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Gators are ready for some football finally

Robbie Andreu
Gator Sports
Coach Dan Mullen begins his third season as the head football coach at Florida at noon Saturday in Oxford, Miss., against Ole Miss.

There are always lots of questions heading into a season opener. Stuff like, is the new quarterback going to be a good fit? Is the running game really going to be better? Can that young defensive line hold up? Will those talented young wide receivers make plays? And so on and so forth.

 You know, football stuff.

 Well, those typical football questions have now been pushed into the background in this strange and uncertain time. The questions we’re getting now are: Are we actually going to make it to game day and have a game? If we do, will we make it to the next game and the game after that? Can we complete a 10-game schedule? How will the players react to playing in front of so few fans?

 This is the new normal, of course.

 Welcome to the COVID college football season.

 So, here the Florida Gators are, in Oxford, Miss., ready to launch their season against the Ole Miss Rebels.

Saturday

Who: No. 6 Florida vs. Ole Miss

Where: Vaught Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Miss.

When: Noon

TV: ESPN

Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850

Online: Click to Gatorsports.com for a lot more on Saturday's game

 At least that’s the plan. But as we’ve seen over the past six months, the pandemic doesn’t always follow the plan.

 The uncertainty, the what-ifs, are going to be there throughout this season, for however long it lasts, starting with Saturday's opener.

 “Obviously, all the COVID stuff makes you anxious, all the different scenarios that can play out during the course of the week,” UF coach Dan Mullen said. “You could sit here and on Thursday afternoon, say, ‘Hey, these 10 guys can’t play.’ You kind of have your whole game plan done, your depth chart done.

 “Right now, as it's set up, I could be getting ready to walk on the plane and they could say, 'Hey, these 10 guys can't get on the plane', and you've got to do a whole new game plan Friday night. That makes me pretty anxious. That'll keep you up at night just trying to create as many different scenarios, solve as many different issues and problems and deal with every one of these scenarios that could happen." 

 The Gators, as far as we know, have made it to Oxford and will actually play a game Saturday. That’s been the goal throughout a long preseason: control the controllables and make it to the opener, then take it from there.

 It’s day-by-day, week-by-week, game-by-game kind of deal.

 The players have done their part to reach this point, and now they’re ready to do what they love to do — actually play football.

 “I’m excited,” junior cornerback Marco Wilson said. “The season got delayed so there’s been a lot of practice against our own team. So, we’re excited to go against somebody else and just start competing. 

 They’re able to compete and play because they’ve managed to stay ahead of the coronavirus curve through an extended preseason camp that stretched out for more than a month.

 "Ultimately, it's pretty easy for the team because we know we want to play this season and if a bunch of guys have corona that we won't be able to,” junior tight end Kyle Pitts said. “So you can pick one side of the fence or the other. But I feel like we all bought in. We want to play. We waited the whole spring, couldn't play a spring. In the summer we couldn't practice together and lift. So everybody is just like, we police each other, I would say. Just to make sure that we're doing the little things."

 Like teams throughout the SEC and the nation, the Gators are eager to play again. And they come into this game realizing the atmosphere is going to be a whole lot different than it usually is for a college game.

 Some former teammates who are now in the NFL have filled the Gators in on what to expect Saturday.

 "We actually talked to the receivers,  like Van (Jefferson), Freddie (Swain) and Tyrie (Cleveland),” Pitts said. “They say it's a pretty eerie feeling. But at the end of the day, if you gonna ball, you gonna ball. So they just said don't worry about that stuff. It's going to be a little weird because it's not the usual loud stadium that you're used to playing in, but at the end of the day it's still football being played. So they say just go out and do what you do."

 For as long as you can.

Contact Robbie Andreu at 352-374-5022 or robbie.andreu@gvillesun.com. Also check out Andreu's blog at Gatorsports.com.

Florida's depth chart

Offense

QB: Kyle Trask, Emory Jones, Anthony Richardson

RB: Malik Davis OR Dameon Pierce, Nay’Quan Wright

TE: Kyle PItts, Keymore Gamble OR Keon Zipperer

WR (X): Jacob Copeland, Justin Shorter

WR (Z): Trevon Grimes, Xzavier Henderson

WR (Y): Kadarius Toney, Trent Whittemore

LT: Stone Forsythe, T.J. Moore

LG: Richard Gouriage, Griffin McDowell

C: Brett Heggie, Kingsley Eguakun

RG: Stewart Reese, Josh Brown

RT: Jean Delance, Michael Tarquin

Defense

DE: Brenton Cox Jr., Andrew Chesterfield Jr.

NT: Tedarrell Slaton, Marlon Dunlap Jr.

DT: Zachary Carter, Gervon Dexter

Buck: Jeremiah Moon OR Khris Bogle, David Reese

MLB: Ventrell Miller, James Houston IV

MLB: Amari Burney, Mohamoud Diabate

CB: Marco Wilson, Jaydon Hill

Star: C.J. McWilliams, Tre’vez Johnson

CB: Kaiir Elam, Chester Kimbrough

S: Shawn Davis, Rashad Torrence

S: Donovan Stiner, Trey Dean III

Special teams

K: Evan McPherson, Chris Howard

P: Jacob Finn, Jeremy Crawshaw

H: Jacob Finn, Jeremy Crawshaw

LS: Brett DioGuardi OR Marco Ortiz

KR: Kadarius Toney, Jacob Copeland

PR: Kadarius Toney, Jacob Copeland