Gators more than ready to start football season
Published: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 3:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 3:45 p.m.
Opening day has come and gone, and the Florida Gators still haven't played a game. That means they've moved one week closer to SEC play (and a week closer to a trip to No. 2 Alabama) without taking a snap yet, unless you count Saturday night's opening kickoff.
"You obviously like to get all the games in that you can,” UF offensive coordinator Kurt Roper said Tuesday. “There's an old saying, you always have your most improvement between your first and your second game. So, obviously losing that game affects you that way.
“And then it also slows you down on learning what you're good at, what you're not good at, who you are, who those players are that you can really hang your hat on. So, obviously it affects you. But you just go on to the next thing, we don't have any control over it. So, just go on and go to work.”
Having a game against a 36-point underdog suspended after the opening kickoff may not seem like much of a big deal on the surface. But when you consider the Gators were debuting a new offense and a whole bunch of young players were expected to see their first playing time on both sides of the ball, the lost opportunity could impact the early part of the SEC schedule.
UF opens league play against Kentucky in less than two weeks. A week later, the Gators are heading to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama.
One less game means one less opportunity to get up to speed for the rigors of the SEC.
But quarterback Jeff Driskel said he doesn't think losing Saturday's game to rain and lightning will have an effect on the Gators' early-season league games.
“Some teams play SEC games in their opener,” Driskel said. “Coming out of camp, we felt we were ready to play, whoever that may have been. Obviously, we were prepared for Idaho. But whoever our opener would have been, we would have had the same game preparation for them.
“They say you make your biggest improvement from game one to game two, so we'll still have one game before we get into our SEC schedule. No matter how our schedule lines up, you've got to be ready to go. No excuses.”
The original schedule set up nicely for a team breaking in a new offense, with two relatively weak non-conference opponents up first leading into the first SEC game at home against Kentucky.
But with UF's game with Idaho suspended after almost three hours of weather delays, the Gators now open their season Saturday in The Swamp against Eastern Michigan (1-0).
The Gators had a chance to warm up in front of a big crowd Saturday night, but only 11 players got onto the field during the game, and it was for just that one play, the opening kickoff that was returned 64 yards by Valdez Showers.
“You'd like to be getting live bullets. I mean there's no question that's important,” UF coach Will Muschamp said. “Young players, how are they going to respond? We're going to have some young players on that side of the ball. How is our secondary going to respond? There's going to be some angst with some young players and some tough situations.
“You don't ever really answer some of those questions until you get out in front of 90,000 people.”
Even though he won't know how his young players will react and respond in a live game until Saturday, Muschamp said he has a pretty good feel for how they will on both sides of the ball.
“As far as functioning as our top 15 to 18 on offense, I feel very comfortable with where we are,” Muschamp said. “The young players that are going to be contributing I think are more than ready.
“I think C.J. Worton is a very mature young man. I think Brandon Powell is a very mature young man. I think Treon Harris is certainly ready for the opportunity. I think Will Grier will be ready for the opportunity, and I think David Sharpe is going to be a really good football player.
“As far as the young players playing on (the defensive) side of the ball, I've got a lot of confidence in those guys. You have heard me say it a bunch of times, playing as a freshman has as much to do with maturity as it does ability. All of those guys are mature young men.”
Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.