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Gators staying on schedule to start the season on Sept. 26

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
UF football coach Dan Mullen watches a recent practice.

The start of their season is still a month away, which is certainly a long way off in this uncertain time. But so far, the Florida football players are doing their part to give the Gators a chance to get there, ready to kick if off Sept. 26.

They’re COVID-19 free and staying right on schedule through eight practices.

“I’m really happy our guys have made great decisions,” UF coach Dan Mullen said Tuesday. “We’re still at zero positive tests since early July. The one thing that’s always the biggest concern is the more free time we give the guys. … statistically, what it’s looked like is while we’re doing football, football is very safe.

“When we send guys away, maybe there’s issues. The more we send them away, the more probably nerve-racking it gets for us. But our guys have done a great job of making decisions, taking care of themselves.”

Every day is different because of the virus, every day a challenge. And one of the biggest challenges of all is unfolding right now.

Since this past weekend, students have been streaming back to town, with the fall semester set to start Monday. That means the protective semi-bubble the Gators have been existing in since their return in June is about to change dramatically.

Mullen said the players have to keep doing what they’ve been doing to make it through to the Sept. 26 opener at Ole Miss.

“We’ve got to be smart,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to be smart in our decision making, we’ve got to be smart in what we do. We kind of got to control our own future. We've shown that playing football's safe, that's what we've shown. So, that part of it, (we’re good).

 “Now, we’ve got to make smart decisions on what we're doing and what we’re not doing when we're doing more than football. That’s going to be a big thing as we move forward.”

COVID-19 will be a factor, certainly on the UF campus. Alabama recently revealed that more than 500 students tested positive upon the return to campus Monday.

There surely will be positive tests among returning UF students.

It’s something the Gators will have to cope with over the next month — and beyond.

“To sit there and say, ‘Hey, when students come back to campus there's going to be zero positives on our campus.' that’s kind of ridiculous to even think that way,” Mullen said. “We’ve got to trust our local health people, and our students. People need to try to be smart, make good decisions. Keep everything under control as best we can. 

“The (positivity) rate is currently going down, and the big one for us, our guys have been responsible, we've shown football's pretty safe. I think we can get to the NFL model, which (has) probably obviously been the most vetted I think of probably anything. It will really help for us to get the season going and have everybody feeling comfortable that we're going to kick off on time and get ready to play."

Mullen has talked about controlling the controllables, and that’s been doable on the practice field and during strength and conditioning workouts. Mullen feels good about what the Gators have done in that regard. He also seems pleased with the actual football aspect of things.

“I have a good feel for the guys on the team,” he said. “I love the attitude and the effort that our guys give.”

The Gators are right on schedule so far. They will hold their first scrimmage Friday, have the weekend off, then begin classes Monday, so the balancing act between academics and football is about to begin.

“We’re going to kind of spread things out a little bit (with the start of the season still a month away),” Mullen said. “It’s usually a time in training camp when you don’t have school, you don’t have this. All our guys are going to have academic things they’ve got to start taking care of. We’ll have to really spread some things out and handle the different situations within the situations they’re given.”