With no spring game, and barely any real offseason training for the Gators this offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic, Florida took the "big stage" for the first time in months, conducting an intrasquad scrimmage for the first time since 2019.
Today, Gators head coach Dan Mullen met with the media to discuss multiple topics, including the scrimmage that took place late last night following an impromptu meet up at a local Gainesville, Fla. Black Lives Matter march.
"We have a ways to go," Mullen opened when asked how the scrimmage went.
"Not a ways to go with our attitude, not a ways to go with understanding the scheme. I think it was a big deal. We haven't played football in a while. So, yes when you talk about the operation, and not the operation of, 'Hey, are we doing this or that?' but, we had missed tackles, we had too many balls on the ground fumbling because you're going live football. I was pleased with some groups more than others."
Early sloppiness should be expected, to an extent. Players have not had live hitting in months, and it will take time for the players to re-acclimate themselves to playing football again. The team will have a few weeks to clean this up, but Mullen doesn't appear too worried just yet.
"We have one more scrimmage a week from Monday (to help prepare for the season) and we've still got time in number of distance till we play games, but we have very limited opportunities till we play a game to prove, of just the things, we are ready for real football when it counts."
While there is limited time, the Gators would certainly rather work out these kinks now, rather than later. As the team gets closer to week one against Ole Miss, Florida will have to know which players will be ready to take on the challenge, able to adapt without much need for the grueling offseason that typically precedes actual games.
One player who doesn't need much of a tune-up is tight end Kyle Pitts. Pitts, according to Mullen, was kept out of yesterday's scrimmage. The team doesn't need to see much more of the star tight end as he has shown plenty, not just in the games last season, but in practice thus far during the fall.
"I know what he can do, and I see a lot in practice. And, I'm pretty comfortable with him," Mullen said frankly.
As for the team's other Kyle, redshirt senior quarterback Kyle Trask, Mullen says the QB performed well, throwing a couple of touchdowns during the limited drives he received. "I was really pleased with how Kyle [Trask] did out there and what we'll be able to do with him both on the field and how he came out ready to go."
One player in particular who stood out to Mullen was redshirt-junior running back Malik Davis. Davis was injured during his true sophomore season and didn't appear the same last year in 2019, still battling back from his injury. However, today Mullen said Davis looked as good as he's seen him since he took the job in '18.
"Malik Davis, to me, looked like the Malik Davis I saw when I got here before I became the head coach," Mullen said when asked about standouts from the scrimmage. "I haven’t seen that in a couple [of] years. I’m thinking, 'boy, he’s really back to where he wants to be'."
Mullen also mentioned redshirt freshman running back Nay'Quan Wright and several young receivers, safeties and defensive linemen, including redshirt freshman defensive lineman Jaelin Humphries who Mullen specifically pointed out, as groups that impressed him yesterday.
"Those guys know they’re going to have to play this year and in that situation, I think they’re learning, they’re developing, they’re getting opportunities," Mullen said regarding the defensive line group.
The Gators are entering a sort of transition year. Where they are deep and experienced at one group, they may be young and thin at another. This includes the defensive line in which multiple players could be leaving. They'll need to rely on young players such as Humphries and freshmen Gervon Dexter and Jalen Lee to develop as they continue the transition.
One scrimmage is in the books, and the Gators hope to continue their development as we inch closer to Sept. 26.