In case his mindset was up for debate, Dan Mullen used the word “fun” 14 times when expressing his desire for Saturday’s atmosphere.
While the Orange and Blue Game will be catered to fans, with numerous activities set up in and around the stadium for attendees to partake in, Florida’s coaching staff will have its sights set elsewhere — on the field.
Considering Saturday marks Florida’s 15th and final practice before the offseason commences, UF’s assistant coaches plan maximizing the two-hour session.
For Florida’s nine early enrollees, in addition to those without much experience, that means to expect plenty of playing time.
“Give guys that are maybe early enrollees, guys who haven’t played a lot, an opportunity to play in a front of a crowd – in front of an environment – to let them go and showcase their abilities,” Gators defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “Games like this are kind of like preseason games, from the standpoint of you’ve really got to look at the individual play of guys and how they play. Because the way you mix and match things it may not be the guys you’re necessarily going to go into the game with all the time, but here are the pieces. And then once we come together, we’re going to put the pieces together. So the biggest thing to me is guys are giving effort, guys are showing improvement.”
And with several potential starters out, including defensive back Marco Wilson and linebacker Jeremiah Moon, expect Florida to experiment with multiple options at each position as it continues to build depth. Whereas much of the past month has revolved around learning and developing, Saturday will test UF’s memory retention — particularly of those in line to start in 2019.
“Just to see if we’re taking the things from the meeting room and executing them on the practice field. It’s been a long Spring with a lot of young guys. There’s some guys who may not have played as much, so we’re trying to get them to play the technique, play fast, physical and aggressive, the way we want them, and play to their level, and push them a little bit above that,” said defensive backs coach Torrian Gray. “So I just want to see if they can continue to grasp what we want them to do, and execute.”
Florida’s defensive line has several fresh faces, with defensive ends CeCe Jefferson and Jachai Polite bound for the NFL, in addition to the departure of former defensive line coach Sal Sunseri.
Aside from two seasoned linemen in Adam Shuler and Jabari Zuniga, Florida’s defensive line lacks much experience, meaning new assistant David Turner doesn’t plan on nitpicking. But Turner, who previously coached with Mullen at Mississippi State, does agree with the man at the helm when it comes to the overall mentality of Saturday.
“We just need to come out and play. It’s not going to be anything fancy. We just got to line up and play good, fundamental football,” Turner said. “Get off blocks, fly around, make plays, and have fun.”