David Reese

"If they're not on this team with a competitive attitude... they shouldn't be here," linebacker David Reese said.

The Florida football team changes mentalities more than David Bowie changed his style.

Every week is a new message. Florida head coach Dan Mullen stressed increased physicality earlier in the season. He talked about mental fortitude a few weeks later.

It’s now a new week, and it’s clear from speaking with some of the players that the team already has a new thought in their minds.

“Compete,” center Nick Buchanan said. “Simple as that.”

It seems to be a message that everyone is echoing -- Mullen said it on Monday and all but one player who was interviewed this week used a version of the word. 

Competitive is exactly what the Gators (6-3, 4-3 SEC) need to be on Saturday when they play South Carolina at noon at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium if they want to avoid three consecutive losses. 

It can also prevent this season, which started out 6-1, from turning sour with only four games remaining. 

“I guess there was some stuff going around the locker room about guys not wanting to compete,” wide receiver Freddie Swain said. “But everybody just rose to the occasion. Coach talked about it one time, and that’s really all it took was one time.”

The team’s response has shown.

Mullen said everyone was about five minutes early to the team meeting Monday morning and there were no stragglers coming in late. Everyone was at their medical treatments on Sunday as well. But while he is pleased, he still wants to see more from his players.

Tight end R.J. Raymond repeated Mullen’s statements that the team has been coming in earlier and said the team is taking more accountability during practice.

“Everybody’s just been on top of their game because we let two games slip away from us,” Raymond said. “That just goes down to the details and the preparation and I believe we’ve gotten back on top of things this week.”

It’s not just the offense that wants to keep that competitive edge. Florida’s defense has been lacking over the past two games as well, allowing 74 points and 900 combined yards of offense. 

“Everybody on this team – if they’re not on this team with a competitive attitude or competitive effort they shouldn’t be here,” linebacker David Reese said. “So, just wanting to win each and every game that’s what we come here for. That’s why we come to Florida, to play in big games, to win big games, just having that aspect.”

With just a few days of practice left before the Gators kick off against South Carolina, Mullen wants to see his team play hard every rep. 

Mullen said the team was attentive after the game, already taking a knee before he walked into the locker room. But Florida needs a lot more than just the right attitude to win on Saturday.

“We’ve got to come out desperate to compete on every play,” Mullen said. “We ain’t going to be ready at noon unless we compete every single snap in practice during the week. You can’t just turn it on and off.”

Follow Jake Dreillinger on Twitter @DreilingerJake or contact him at [email protected]

Jake Dreilinger is the assistant sports editor of the Alligator and covers the Florida Gators football team. He has previously covered men's basketball, baseball and softball. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2015.