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Friday, August 12, 2022

Gators start fall camp Friday

Coach Dan Mullen and Florida are ready to kick off the 2021 season

Florida head coach Dan Mullen and several players spoke to media ahead of 2021 fall football camps on Thursday.
Florida head coach Dan Mullen and several players spoke to media ahead of 2021 fall football camps on Thursday.

The Gators hit the practice field Friday for fall camp, the start of preparation for their season opener versus FAU on Sept. 4. 

On Thursday, coach Dan Mullen and several players met with the media to preview fall camp. Here are the highlights from the media availability. 

New quarterback in town

Multiple players and Mullen said redshirt junior quarterback Emory Jones is ready to surprise. Senior running back Dameon Pierce and other players refused to call Jones a dual-threat quarterback.

“I call Emory a mobile pocket passer,” Pierce said, “because this guy can launch that ball. That’s probably the most underrated aspect of his game. Like, he can launch the ball. He wants to throw the ball first. He only runs when, you know, there’s absolutely nothing there or pressure comes and he got to get out of the pocket.” 

Jones will have big shoes to fill after Kyle Trask’s historic production in 2020 resulted in a fourth-place finish in voting for the Heisman Trophy.

Spring football was back

Mullen and graduate senior Stewart Reese believe having spring practice this year will really benefit Florida. Last season, the Gators were a few days away from starting spring ball before the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down. 

Reese said quarantining and dealing with the pandemic made it difficult to manage his weight and develop relationships with his fellow offensive linemen. 

“Not having that period really affected me negatively,” he said. “So, getting to have a spring and summer training session should really help me this year for me to get back into the type of shape that I’m used to being in, especially for the season. It’s really a big part of this year.”

Mullen said he took advantage of the spring period, too, because he was able to understand where each player succeeds and learn how to put them in spots to excel. 

Fall camp is kind of back to normal

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The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus is raging across the country and in the state, and the SEC hasn’t announced its plans for handling the pandemic during the 2021 season. 

At SEC Media Days, Commissioner Greg Sankey said COVID-19 surveillance testing can be halted once a roster reaches the 85% vaccination threshold. 

He added the SEC doesn’t plan to include scheduling flexibility like it did a year ago. Therefore, if a team can’t play due to a COVID-19 outbreak, they would be forced to forfeit instead of having the game declared a no-contest. 

Mullen declined to give the specific numbers of his team’s vaccination rate but said they were at a “very high percentage.” He said the 85% threshold really won’t matter until games are on the line. Florida players who are vaccinated aren’t required to wear a mask in certain parts of the team facilities. 

However, because of the progress the Gators have made, they plan to hold a relatively normal fall camp with much more relaxed COVID-19 guidelines compared to 2020.

Contact Zachary Huber at zhuber@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @zacharyahuber.

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