Like everyone else out there, Florida’s Dan Mullen has no way of knowing right now whether there will be college football in the fall. There’s simply no way to accurately predict. But he can say this: he’s hopeful.
A whole lot hopeful, as a matter of fact.
“I don’t know (if I’m) optimistic. I think more hopeful,” Mullen said Monday on a Zoom interview with the media. “That’s probably a better word. Because right now we have such trying times, there’s so much we’re still learning, that we don’t know about, that it’s hard to project where we’ll be in four months.
“But I’m certainly hopeful. Hopeful that we find a vaccine and a cure. Hopeful that people are working hard to limit the spread of everything going on. Hopeful that people are trying as best they can to follow the regulations and making the most out of each day that’s going on.
“And hopeful we get back to whatever our new normal is going to be, and that includes having a football season this fall. I would say I’m much more hopeful than optimistic.”
For now, the new normal for Mullen is staying at home, working from home. His daily routine includes a morning run or workout, virtual meetings with his coaching staff and players, walking the dog, helping his son Cannon with his math, lots of recruiting phone calls and a whole bunch of quality family time.
He’s adjusted to his new normal. The players apparently have to theirs as well.
“I think we’re making the most out of this time,” he said. “I’m happy. When I sit in on the meetings, I’m happy with what’s going on, happy with the retention level our players (have) shown and how they’re learning.
“When I talk to the guys, almost everybody is, ‘Hey, I was training, I was doing this, I’m trying to get workouts, I’m finding different ways to get workouts in.’ With everything going on, our guys are handling this as best as possible.
“One positive is we’ve established within our program that we have high expectations as a program and our individuals have high expectations in themselves. I don’t know if it makes us better equipped to handle what’s going on. But I think we’re making the most of this time.”
Even though the players are scattered all over the state and nation, on their own to keep up in the classroom and with the workouts Nick Savage sends them, Mullen is getting more time around his players than he normally would this time of the year. He’s been sitting in on position group meetings every day, not as a participant but an observer.
And he likes what he’s seeing.
“I come in with no video, no audio,” he said. “Kind of like sitting in the back of the room. That’s pretty good learning for me and learning what our players do and what’s going on with all of them. So that’s kind of exciting.”
Mullen said there has been a common theme among the coaches and players: stay focused, put in the work, do what’s required so that everyone is ready to go when the call comes to return to campus to start getting ready for the start of the season, whenever that may be.
“One of the things we’ve talked about, the coaches and our players, was just worry about what we can control,” Mullen said. “And the big thing is, when this is over, are we going to be the team that’s prepared? Are we the team that continued to stay in great physical shape? Are we the team that put in extra conditioning, extra training.
“Are we the team that spent extra time learning and maximizing what we can do and maximizing ourselves of what we can do so we’re a better football team when we get back together than we were when we left?”
All questions that no one can answer until this Gator team does get back together.
Another question to ponder is how long will UF and other league schools need to get ready for the season once they do return?
Mullen has been on multiple Zoom meetings with SEC officials and fellow conference coaches discussing that and other logistical issues everyone will be facing.
“There’s a lot of different discussions about that and what’s going on,” Mullen said. “There are so many variables that go along with them. Obviously, the sooner we get our guys back, the better, the less time you need.
“I think the consensus is everybody would like to have eight weeks. I think six weeks is where everybody kind of feels like they could get comfortable.
“Once you get down to four weeks, I think you’re pressing it. I’ve played D-3 (football) and you had four weeks then. But what you’re doing is you’re not getting the guys in the best position to be ready to go play and perform at that.”
No one knows when the return will be. No one knows even if there will be games in The Swamp and college football in the fall.
In the meantime, all the Gators can do is stay at home, work and wait — and remain hopeful.
“The attitude our team has continued to have, I’m really pleased with it,” Mullen said. “During football, you’re always wondering how teams are going to deal with adversity. We’re dealing with adversity, and a lot of times you’re judged by how you deal with adversity.
“Our players, our coaches, everybody in the athletic department is trying to deal with it in a very positive manner the best they can. It’s great how we’re dealing with adversity.”