The Florida Gators are making the best of a terrible situation, and head coach Dan Mullen is ready to get back to work, allowing Florida to finish out the remaining seven games of its shortened season, speaking to the media for the first time on Monday following a two-week absence.
Following an outbreak that saw over 30 football players contract COVID-19, the Gators have been in quarantine for the past two weeks, with an undetermined number of players returning to the practice field today for the first time in 14 days.
The Gators have not played a game since its 41-38 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies on Oct. 10. Instead, the team was forced to postpone its game to homecoming on Holloween, Oct. 31. Mullen is ready to get his guys back to work, understanding the uniqueness of the situation his program is currently in.
"I think just getting back into the flow of the game routine here. We haven't, it's been two weeks since we've practiced, it'll be three weeks between games," Mullen said when asked about the challenge of two weeks off of practice, three weeks off from a game.
"That's not kind of a normal deal. Usually, when you have that break, you're playing a bowl game but you have a very different, set schedule and different organization, different planning. So, you know for us, just getting our guys back into regular game week routine, we'll try to do that today."
The Gators had two weeks off in which the team was forced to undergo a strict quarantine phase, meaning zero on-field team activities or anything to truly prepare them for the remainder of the season. While Mullen did say the team was able to conduct meetings over Zoom video conferences, as they have done in the past during the summer, there is only so much one can do to prepare to play football.
"That just is what it is," Mullen said of trying to hone players in following what amounts to a double-bye period. "You’ve got to make sure we’re doing that. For us, for the coaches – and we talk about it – we had a team meeting this morning, getting prepped, getting mind back in, just like I said, coming off a bye week.
"Treating it as kind of coming off a bye week even though it’s like a double-bye, you’re just still coming off the bye week to get back into the game routine, get back into the game schedule, you know, and get ready to go."
Just before the quarantine period, the Gators were coming off of a defeat to Texas A&M that truly exposed the team's defense. As a result, Mullen suggested that the team may have to make decisions on personnel - players that are involved on a down-to-down basis. However, due to the extended off time, it appears Mullen will take a different philosophy with the team in general, just allowing them to compete.
"I'm not telling them what defense to run. I just have gone through some things, like I normally do. And I just want to make sure that we're doing the right thing," he said. "I come in more as a challenge than, 'This is what we're doing.' I'll come in and kind of challenge what we're doing to make sure that we're confident that we're doing it the right way, more than coming in and telling people what to do."
Florida will hope to take its preparation time this week to take on a much-improved Missouri team who has defeated Kentucky (20-10 this week) and went toe-to-toe with LSU the week prior, defeating them by four points in a high-scoring affair, 45-41.