Had basically the entire sports world, including spring football, been shuttered two years ago like it is now, it would have been problematic for Dan Mullen and the Florida Gators.
Now, not so much.
That is the learned opinion of someone who would know — legendary former Florida player and coach Steve Spurrier, who now is an ambassador for the athletic department and school.
Spurrier said a spring without football — which is where we’re headed — would have only a minimal impact on the Gators.
“I think so,” he said. “We’ll be fine if we don’t get to spring practice a bunch.
“Right now, Dan Mullen is going on his third year. We’re not going to have a different offense. Todd Grantham has been here going on three years. We’re not going to run a new defense.
“These guys can learn most of the stuff. … the freshmen can learn it in the classroom. Maybe just going out and throwing the ball amongst themselves and things like that.”
It’s a much different story for Steve Spurrier Jr.’s team. He’s on the new coaching staff at Mississippi State, where Mike Leach was hired as the head coach two months ago.
Not having spring football will be problematic for the Bulldogs and other schools around the country who have new coaches and are installing new schemes and philosophies, Spurrier said.
“It all depends if your coaching staff has been there before or not,” he said. “A new coaching staff like Mike Leach at Mississippi State, some of those (new coaches), they could really use it.
“We’ll be fine (at UF) if we don’t get to spring practice a whole bunch. Whereas, the schools that have new coaches probably could really use it.”
Spurrier speaks from experience. He knows how vital a first spring practice is for a new coaching staff. He’s gone through three of them — at Duke, Florida and South Carolina.
When he first returned to his alma mater to take over in 1990, Spurrier knew all about the school and the traditions of Gator football. But he didn’t know the players yet and they didn’t know him.
He entered his first spring in Gainesville having no idea who his quarterback was going to be. The situation would have remained the same heading into preseason camp if there had been no spring practice.
But there was spring practice, and that’s where Spurrier found his guy — sophomore Shane Matthews, who would go on to be a first-team All-SEC performer for three consecutive years.
“Going back to my experience in 1990, obviously we had a new staff coming in,” Spurrier said. “We had five quarterback competing for the starting job. And the guy who lined up at No. 5 the first day became the SEC player of the year (in 1990).
“Spring practice was pretty good for him, wouldn’t you say?”
It was. Especially the spring game itself.
“He went out there and threw three touchdown passes, completed eight of 11 passes,” Spurrier said. “Hell, he could play. We didn’t know he could play like that until he got a chance.”
UF’s current quarterback situation is much different. Senior Kyle Trask is the established starter. But this was expected to be an important spring for the two quarterbacks who are developing behind him — Emory Jones and true freshman Anthony Richardson.
“As far as the quarterback competition behind Kyle, or to see if anyone can beat him out, they’ll have the preseason to figure that out,” Spurrier said.
In the meantime, with no spring football, Mullen and the Gators likely have already put themselves in summer mode, Spurrier said.
“Coaches can give them what to do in workouts,” he said. “Coaches can give them a little summer plan, ‘Hey, you’re on your own, I can’t watch. How bad do you want it?’
“I’ve given the quarterbacks a whole list of things to do every time they worked out. A whole bunch of things, a lot of drills and this, that and the other. When the season rolled around, they’re usually ready to go, the ones that really want it.”
A spring without football might not be all that bad for the Gators.
“I think we’ll be fine because our staff has been here two years now,” Spurrier said.