Gators return, start preparing for game with Missouri
After being shut down for two weeks by a COVID-19 outbreak, the Florida football team is back.
For now, at least.
And, for now, the plan is for the Gators to play Missouri in The Swamp on Saturday night.
UF coach Dan Mullen said Monday the Gators, who returned to meetings and practice Monday, should have enough players — at least 53 scholarship players — to be able to play Saturday’s game.
“Oh, yeah, we’ll figure it out,” Mullen said. “We should have. I think you need 53. The league says if you have 54, you’ve got to play. I’m sure we’ll have 53 guys ready to play.”
During the outbreak that saw 25 players, Mullen and two assistant coaches test positive two weeks ago, UF’s back-to-back home games against LSU and Missouri were postponed. The Missouri game was pushed back a week, while the game with LSU will be played Dec. 12.
The Gators made their first moves in their return to play Monday, starting with a morning team meeting, followed by a late afternoon practice.
“I think everybody’s really excited, ready to get back after it, ready to get back to football,” Mullen said. “After not playing, that is something that is big within the team right now — that ability to get back out on the field, get back to doing football.
“This year’s been kind of a unique year like no other, with stops and starts, and different schedules, and kind of everything going on. Our guys have handled everything extremely well throughout the year, so I think they’re going to be really excited to get back out there on the practice field.
“I don’t expect us to come out there and have certainly our sharpest, most crisp practice of the year, but I do expect us to have great energy, excitement and enthusiasm to be on the field to be back out there to get going as we kind of build up to Saturday.”
Last week, Mullen said if the Gators were able to return this week, they probably would not start off with a full squad due to some players possibly remaining in quarantine or self isolation.
When asked if he expected the team to be at full strength for practice Monday, Mullen said, “We’ll see. I don’t know. I’m not going to get into any of the specifics to that stuff.”
Mullen would not speculate on how many players might be available, or unavailable, for Saturday’s game.
“We’ll let everybody know who’s available on Saturday, like we’ve done throughout the year,” Mullen said.
UF’s last positive test was on Saturday, Mullen said. He said UF is still looking into how the spread occurred. It started after the Gators got home from a road trip to Texas A&M three weeks ago. Last week, Mullen said it may have started on the plane trip to Texas, and probably spread over the course of the weekend and into the following week.
“We’re still trying to look at all the different ways of how it occurred,” Mullen said. “It occurred during the trip. Playing a road game, we knew coming into the season it was going to be one of the biggest challenges of how you manage all that. So, we’ll look at that.
“Fortunately for us, we've got a couple of home games. We have two road games, really, left this season. Traditional road games. So we have some time to make sure we try to organize some things and look at some different options for that moving forward. But our protocol for home games will be pretty consistent with what it's been."
In the meantime, the Gators are ready to get back on the field and start playing games again after two weeks off. This probably won’t feel like a normal game week, but Mullen wants to make sure it is one, with everyone focused on preparing to play a game.
“It’s game week. That just is what it is,” he said. “We’re treating it as kind of coming off a bye week, even though it’s like a double bye. You’re coming off to get back into the game routine, get back into the game schedule and get ready to go.
“The biggest focus for us is getting into our routine and getting ready to go play.”
Who: Missouri (2-2) vs. No. 9 Florida (2-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548 - 17,000 reduced)
TV: SEC Network Alternate
Radio: 103.7-FM, AM-850