This season is unconventional for everyone involved in the collegiate sports world, particularly in football due to the ongoing coronavirus and the multitude of changes needed to necessarily allow the season to take place.
In the SEC, a 10-game, conference-only schedule showcased one dramatic change, for the No. 10 Florida Gators, they've now witnessed the other change that can come with playing a team sport during a pandemic.
Coming off of a two-week hiatus due to a team-wide quarantine that has seen 37 COVID-19 cases among the football team during the month of October, the Gators have work to do to get back to where they began, and that starts with its explosive offense.
"I think the biggest thing is having that excitement and ready to go play and trying to get a sense of normalcy," Gators offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said on Monday, speaking in front of the media for the first time in two weeks when asked about how the Florida offense can regain its momentum.
"Obviously you have to throw, catch, block and not hurt yourself with procedural penalties. You just have to be clean with your preparation, have a great week of practice and get ready to perform at a high level on Saturday."
Through three games, the Gators offense has produced 42.33 points-per-game, while averaging 464 yards-per-game. The majority of the offensive production is thanks to its passing game, led by quarterback Kyle Trask, who at this point is a Heisman Trophy candidate.
Thus far in 2020, Trask has completed 74 out of 103 of his passes for 996 yards, 14 touchdowns and one interception. To call the Gators offense, efficient, that would be an understatement. Prior to the two-week bye period the team has gone through, Florida ranked No. 1 in the NCAA in efficiency scoring on 70% of its drives, according to Pro Football Focus.
Now, coming off of a break, the Gators offense could encounter some rust, but it simply cannot afford that.
"It's nothing we've never done before," Trask said on Tuesday. "Obviously it's a little different because we're in quarantine, we've got to do some Zoom stuff and things like that. But we're just treating it like a bye week, so we should be able to keep that rhythm going."
With seven games to go, Johnson feels as though his players on offense are up for the task, they "love football."
"Our schedules are exactly the same now. We just finished practice, so luckily we have had the chance to go through the routine of how to prepare for a game week," Johnson said.
"So I don’t think that should be difficult in terms of what we’re doing. We just have to make sure that we have a great week of clean practice. Everybody is organized and energized and making sure we are putting players in the position to go out there and be successful out there on the field."
Johnson also mentioned the team is "full systems go" in terms of the team's offensive gameplan heading into its first game in three full weeks. On Oct. 31, the Gators will take on the Missouri Tigers - a team that went toe-to-toe against one of the most explosive offenses in the SEC, defeating LSU 45-41 in Week 3.
This week, even with a period in which the team was unable to perform on the field, they were able to succeed through Zoom meetings and with an established set of players who have been through a situation in which there was a limited time (no spring, limited fall training) period for them to prepare.
Time will tell whether or not Florida is up for the task, but with such early returns in a similar position, it seems likely they'll be just fine. At least on the offensive side of the football.