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Florida Football

Florida's football players headed to summer school

April 16, 2018
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After a month of learning under new head coach Dan Mullen, the Florida Gators players are back on their own. Summer brings with it NCAA regulations that prohibit the team from working with their coaches except for the strength and conditioning staff. In preparation Mullen and staff spent Friday afternoon’s practice going over what they want players to focus on the next three and a half months.

It can be a make or break time for a team, as the guys themselves are tasked with taking the responsibility for growth and practice. How a team emerges from the time on their own is telling and linebacker David Reese says they understand it can set the tone for the season.

"I'm excited, I want to see what Coach [Nick] Savage thinks about our team, because he said he can usually tell a team's record by how they come out the summer, so I'm excited to see how we attack the summer and how he prepares us and what he thinks we want to be."

A large focus of summer will be individual units working on aspects laid out by their position coach. Running back Jordan Scarlett will be going into his fourth summer but says there’s still much more to learn this summer as Mullen is pushing the backs to focus on more than just their position.

“Just, you know becoming more of a student of the game. Coach Mullen preaches that we have to understand what’s going on, on both sides of the ball, to be a complete player. I think just me understanding the game of football more over the summer.”

The summer is a great time to work on individual weaknesses as well. With the schedule more in their own hands, guys can tailor workouts to their needs. Defensive lineman Antonneous Clayton says his position coach, Sal Sunseri, has given points to work on and it’s how he’ll be spending his offseason.

“Right now, the weight room and trying to build my stamina so I can go more and more and more. Today I was able to run plays down. Like before, I would just get off my block, and I just played my block. Now, I’m able to get off my block…Coach Sal would have me work on my stance. I have like the same stance for everything. He says not every stance is a speed rush stance. Just get your own, your base wider, and play that guy.”

In addition to working on individual aspects, the offseason is a great time to build chemistry. Five minutes every day together is better than no time at all and that’s the mindset Clayton says the defensive line is using to plan their summer.

“You know as a defensive line we all come together. Me, Khairi (Clark), T.J. (Slaton), Elijah (Conliffe), Kyree (Campbell), Luke (Ancrum), we all make this plan during the offseason where every day, it can be 30 minutes where we’re all just working hands. Work get-offs, give each other blocks. I just think with that little bit of game, and that little bit of talk that we’ve been talking to each other about… we don’t have to go out there every day and bust our butts, just don’t get rusty. You don’t have to be out there busting your butt all the freaking time, but just get out there working your fundamentals. That’s all it takes.”

Those fundamentals are key and will be the main focus for many of the units this offseason.

“Getting lined up faster, getting out of the huddle faster,” explains wide receiver Van Jefferson.

“I think if we get those things down pat we'll be very good. But overall I thought it was a very good spring. We had a very productive spring, so if we can get the little things down we'll be fine."

The unit with perhaps the largest strides to make this summer is the quarterbacks. Redshirt sophomores Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask have taken over the competition and the two will have to spend the next three and a half months preparing for final battle this fall. They’ve had a month to learn what Mullen wants to see and will spend the summer perfecting the playbook. That’s plenty of time says Franks, but it comes with a deadline, making the next few months important.

“They're super critical. I mean, not only for me, but for every player. Like I said, we have a whole new offense and the defense as well.

“For me personally, it's just me being in there every single day to learn what's going on, what we're doing, how we're doing it and especially why we're doing it…and Coach Mullen and Coach Johnson are doing a really good job of helping me get there. We've still got a little bit of ways to go, but at the same time, we've got the whole summer and up until August 4 when fall camp comes around, all those things."

“My mindset is just to continue to get better,” adds Trask.

“The coaches aren’t going to be around, so we have to take it upon ourselves to get our timing down, keep our head in the playbook and just keep getting better.”

The quarterback play over the last, well decade has been mediocre at best and changing that will take time. A good portion of that time will in fact be over the next 3-4 months. Every day will be vital says Mullen, for a position filled with player that he feels still needs to work on their speed of decision making and comfort within the offense.

“There's no more important position during the summer than for those guys to work on their own, every day, muscle-memory, taking steps, footwork, throwing motion. I don't care if they're even throwing to receivers. Everything over and over and over again, so that they're much better players August 4th than they were today.”

Since coaches are limited in their access to the players over the summer, Mullen says he will have former players like Dak Prescott call the team to help walk them through what needs to be done to have a successful summer. If every unit follows their plan then by the time fall arrives, the future will be clear to more than just Coach Savage and the Florida Gators will have a team they can call their own.

 
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