Gators look to make most of bowl practices
Published: Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 5:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 11, 2011 at 5:48 p.m.
The Florida Gators are about to experience football's version of Christmas in July.
What: 67th Gator Bowl
Who: Florida (6-6) vs. Ohio State (6-6)
When: Jan. 2, 1 p.m.
Where: EverBank Field in Jacksonville
Radio: 103.7 FM, AM-850
Did you know?: Florida is 19-19 all-time in bowls
Training camp in December.
While finals are winding down this week and UF students are preparing to head home for the holiday break, the Gators are going to be going through the same physical rigors of training camp during their prebowl practices in Gainesville.
It's August again, minus the heat and humidity.
“It's a chance for our football team to get better,” UF coach Will Muschamp said.
And a chance for the Gators to get an early start on next year's No. 1 goal: to become a tougher and more physical football team.
The toughness factor has been an issue for Muschamp and the Gators throughout the 6-6 season. But it first came to light outside the UF football team after the 21-7 loss to Florida State three weeks ago, when Muschamp called the Gators mentally and physically “soft.”
He promised a tough and physical round of bowl practices, and now they are here.
There will be some fun in Jacksonville the week leading up to the Jan. 2 date with Ohio State in the Gator Bowl. But while they're still on their own practice field, the Gators are going to be grinding.
“This is a chance to go out and develop our football team,” Muschamp said. “We've got to develop more mental and physical toughness on our football team, more discipline. It isn't where we want it right now, but we'll get where we want to be.
“Bowl practice is critical to continuing to develop your program the way you want to, to continue to build that mental and physical toughness we need to do.”
This week will be a lot like training camp, with a lot of physical work on the basics, rather than polishing the game plan for the Buckeyes.
“I think we'll have some fundamental practices before the game, about six where we're working strictly on Florida and improving our program and developing our young players,” Muschamp said. “I'm excited about having really another spring practice to get ready for the bowl.”
The “soft” comment by their coach should be motivation enough. Add in the fact the Gators will be facing their former coach's future team in Jacksonville and it should be no problem firing up the troops, even though Muschamp said this game really has nothing to do with Urban Meyer and his decision to reboot his coaching career.
“We've moved on,” Muschamp said.
Several UF players, however, have posted on Twitter how pumped up they are to have a shot at Meyer's next team.
First, though, the Gators have to go through basic training in Gainesville before hopping on a bus for Jacksonville.
After breaking for Christmas, the Gators will arrive in Jacksonville on Dec. 27, and begin what should be a more typical (and more tame) week of practice leading up to a bowl game.
It's obvious the Gators want to win this game to avoid a losing season, their first since 1979. It's just as obvious Muschamp and his players are going into this with an eye on the future — a tougher, more physical future for this football team.
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.