Mateo Vazquez ’21
Across the various college football conferences, COVID has no doubt affected many teams ability to play. The University of Florida Gators are now set to resume games after being in isolation for two weeks due to the virus spreading across the team.
On Oct. 13, two assistants and at least 26 players were identified as having contracted the virus and proceeded to have a team quartenetine out of caution. After two weeks, head coach Dan Mullen has reported that his team will be ready to go and resume practice. He also stated that the team will have the minimum league requirement of 53 players for their upcoming game against seventh ranked Missouri. During a video conference with reporters, he affirmed that the symptoms were very mild and that he was not approaching this upcoming week of practice any different than if it were a regular week. An important note from the Gators incident was that the team had not had any prior interaction with positive cases until traveling back from the Texas A&M game which lead some to question whether the traveling process for teams should be reconfigured to limit any possible outside interaction with the team, or even less staff to away games.
A big question that still remains is how all of this will affect the rankings, and the teams’ overall ability to remain competitive within the SEC. Throughout this season the team has already shown a big gap on the defense as a lot of their focus has been shifted towards an offensive front. That being said, their competition for this week has had over two weeks to practice and a win against the Gators could mean a big shift in the rankings for Missouri. Simply because Florida has rostered players leaving quarantine, does not necessarily mean that the team has a roster that is ready to play football. Hence, the outcome of this upcoming week will speak a lot to the ability to contain the virus so that games can continue to be played.
Despite all of these concerns with COVID and the effects on the Gators season and rankings, there is some good news that the team received this week. They were able to secure a four start DE Jeremiah Williams who has received numerous Power Five scholarships this year.
This places the Gators in the No. 8 overall recruiting class for 2021 and will surely help in the rankings. Williams is definitely a sign of a shift in focus for the Gators to address their issues on defense and make more attempts to balance the team overall. Especially with COVID concerns and if some athletes will continue to play in the 2021 season, the shift in focus is very strategic in ensuring that the team is not at any more of a disadvantage for the upcoming season. When asked out of all the Power Five scholarships he received why he committed to Florida, Williams focused on the team culture and the relationship that he built with the coaching staff, that he is hoping to share those same ambitions and change the outcome of their next season. So, while the team might be dealing with roster issues for this upcoming week against Missouri, they are nonetheless looking to the future and anxiously preparing for a solid 2021 season.