Updated: Jun 19, 2020
For the first time in two months, Florida Gators Head Coach Dan Mullen sat down with media (virtually) to update the status of his pre-season Top 10 Gators. With the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 having stalled most of everyday life since March, the Gators and every other college football team are working to find ways to prepare for a coming season while staying healthy and apart as much as possible.
The Gators welcomed most of the roster back on June 8 to begin voluntary workouts and at the last update, no player that returned to campus tested positive for the virus. Athletic trainers were waiting on the final seven test results to come back as of last week. On Tuesday, Mullen said he couldn't provide updates on those final seven test citing privacy laws due to his position as coach instead of a medical professional. He did reveal though, "I know mine personally: my test result came back negative."
With other schools like Texas and Alabama inching close to double digit positive test, Florida seems to be in a good position to become social distanced summer workouts. They moved the workout equipment from the inside gym to the indoor practice facility. The rolling doors remain open and each machine is spread out far from the other. And after three months at home with family cooking and no Nick Savage, Mullen says while most of the players did their best to stay in good shape, the Strength and Conditioning staff is now taking the time to evaluate each guy and push them accordingly.
"I think we’ve been very slowly building back up. I don’t know if we’ve really pushed anybody just yet. We want to make sure that the guys come back in great or that if the guys didn’t come back in great shape, I never want to put anybody in any sort of danger. I think we’ve been slowly building rather testing or pushing guys to see where we’re at, how great of shape we came back in.
"I think our guys, they understand what our program’s about. I think our guys, as best they could, were able to stay in shape. I know there were a lot of guys coming from different areas that had to deal with a lot of different limitations in training. I think Nick and his staff are going to do a good job building that back up, getting us ready for the season.”
Typically this time of year, position coaches and Mullen are not allowed to be a part of summer workouts, throwing sessions, etc. The NCAA rule is loosely defined as "anything that involves a ball." That last until fall camp. However with schools missing spring practice and fall camps facing the potential changes due to upticks in COVID cases and/or an intense second wave, Mullen revealed the NCAA is working through proposals that would give school's more freedom with the schedule.
"I think the one thing they're trying to do is give us flexibility, especially with where we're at right now. The NCAA, a lot of everything is one size fits all and everybody has to be the same. I think to be able to kind of give us the flexibility to manage within our own programs is going to give us the opportunity to best develop these young guys and prepare these young guys. It is difficult to do a one size fits all in the scenario we're in right now and for all the different programs, because everyone's in different areas, different things going on bringing players back.
"I do like the flexibility they've given us. I don't know right or wrong, we'll see. They give us the outline I'm going to try to find the best way to safely develop our players, to get them physically prepared and mentally prepared for the season while we're keeping them with the No. 1 priority being their health and safety, keeping that in mind."
As of now, everything is still voluntary and coaches can't be at those activities according to Mullen. All meetings are still being done virtually.
"The proposal is to get the guys back on campus on July 13 and between July 1 and July 24 we would kind of go to the regular summer where we’re not observing the workouts, they’re allowed the weight room workouts and activities. We’re still allowed some meeting time. Then on July 24, really the big difference within the NCAA, is on July 24 through August 6th is the difference that they’re going to propose."
The "difference" is that instead of that still being considered summer workouts time with no coaches, players can instead conduct walk-throughs on the field and the staff can hold team and individual meetings. On Wednesday, the NCAA approved the proposal meaning Mullen will now be able to officially move forward with the new timeline.
"To me that is really the opportunity for the players to prepare themselves mentally, get out there through walk throughs to start getting some muscle memory to prepare for the season and start doing movements that will be involved in during the season so that our guys can kind of be prepared rolling into training camp. Training camp is supposed to start on time, August 7th, at this point. It’s those two weeks and a buildup that’s different this summer for us.”