Five things Gators need to do before practice starts

Quarterback John Brantley (12) laughs with William Green (96) after the Orange and Blue Spring Game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, April 9, 2011 in Gainesville Fl. The Blue defeated the Orange 13-10.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Monday, May 9, 2011 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, May 9, 2011 at 12:00 p.m.

This is the time of year when the Florida coaches are hot on the recruiting trail and the Gator football team is handed over to Mickey Marotti, UF's strength and conditioning coordinator.

The offseason is always big, always important. It's even bigger when you're a team still in the midst of transitioning to a new head coach and coaching staff.

It's going to be a busy and active offseason for the Gators, with much to be done. Here's a look at five things the Gators need to accomplish between now and the start of two-a-days in August:

1. Stay out of trouble, out of the headlines

Here's a novel idea, and an achievable goal for the Gators: zero arrests this summer. It can be done. In fact, it's not that hard. Stay away from the downtown night clubs, lay off the booze and the pot (especially the pot, apparently) and treat your girlfriend (and all women) with respect. That should take care of it. Given UF's recent (and poor) track record, any arrests this summer would send a bad message, a message that says this team isn't serious about making this a potentially special season.

2. Get healthy, stay healthy

The Gators were so wounded in the spring they were difficult to recognize. The offensive line, especially, was a wreck with so many guys on the sideline. If the Gators can get healthy up front — if they can get Matt Patchan and James Wilson and Nick Alajajian and David Young back on the field — the offense has a chance to be very good. They need those tailbacks — Mike Gillisee and Mack Brown and Mike Blakely — back on the active list, too. On defense, it will be a big boost getting starting defensive tackle Jaye Howard back in the mix. So this summer, get in shape, get healthy — and stay that way until the start of the season.

3. Work through college football's version of a lockout

Because the NCAA allows so little contact between players and coaches during the offseason, it's almost like a lockout situation in the summer. With little or no direct supervision from the coaching staff, the players have to take it upon themselves to get together and pretty much practice on their own. That means more than the quarterbacks throwing to the backs and receivers every day. It also includes the other players putting themselves through position drills and working on offensive and defensive schemes.

4. Do your homework, quarterbacks

John Brantley, Tyler Murphy and Jeff Driskel need stay in the playbook, and in the film room, this summer. Will Muschamp has said numerous times that a lot is put on the quarterback in Charlie Weis' offense. These guys need to study long and hard and report to camp comfortable in the fact they know the offense and that it has become second nature to them. And Brantley needs to become a team leader. Not just by words, but by his actions on the field.

5. Come together, build some chemistry

This is really important after the way the Gators seemed to fracture last season. There's no denying there was a divide between some of the veteran players and the highly rated incoming freshmen and it pretty much diluted the team chemistry that was starting to develop in the spring. The Gators seemed much more united this past spring. The key now it to keep that going through the summer so that this team has a well-defined identity — and lots of good chemistry — when practice starts in August. The players need to work out, hang out and develop a real tight bond over the next few months. They'll be glad they did when the pressure mounts in the fall.

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