Updated: Jun 12
BY KASSIDY HILL
After months of little to no sports, things are starting to pick back up, open back up and look back up in terms of live Florida Gators events. As such, three months of no news has suddenly exploded into a litany of news. To help catch you up and keep you up to date, here are all the things of note that have happened with the Florida Gators in recent days.
First up, something guaranteed to bring a smile to your face. While on a Zoom call with CBS Sports this week, former coach Urban Meyer and current coach Dan Mullen called Tim Tebow the one player they'd want to have with the ball in his hands with the game on the line. Tebow was on the call as well.
The Gators football team returned to campus and began off-season training on Monday, June 8. Speaking back in April on the fall season in relation to COVID-19, Head Coach Dan Mullen said he’d need a minimum of six weeks with guys on campus to get everyone in shape for camp and then run camp for the season. The Gators are slated to kick-off on September 5 and if they are allowed to continue offseason work without any other interruption, then Mullen and staff will have 12 weeks with the team.
Speaking of kicking-off on September 5, Athletic Director Scott Stricklin told Edgar Thompson of the “Orlando Sentinel” that as of now he hopes to have fans in the stands for that game against Eastern Washington. Any final plans concerning fans will not be made until early or mid August. Said Stricklin, “Time is on our side for now.”
As for now, no Gator football players on campus have tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19. The return to workouts was voluntary and 87 guys returned. At last update, 80 tests had been returned, all negative. One player tested positive back in April and one has tested positive more recently but he is not on campus according to UF trainer Stacey Higgins. While some programs like the Alabama Crimson Tide have had five players test positive thus far, Higgins acknowledges that could just as easily—and may eventually be—Florida as well. The key will be preparing ahead of time and acting quickly.
To help ease the possible spread of COVID, Florida has taken extra precautions with offseason workouts. All workout equipment has been moved from the inside gym to the indoor practice facility. Each machine has been spread out with ample space in between and the doors will remain open to keep air flow moving. But all machines are all under the cover to protect from the inevitable Gainesville summer storms.
One thing that won’t be inside regardless is SEC Media Days. The annual media blitz with coaches and players from all 14 SEC teams is a four day marathon of questions, press conferences and digging for feature stories with a lobby full of fans who get an up close look at the their favorite players and coaches. This year the event—which was scheduled to take place in Atlanta—will be virtual. This won’t make a huge difference for you the fan, at least initially, other than being unable to get up close pictures and autographs. But as the season progresses, the lack of face-to-face time will be noticeable in significantly less feature stories.
Reporters and voters don’t have to see much more though to know tight end Kyle Pitts is poised to have a huge season this fall. The junior was named a preseason All-American by Walter Camp. Pitts was first on the team in 2019 in receptions with 54 and second on the team with 649 yards. He averaged 12.02 yards per reception and finished with five touchdowns.
Pitts won’t be the only star on the field for the Gators this fall if Las Vegas is to be believed. SportsBettingDime.com has moved Kyle Trask into their Top 10 Heisman favorites and have labeled the Gators schedule second easiest in the SEC giving Dan Mullen’s squad good College Football Playoff chances.
And finally, the Gators lost a former star last week when former receiver Reche Caldwell passed away after being shot in his home in Tampa. Caldwell went on to play seven years in the NFL. Following news of Caldwell’s death, several former Gator players offered their condolences.