Notebook: Florida's first scrimmage is today, school starts Monday
In their return to football, the Florida Gators will take another step Monday with the start of classes for the fall semester.
But that doesn’t mean they will all physically be in class. Like many other UF students, many of the players will be taking their classes online, which could help the Gators stay in the protective semi-bubble they’ve been in since their return to campus in June.
"My understanding on campus is a lot of classes are still going to be online classes,” UF coach Dan Mullen said Thursday. “So, we're not all online and we're not all in person. There's going to kind of be a mix and a balance. For me to say all our guys are online, I can't say that. There are going to be some guys who have some classes that are going to be in-person they need to go to. But I do think the majority of them will try to be online."
The Gators have not had any players test positive for COVID-19 since July.
Time for football again
The Gators will hold their first scrimmage of preseason camp today. It will be the first form of an actual football game they have played in since the Orange Bowl at the end of December.
“I’d love to come out healthy, obviously. That’s the No. 1 thing,” Mullen said. “It’s going to be interesting. They haven’t played football in a long time — a really long time. Then we’re practicing. Our practices are starting to look a little bit more normal. To go out there and tackle and catch, ball security, get hit and do all of those different things to see where we’re at.
“Usually, you have two scrimmages and a spring game during the spring. Usually get two scrimmages during fall camp. So between that New Year’s Day, the nine months until kickoff, there’s five opportunities to do it. Since Dec. 31, we’ve had zero. This time last year we were 1-0, and we haven’t had an opportunity since 2019. We haven’t got to hit and tackle and play live football. That’s one of the things I want to see, where we’re at that way.”
Mullen said it will be a 130-play scrimmage, which is the equivalent of two games. It is closed to everybody, of course.
Usually early in camp, the defense is ahead of the offense. The opposite may be true for the Gators. Experience at quarterback in senior Kyle Trask and sophomore Emory Jones could give the offense the edge over the next few weeks, starting with today’s scrimmage.
“It certainly gives you a lot of comfort and certainly gives you the opportunity that you can get reps in, you get a lot of quality reps in,” Mullen said. “(The offensive players) have a guy that is always getting us into the right check, is trying to check the right protections, making good reads in the pass game. It helps the teaching and learning of everybody else on the field.
“That certainly helps. Obviously, it’s much easier getting ready for games because you don’t have to think about the plan, ‘OK, what if?’ If you have the guys with experience you’re not spending as much time on the what-if because we have guys who have played.”
“Sometimes young guys, you’ve got to stand up, let’s walk this through. You can look in their face and get a feel they have no idea what I’m talking about. When you have guys that already know what’s going on, when you’re teaching, you know they know what’s going on.”
Lang makes a move
Mullen confirmed that redshirt sophomore Dante Lang has made the move from tight end to defensive end.
"Yeah, he has,” Mullen said. “That's like a big one because he changed from offense to defense. We haven't had anybody else switch sides of the ball. But Dante is playing defense."
The 6-foot-5, 252-pound Lang played in all 13 games last season, but did not have any receptions. He finished the 2019 season fourth on the depth chart at tight end, behind Kyle Pitts, Kemore Gamble and true freshman Keon Zipperer.
The right stuff
Even though the Gators are only nine practices into preseason camp — and the start of the season is still almost a month away — Mullen seems to feel pretty good about what he’s going to be putting on the field this fall.
“I think we have the potential to go compete for a championship and be a championship team,” he said. “We have that potential. Obviously, there's a lot of things that go into that, but I think we have that potential, which is really good and it's really exciting.
“A lot of things have to happen for it to play out that way, for it to end up being a championship team. In the end there's still a lot of other things that have to happen before that will happen, but we certainly have the potential to be."