Gators notebook: UF continues to stay ahead of COVID-19 curve

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
UF coach Dan Mullen

Florida’s successful run in fending off COVID-19 continues.

 On the week that UF students returned to campus, the Gators made it through without any positive tests once again, Gators coach Dan Mullen said after Friday’s practice.

 The football team has not had a positive test since early July.

 “It’s really encouraging,” Mullen said. “I’m really proud of our guys. They’ve really handled all of these situations extremely well. I think it shows you their commitment to excellence, their desire to be a great football team. Their commitment to each other and how serious they take everything.

 “I’m really, really pleased with what we did. But you know what, success is not a short-term thing. To be successful, it takes commitment to doing things the right way. It’s a long-term deal. 

 “Hopefully, we’ll continue to be smart, continue to do things the right way and continue to stay on the path we’re on.”

Scrimmage time

 The Gators will hold their second and final preseason scrimmage Monday. It will be a full-contact scrimmage with tackling to the ground. It, of course, is closed to the public.

 “(I want to) look better than we did in the first one,” Mullen said. "Really, to be just cleaner. Cleaner tackling, cleaner execution, cleaner ball security. You know those are all the things you worry about. When you go full contact now, the fumbles, the turnovers, missed tackles, the things that end up being big plays within the course of the game.

 “You just really want to have clean football, clean tackling, great ball security. You want to watch and say, ‘Boy, that was really good football being played on both sides, those are good football plays being made.’ ” 

The Mullen rule

 UF’s tradition under Mullen of warming up before games in T-shirts with no numbers on them is over. The SEC has put in a new rule, which states that players must have jersey numbers present 90 minutes before kickoff.

  “I think it's ridiculous to have to do that, to be perfectly honest with you, it is,” Mullen said. “The Dan Mullen rule, that is horrendously ridiculous. Listen, it's not the game. Our guys, we know how we warm up, our guys like warming up how we warm up. It is what it is. That's my rant on it."

Definitely different environment

 With capacity in The Swamp at just 20 percent this season, the Gators are going to have only about 17,000 fans at every home game. Mullen said it’s going to feel somewhat awkward for the players and coaches.

 “It’s going to be a lot less than even a spring game in the stadium,” he said. “One of the things people come to play at Florida is to be able to play at The Swamp and have 90,000 fans going crazy and the loud atmosphere and the craziness.

 “I think it’s going to be a little awkward. Almost like a scrimmage feels than game-day feels, so I think that will be an adjustment. I’ll call some of those (NFL) people and see what the atmosphere for those guys is and the effect of the players to maybe try to mentally prepare us for what it will be so it feels like game day and not a scrimmage because of the lack of atmosphere that we’re used to.”

More playing time for Emory?

 There is no set plan yet (at least that we know of) for how much bigger No. 2 quarterback Emory Jones’ role will be in the offense this season. But based on the fact he’s shown improvement in the one key area the coaches have been pressing him on —consistency — would lead one to think he’ll see more playing time in 2020.

 “Emory is a very special talent,” quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson said. “He’s done a great job of improving on a day-to-day basis of just his consistency of performance. Emory, every time he’s gotten into games he’s played really, really well. My challenge to him has always been to be consistent in everything that you do. He’s really continued to do that and improve. I love coaching Emory. I think he’s a fantastic player, a fantastic talent, and I can’t wait to watch him play.” 

 Jones has shown that he is a dynamic runner. But don’t fall asleep on his arm, Johnson said.

 “He’s got a ton of juice in his arm,” Johnson said. “He’s continued to get better and better. His arm strength has never been a problem. He gets in the game and he’s really, really accurate with the ball as well. It all comes down to him putting everything together. 

 “In a practice setting, it’s a little different because he has a completely different skillset and he can be dynamic and change the game with his legs. When you’ve got somebody like that, that can do everything, it really makes it tough on the defense and it really changes the looks that you get. You get some premium to spin the rock, and he’s been able to do that for us, and I’ve been happy with his development so far.”  

Studious QB

 True freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson continues to impress in preseason camp. Not just with his skill set, but also with his study habits and ability to pick things up mentally.

 “He’s obviously got a ton of God-given ability,” Johnson said. “He’s a really fast learner. With him missing spring ball, I was a little concerned in terms of him not being able to get those reps. But he was really engaged in our Zooms over the summer. He’s a great note taker. He’s a great listener.

 “He really gives you everything in terms of his energy and effort to become a really great player. He’s got a fantastic skill set. We’ve just got to keep developing him at a rapid rate and he’s got to continue to just keep pushing, keep developing. But I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far out of him.” 

Trask up to the task

 Being a quarterback means having to be a leader. And quarterback Kyle Trask certainly has become one, tight end Kyle Pitts said.

 "I think he has taken it to another level,” Pitts said. “It's just him running everything. Him being the guy that's the first to meetings, and first to call things up, make sure the offense is right and just making sure that everything around him is correct." 

 He has grown into the role, Johnson said.

 “He’s going into his fifth year of college so he’s had a bunch of experiences that have shaped him to this point,” he said. “And I think he’s in a position now where he feels extremely confident and comfortable with who he is and what he stands for."