Anonymous Player Q&A I: A behind-the-scenes look at Florida Football

Jul 14, 2021 | 1 comment

Over the past decade, during the offseason Inside the Gators has run several Anonymous Player Departing Thoughts Q&A sessions with individual players. This time around, we've changed the format somewhat in that it isn't the traditional interview, but rather sharing offseason workout and player tidbits from a few different sources in a three-part July edition of the series.

* On what happened last year: Maybe not all of it, but some of it can be put on _____ being poison. He attempted and almost succeeded in causing a total team divide very early in the season. Holding meetings outside of our regular team meetings and practices with players trying to cause a staff/team divide that honestly was never completely resolved. Then came the team/player divide. Clearly, staff/player and player/player divide showed on the field getting worse through the season. Multiple physical fights broke out in the locker room. I have never had a direct issue with ____ but I don't think that he wanted to play last year, he wanted to opt out, but he didn't want to do it alone. He wanted to convince some players to go with him. There wasn’t face to face between players and coaches or players and players so he tried to take advantage of that by working the shadows. He was a big divider and if nothing else we’ll be better because he’s gone.

I already see it. This year was different. The workouts, practices, and meetings were good for bringing all of us together. I think the way the coaches have handled very well this year compared to last year battling with covid and all the challenges we had. We have been able to relax a little more, play basketball, and come together as a team more to build the chemistry every team needs. Every team went through covid last year, but I think it hurt us more than other teams because we count on our culture more than anyone else. We didn't have a togetherness last year that we did this year.

(Note: This was an excerpt from an earlier stand-alone Anonymous Player Q&A that I decided against running not because it was overly negative, but because the player went out of their way to state that they thought things had changed significantly this spring and summer, so why dwell on a negative, that may have only been an anomaly due to the Covid-19 Pandemic? Also, though two players touched on the issues the player above caused, only one went in-depth, so I didn’t feel comfortable sharing his name without further confirmation.)

* On running the stadium as punishment for losing the home game to LSU: We had to check in by 5:30 a.m. so that everyone was ready for the run to start at 6:00 a.m. sharp. You have to touch every step in the Swamp. I'm pretty sure everyone was done with the run after about an hour. When you were finished you waited around until the last player was done. I don't think any of the coaches ran all of it, but some of them ran some of it. Mainly it was the grad assistant coaches that ran, some of them ran the whole thing and some of them finished pretty fast. The coaches were stationed around the stadium to help direct the players where to go when they finished a level. The top finishers that I remember were Trey Dean (I think this is the third year he has finished in first place), Kaiir Elam, and Justin Shorter.

Running the stadium for every home loss is a Dan Mullen tradition. It's hard, very hard, but mental toughness and preparation show their true colors when your legs feel like they can't take it anymore. I finished faster than my goal, so I was happy. It is not something that you want to do but needs to be done in order to understand the importance of protecting your home field.

* On the offseason workout schedule: For summer workouts we are broken down into three groups that start at 7:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 12:30 p.m. I'm not sure how the groups are broken up, but I think they do it based on class schedules, and groups are organized by how much weight you can lift. The groups are spread out so you got players from every position on offense and defense out there mixed in a group. The team is pretty evenly distributed among the three groups.

We do have whole team workouts that consist of more cardio and drills since there isn't enough space in the weight room. Probably the best thing about what happened with Covid is that they moved the weight room from the stadium to the Indoor Practice Facility. Before, it wasn't that it was cramped in there, but all the sports use it and we would have to go from weight lifting to conditioning or the other way around and you lose some focus and intensity taking 10 minutes to go from one place to the other instead of walking 20 steps and being there. That's going to be a major difference when the new building gets built. Everything being in one place, all close together.

We work out every day, doing conditioning and running first, then we go lift. Our entire team workouts are usually Wednesdays and some Saturdays and are usually just agility drills and conditioning. We will usually have weekends off with the exception of an occasional team run. Our player-only positional workouts are generally held two, sometimes three times per week when we're all together. That's where we work on things like position-specific drills just for the players.

* On the pool party: It was super fun. We showed up thinking it would be a conditioning team workout but instead we played Gator Ball. Gator Ball is something we play the Friday night before every game for fun. It's essentially ultimate frisbee but with a football and everyone has a good time. We take coaching and yelling all year from these guys so to throw them into a pool for fun is like us getting some payback so, it feels good. Everyone knows it's all love.

* On Gator Ball: We played it with our offseason workout groups I believe 10-12 guys are on a team. Each game lasts 15 minutes, I think. Dameon Pierce, Kris Bogle, Emory Jones, and Anthony Richardson were some of the standouts I noticed. A guy that surprised me with how good he was is Diwun Black. He is super athletic and can throw the ball accurately on a line.

* My two standouts from Summer A would be Trey Dean and Khris Bogle. They both excelled in all areas of the workouts from lifting to conditioning. That's probably two of the best athletes for their positions you'll see in college football this year. Hard workers.

* On summer enrollee standouts: Diwun Black. He's already got experience and really wants to learn the defense as quickly as possible. I'd expect him to see plenty of action this season. I like Dakota Mitchell too. He's a speedy guy and he works hard during all of the lifts. Jake Slaughter and Austin Barber are brute force guys who will be able to outmuscle guys on the field.

Jeremiah Williams has picked up the defense quickly and always has a positive outlook. He is always working hard and doesn't complain. He's one of the most serious freshmen.

(Note: This was a different player than who shared the Gator Ball standouts, meaning Black was singled out by two different teammates)

* On early enrollee standouts: The three that stood out to me were Jason Marshall, Donovan McMillon, and Nick Elksnis. These guys had a different demeanor to them like they've been here before. They all made eye-opening plays and seemed to pick up on the scheme a little quicker. Everyone else had their ups & downs and bumps in the road but the ceiling is high for those three.

* On any under-the-radar player to keep an eye on: Right at the end of spring practices Griffin McDowell switched to defensive tackle to get more playing time. He was already one of the strongest offensive linemen and he was still learning defensive line in the spring but looked more ready to be able to play some than some of the players who had already been defensive linemen their whole life.

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