Florida is only four practices into preseason camp, but that’s been enough time for coach Dan Mullen to assert that the Gators are more advanced than they were at this time a year ago.
“One, everybody understands what we’re trying to do, so everything is cleaner out there at practice,” Mullen said Monday. “We’ve got to make sure we’re staying the intensity, the sense of urgency, the grind, the strain every day.
“Because last year guys were really trying to learn schemes that they could really clamp on and play. Like, ‘I might not know what I’m doing but I can go really hard.’ I think there’s a lot more confidence in what they’re doing right now, so they’re paying more attention to how they’re making plays, how they’re fitting the exactness and the techniques. I think that’s a lot better.”
Moving into Year Two under Mullen and his staff, the Gators certainly know the schemes now and what’s expected of them from the coaches in their approach to practice and preparation for games.
At the same time, the coaches have a better knowledge of the talent they are working with.
“We have a better idea of what guys can do skill set-wise,” Mullen said. “As a team, you still got to figure out what type of team we’re going to be. The leadership of the team, how everyone comes together. The adversity of both success and failure, the general adversities and curveballs that get thrown at you.
“I want to see that and how the leadership and team chemistry react to those things. But, I think we have a much better idea of the skill set of the players and making sure we’re putting them in positions to be successful.”
With a comfort level present for the players and coaches, preseason camp has been moving on at a pretty speedy clip so far. The first four practices saw the coaches install significant parts of the offensive and defensive schemes. Now, the players will have time to learn and grow more comfortable with what’s been given them so far.
Then it’s move on to the next install.
“There is nothing new going in (this week),” Mullen said. “They get to watch the film, they get the walk through to review the first four days tomorrow and then another day off to review it all. It really gives a chance for these guys right now to catch up and get where they need to be to see if they are ready to get on the field and really be contributors before we continue to move forward with installations after that.
“You’re just seeing where guys are at, how guys are picking it up. Still a long time to figure out who’s going to be ready to play. I’m pleased with the older guys. They’ve picked stuff up pretty good. They seem pretty confident in what we’re doing.
“The younger guys, you’ve got to separate the younger guys – who’s picking it up and who’s just swimming right now and can’t figure stuff out.”
Mullen and his staff probably will have a better gauge on where this team is at over the next week. The Gators go into full pads Tuesday and will hold their first scrimmage next Monday.
Word out of Coral Gables is the Hurricanes are already getting physical in practice under first-year coach Manny Diaz, a former defensive coordinator under Mullen at Mississippi State.
“That doesn’t surprise me with Manny,” Mullen said. “First-year coach, really trying to get guys to buy in and understand the system, understand physicality.
“We’re pretty physical. We get after it with guys. But you’ve got to be smart. There’s that fine balance of what you’re doing, making sure you’re not physical just to be physical. We’re making sure we’re physical to teach and execute and improve that way.
“I always want to be a team that’s effort, physically based. I want people to know after the game that you played us with the physicality that we are. We’re going to run camp how we run camp and be a pretty physical group.”