Discipline and accountability seemed to be lacking on the Florida football team last season.
It was evident with the multiple player suspensions.
It was apparent in what has been described as a lax weight room.
It was obvious on the field over the course of a disappointing 4-7 season.
There’s no question that new head coach Dan Mullen is going to make the discipline/accountability issue a priority. He has a great starting point.
The Gators’ new cornerbacks coach played football at the Air Force Academy and after graduation was commissioned as an officer in the Air Force and served 10 years of active duty.
So, yes, he knows all about discipline and accountability. Those virtues are ingrained in him. They are part of his every day life.
“I wouldn’t have been a secondary coach at the highest level of football in college football in the SEC if I wasn’t once a hard-working second lieutenant in the Air Force, if I wasn’t once a hard-working cadet at the Air Force Academy or a hard-working student in high school,” Warren said.
“It’s all a process and it builds and builds and builds. It’s just that competitive drive that, no matter what you’re doing in life, do it at the highest level possible because you never know what door can get opened from that. Whatever I’m doing, if I’m going to shine shoes for the rest of my life, I’m going to be the best dang shoe-shiner in the country. I think just that competitive drive and spirit in everything you do.”
During the first part of active service, Warren was in avionics and helped redesign cockpits in fighter jets and cargo planes. Later, he became a weapons guy who attached guided bombs (GBU-38s) to fighter jets and then eventually became an engineer.
Along the way, he became disciplined and accountable.
“I can never separate what I learned in those years in the military,” he said.
He’s passed those lessons on to the players he’s coached since leaving the military, first at the Air Force Academy, then Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and now Florida.
“Where it comes across for me is the discipline and accountability that I demand from those guys day in and day out,” said Warren, the Vols’ secondary coach and special teams coordinator last season. “Little things like sitting up in your chair. When the meeting starts, if one person is talking, you listen. The ‘yes sir,’ ‘no sir’ comments back and forth in our room.
“That discipline and accountability that I sort of bring just as a human being on a day-to-day basis sort of spills over to my players in the meeting room, and then also when we’re playing as well.”
On the football field, discipline and accountability are vital, especially in the secondary, where being in the right place, understanding what’s going on and communicating with your teammates is so important.
Florida’s young secondary failed in those areas at times last season, and big plays were surrendered.
“When you have discipline and accountability, you don’t blow coverages,” Warren said. “When you have discipline and accountability, you communicate effectively with your teammate, your squadmate, your brother next to you. You make sure everybody is on the same page.
“Those two things (discipline and accountability) will be intertwined on a daily basis.”
The Gators will be taking a disciplined approach in the secondary. But the players are not going to feel like they’re in the military, Warren said.
“It’s not the military. It’s not boot camp,” he said. “We’re not out there doing push-ups in the middle of our meetings
“It’s just that to be a cohesive unit and a cohesive group, there has to be a certain amount of structure, discipline and accountability that you must have in those rooms. That comes from my military background.”
Warren’s approach certainly worked at Tennessee last season. Many may just remember the one play that wasn’t made — the 63-yard TD pass from Feleipe Franks to Tyrie Cleveland given up on the final play of the game in The Swamp to lose to UF — but over the course of the season the UT secondary was, for the most part, sound and disciplined.
The Vols held opponents to the second-fewest passing yards per game (161.7) in the SEC.
At UF, he will be coaching a secondary that returns starting cornerbacks Marco Wilson and C.J. Henderson, who were true freshmen last fall, and starting safety Chauncey Gardner.
Warren said it will be an open competition at all positions in the secondary in the spring.
“No one’s entrenched,” he said. “Everybody’s earning their position by the way they conduct themselves in the classroom, away from campus, in the meeting room and, ultimately, when spring ball starts when we put the pads on.
“Because everybody looks good in underwear. And everybody can be competitive in the meeting room. When we put the pads on and we go outside, you’re going to have to earn jobs. They understand that in that room, and everybody’s coming into every day working.”