After Extended Break, How Prepared Can Florida Gators Football Be?
This is an unprecedented season, and road bumps happen and likely will continue to happen, however with the Gators being off of the practice fields and the gridiron for two weeks, and three weeks, respectively, how prepared or ready will they actually be?
Due to an outbreak of COVID-19 within the football team - thus far, 32 players have been reported as positive in the month of October, while many remain in quarantine -, the Gators have yet to take the practice field since Monday, Oct. 12, and will remain in this situation until at least Monday, Oct. 26. Florida is slated to play the Missouri Tigers on Oct. 31, three weeks since its last game against Texas A&M on Oct. 10.
That's a lot of time off, and it will be important for Florida to get back as quickly as possible without further impacting the health of its roster, a tricky situation.
On Wednesday, Gators head coach Dan Mullen met with the media via conference call to address the concerns in regards to players potentially losing focus with all of the time off.
Typically, a team will have one week off, and during the team's bye week - which was originally supposed to be next week from Oct. 26-31 - is filled with a couple of practices and no game during the week, a rest, but still preparing nonetheless. Now, the team won't get that.
"It ends up being really 14 days without football, so we'll take our time getting guys in," said Mullen. "You know obviously, health and safety's always been a top priority within our program, so it's not like, Monday, we don't think that nothing's happened.
"We'll build back up a little bit on Monday into what we're doing and getting ourselves back on track, ready to go play. But I think our guys, they've handled everything so far this year extremely well, I expect them to handle this the same."
According to Mullen, players have been conditioning away from campus, performing safe workouts that aren't "extreme." Florida has been in game shape for weeks leading up to and into the season, however, if players are unhealthy entering this period of time, it is fair to question how much work can be lost or work gained during the unscheduled bye-period.
"So you're missing those opportunities for rest. But obviously, we'll be cautious with how fast we build back up when we get back out there Monday, getting ready for Saturday, but obviously not to the extreme of the massive layout we had in the spring going into summer."
When the Gators took its break the offense was rolling as one of the top offenses in the nation, including a nation-leading 70% drive efficiency - scoring on 70% of its drives. Florida quarterback Kyle Trask has proven to be one of the better quarterbacks within the SEC, too.
He's completed 74 out of 103 (71.8%) of his passes for 996 yards, 14 touchdowns and just one interception. He's been the centerpiece of an elite offense in Florida.
With the weeks off, rhythm can take some time to get back, though it would appear the team has done a good job of taking limited time (fall camp, and a lack of spring football) and making the most of its opportunities. Rust is likely, almost unavoidable, but Florida has proven to be able to overcome it before.
Time will tell, however, it will be one of the key watching moments for Florida as it makes its return to normalcy next week.