After Saturday night’s humbling loss to Kentucky, Florida coach Dan Mullen called out his players, challenging them to come back to work Monday focusing on becoming tougher and playing harder.
They’ve apparently accepted the challenge. At least they have so far, Mullen said Wednesday.
“I think our guys have had a very positive attitude toward practicing this week,” Mullen said. “They’ve come out with some energy and are trying to take a step forward to continue to grow and get us up to the level we expect to play at.
“The attitude part is really good. We’ve just got a lot of work to do to get better. I haven’t seen a whole lot of resistance from the guys. We try to show them the things we need to do, show them the things we need to improve on.”
It became evident in the 27-16 loss to Kentucky that the Gators lack toughness and are not playing with the relentless effort Mullen is demanding of them. They were physically dominated on both sides of the ball, especially on the lines of scrimmage.
In the postgame locker room, Mullen addressed the issues with his players and told them things were going to change starting with Monday’s practice, saying there is going to be a focus on getting tougher and playing harder, meaning practices are going to be much more demanding physically and mentally.
So far, the players have been willing participants in the new, get-tough plan, Mullen said.
“It takes time,” Mullen said. “Just watching film, you’re constantly asking guys, ‘Is that as hard as you can go?’ When the answer is no, you question why, and they say, ‘Well, I thought I was going hard?’
“They’re learning how to push themselves to a new level. The attitude has been positive and that’s what you can build off of. If the attitude comes out as negative, ‘Woe is me,’ that’s really hard to build off of.
“If the attitude is positive and they want to look at, ‘How can I get better, what’s the solution to the problem?,’ then you have an opportunity to improve. That’s been their attitude.”
As promised, practices this week have been more physically demanding and more intense. The players seem fine with that.
“I feel like we’ve just stepped up to the plate and had a great week of practice so far,” junior offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor said. “I feel like we’re stepping up to the plate a lot more in physicality, and I feel like it’s going to show up on Saturday.
“There’s a lot more sense of urgency in practice. I feel like we’re practicing a lot harder and stepping up to the challenge, and it’s showing.”
Based on preseason camp, the coaches came into the UK game feeling the Gators were physically ready to hold their own in SEC play. The Wildcats showed them they’re not, so there’s been a change in attitude, a change in practice approach.
Looking back pre-Kentucky, rush end Jachai Polite said the Gators were not practicing hard enough or competing the way they should have.
“We have to practice harder and take it more seriously,” he said. “We’ve been laid back, not going hard, but that’s all out the window now. I know it’s getting fixed now.
“Everything is more like intense, everything. Every little detail. It was just the energy, competition and that’s really it.”
Polite said the energy level on the practice field has increased dramatically this week. He said it had been way too low before the Gators were awakened by the loss Saturday night.
“I just know it was not enough (before),” he said. “It wasn’t enough.”
The loss to Kentucky revealed a lot about this Florida football team. What it showed the most is the Gators have got to become tougher and more physical if they hope to have success in the SEC this season — and beyond.
It’s started on the practice field this week.
“It’s the only way you can get tougher, through practice,” Mullen said. “I can’t just wave a wand over them and all of a sudden they become tougher. You have to practice it.”