The Florida Gators have kicked practice into high gear as the 2020 season approaches, and with it a rush of news and updates. Here are the most notable pieces of informations and quotable moments from around college football and within the Gators this week.
The University of Florida has announced the official capacity for the 2020 football season will be at 20% of the normal amount, which puts it right at 17,000. There will also be no tailgating, Gator Walk or Gator Walk Village. No spirit squads (cheerleaders, etc.) will be allowed on the sidelines.
In a release, the Athletic Association also announced plans for fans wearing masks.
“In accordance with campus guidelines, face coverings (over the nose and mouth) will be required for all fans throughout the entire game. This includes when fans are entering and exiting the stadium. Fans may only remove face coverings while eating or drinking. Failure to comply with this important health guideline could result in loss of ticket privileges.
“As with everything related to the COVID-19 pandemic, this situation remains fluid. The aforementioned and following announcements are subject to change as recommendations from local, state, and federal officials evolve in relation to public health developments.”
Plans have not been finalized for the Florida-Georgia game at this time.
Gators quarterback Kyle Trask was named to the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose award watch list, the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce and SPORTyler announced Wednesday. The nod is Trask’s fifth ahead of the 2020 season.
Dan Mullen is one of 13 college football coaches to be named for the Dodd Trophy Preseason Watch List.
The Dodd Trophy, college football’s most coveted national coaching award, celebrates the head coach of a team who enjoys success on the gridiron, while also stressing the importance of scholarship, leadership and integrity – the three pillars of legendary coach Bobby Dodd’s coaching philosophy.
The Gators have released updated results (as of August 31) for their numbers as it relates to COVID-19 testing.
Since Student-Athletes Returned to Campus on May 26
All Student-Athletes Total Tests for August: 687
All Student-Athletes Total Positives for August: 1
All Student-Athletes Total Tests on Campus: 1017
All Student-Athletes Total Positives on Campus: 35
Since Football Student-Athletes Returned to Campus on May 26
Total Tests for August: 298
Total Positives for August: 0
Total Tests on Campus: 459
Total Positives on Campus: 21
Central Arkansas—who played in the first college football game of the season last week against Austin Peay—announced all of their athletes and coaches had returned two negative test following that game, allowing for their second game (and the second of the CFB season) on Thursday night against UAB.
The National Football Foundation announced a variety of rule changes for the upcoming season. The majority are permanent and not related to COVID-19. The only pandemic related rule change will be the requirement of mask for coaches on the sidelines and the extending of the team area to allow for distancing.
Of note though for the Gators, is a rule change around pregame on-field walk-throughs. Typically, Dan Mullen has his teams warm-up in plain t-shirts and jogging shorts. They wear their helmets but nothing with their name or number. It originally began when he was at Mississippi State during a rain storm and players didn’t want their jersey’s to be soaked. Mullen said he realized that day that it was also a competitive advantage. Opposing players and coaches couldn’t see who was on the field, who might be held out and what they were doing in drills.
In a move that is seen as a way to cut down on pre-game fights, players must now wear their jersey or have their number visible beginning 90 minutes before the game.
In a release from the NFF, the rule is explained as follows:
“The Rules Committee address issues of Unsportsmanlike behavior in the pregame and took steps to clean this action up. The officials’ jurisdiction will now begin at 90 minutes before kickoff (previously 60 minutes). Additionally, when any Squad Member enters the playing enclosure prior to the game, the head coach or an assistant coach from that team must be present on the field. Furthermore, when any Squad Member is present within the playing enclosure after the officials’ jurisdiction, they must be wearing their jersey or have their numeral readily visible. Players without their numeral readily visible must leave the playing enclosure.”
Florida will head into the season with two game-time experienced quarterbacks; Kyle Trask and Emory Jones. Trask will be the starter but quarterback coach Brian Johnson has referenced using two quarterbacks much like he and Mullen did in 2019 with Trask and Jones.
Freshman passer Anthony Richardson though has been the most to suffer from the upturned offseason. The Gainesville native was able to enroll early but missed out of spring practice and player organized workouts during the summer due to the shutdown surrounding COVID-19.
Still, Johnson has been impressed with what he’s seen so far.
“He’s obviously got a ton of God-given ability. He’s a really fast learner. With him missing spring ball, you know, I was a little concerned in terms of him not being able to get those reps and miss those really, really valuable reps in the spring. Like I said, 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, you know, we 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.”
Other freshmen that also missed time have been using fall camp to make up for lost practices. The young receivers in particular have been utilizing snaps to fight for playing time. Kadarius Toney and Tre Grimes should be at the top of the pecking order but Mullen and position coach Billy Gonzales like to implement upwards of 10 receivers into a game plan, so others will be needed.
“I would say Xzavier Henderson [has stood out], he’s a young receiver, CJ’s younger brother,” explained tight end Kyle Pitts.
"He been showing a whole lot of talent. Him and Trent Whittmore, all those guys, the receiver, all those receivers and Jacob Copeland, all those guys who just been waiting for their turn so this year I think they’ll be able to showcase their talent.”
While there have been road bumps and bottleneck turns at every point of this offseason, Defensive Coordinator Todd Grantham feels that each team will find their own ways of preparing for the season. And at the end of the day, fighting that adversity will be what creates a winner.
“Everybody’s got the same amount of time. Some guys had spring practice, some didn’t. That is what it is. I don’t think that’s a big deal. I think the biggest thing is you can gain knowledge and know what to do when you’re seeing it, but you’ve got to physically go do things. You’ve got to be able to talk to the guy with you. You’ve got to be able to be under some kind of duress, whether it’s a coach yelling at you or whether you’re tired from the last five plays or it’s a hot day. You’ve got to be able to handle those things and still go execute the call. I think those are probably the biggest factors that you try to push guys right now to execute so we can do those things in an environment that is challenging sometimes.”