Summer is an important time for every college football team. For those that are basically starting over with a new head coach, it is a critical three months that will go a long way toward determining what happens in the fall.
This is the situation the Florida Gators are in with Dan Mullen and the new coaching staff.
This summer is going to be crucial if the Gators hope to have a bounce-back season and return as a contender in the SEC East after going 4-7 in 2017.
Here are five things the Gators should be required to take care of between now and the start of preseason camp in the first week of August:
The players, who bought into Nick Savage’s savage workouts during the spring semester, need to stay in this summer, because the workouts are only going to get tougher and more demanding.
Based on what we saw this winter, the Gators were not a very fit or strong football team under Jim McElwain in 2016. Great gains were made in a short period of time under Savage and his strength and conditioning staff.
The players will be asked to take it to another level this summer in preparation for the start of camp and the season.
What they need to do is take those “after” pictures they recently posted of themselves on Twitter and make them the “before” pictures for when the summer workouts end. That should keep everybody motivated through the long, physical grind that awaits them — creating that “after” picture they’re all working toward.
But don’t be silly savages
By that, of course, we mean don’t do anything stupid. Don’t smoke dope. Don’t go to bars. Don’t get into fights. Don’t hit your girlfriend (or any woman, for that matter) and, by all means, don’t steal anyone’s credit card number, the big offense that helped lead to the overall downfall last season.
Mullen has been talking about returning Florida to a championship program, and he has stressed that to be a champion, you have to act like one in everything you do on and off the field.
That’s what the Gators need to do this summer — carry themselves like champions, mature champions who will show they know the difference between right and wrong in their actions.
Champions don’t get arrested. Champions don’t fail drug tests. Champions don’t do things that will hurt their teammates and their team.
So, do the right thing this summer and stay out of the headlines (and arrest reports).
Get in the film room
This isn’t just for the quarterback, it’s for everybody.
Both the offensive and defensive players are in new schemes now, and there is still a lot to learn after only 14 practices and the spring game.
You could see some tentativeness on both sides of the ball in the spring game. The Gators need to move behind that and find a comfort level that will allow them to play fast without having to think too much.
The coaches can’t coach them this summer, but the players can help themselves by getting into the coaches’ office and studying tape. Not just watch it, but study it, then apply it during players-only workouts.
If that happens, the schemes will be a much more comfortable fit for everyone by the time camp opens.
The three Rs
Repetition. Repetition. Repetition.
Now we are talking mostly about the quarterbacks. The goal should be to work on and improve on every aspect of their game — from footwork, to drops, to release points, to timing with receivers, to reading defenses, to going through progressions, to finding (and hitting) the open receiver.
Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask and true freshman Emory Jones all seemed to improve over the course of the spring. But it’s obvious all three still have a long way to go before they’re ready to operate Mullen’s offense at peak efficiency.
Mullen won’t be there to coach them this summer, so they’re going to have to coach themselves and make sure they get the most out of every workout.
They also need to lead — because that’s what quarterbacks do. They are responsible for organizing the players-only practice and making sure their teammates show up and put forth the effort that will help make everyone better.
The ties that bind
Championship teams all have one intangible in common: chemistry.
So, that’s one thing the Gators will strive to create this summer. The workouts, the practices and the film study certainly will help, but the players need to go beyond that to form the unbreakable bond between teammates.
They should do things together off the field. Defensive guys should hang out with offensive guys. Punters and kicker and walk-ons also are welcome.
As one SEC coach always likes to say — one team, one heartbeat.
Come together, be together, be accountable for one another.
That’s what championship teams are all about.