn't know if a players association would help the players or exploit them even more. There would need to be a lot of things sorted out before that could become a reality.
- He thinks his team’s leadership committee and the SEC's leadership committee are good examples for what a national players association could look like. Several pieces of legislation that passed in the SEC in recent years started as recommendations from the athletes.
- There are a lot of uncertainties surrounding the virus right now, but Mullen told the team that there's always been an inherent risk in football. COVID-19 just adds another dynamic to consider.
- The coaches have talked to their players about making smart decisions and avoiding large social gatherings for the betterment of their teammates, families and the team.
- Playing 10 conference games will be similar to last year when they played Miami and Florida State, he said. He thinks there are so many great teams in the league that the schedule is what it is. He's not happy or upset by his draw.
- In previous years, the Gators moved into a hotel for a week or two during fall camp to build team chemistry. They won’t do so this year, he said. They’ve done such a good job of staying healthy so far that he doesn’t want to jeopardize things by changing their routine.
- He said the NCAA has ruled that attending a university that’s not playing this fall is not a valid reason to get an immediate eligibility waiver, so he doesn’t think the Big Ten and Pac 12's decision will cause a flurry of transfers.
- They compete every day at every position, so nothing changes with position battles despite the limited practice time, he said. The guys who adapt the best and put in the extra work will be the ones who play the most.
- Mullen said they wipe down footballs constantly at practice, and the players wash their gloves regularly to reduce the risks. He's learned that they have a bunch of mature guys who love to play football through all of this. "Guys have handled this adversity at a pretty high level."