Football

Coach Dan Mullen touched on Friday's fire at the stadium, how COVID-19 will impact the team's travel routine and wide receiver Justin Shorter at Monday's media availability.

It was pouring down rain outside Saturday, and Gators coach Dan Mullen was inside scripting practices. The Mullens welcomed in a few neighborhood kids who were caught in the rain. 

“Hey, you know the stadium’s on fire,” one of them said. Videos of dark smoke pluming out of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium made their way onto Twitter, grabbing the attention of fans and reporters across the country.

Mullen hustled to the phone and made some calls. It turned out that the fire was the result of a maintenance tractor and there was no structural damage to the stadium. 

While the fire was contained, Mullen’s Twitter presence afterward was not. 

“You would have thought, man, we were playing, and that was like the new scoreboard we had or something right there that caught on fire while our offense was rolling,” Mullen said on Monday. “As long as everybody’s safe and there wasn’t big damage, we can have some fun.”

Elsewhere, Mullen touched on the team’s status with COVID-19 after a football player tested positive in last week’s report. He said that the team might have a couple more positives in tomorrow’s report, but that it could also have some false positives. 

“We might have some false positives that we’ve identified, which (sic) that’s a huge concern,” Mullen said. “You have these asymptomatic guys that with multiple negative tests that they had some false positives come back from the lab.”

Ole Miss, Florida’s Week 1 opponent, announced on Monday that it had zero positive cases in its latest round of testing. This came after 27 Ole Miss players were absent from practice due to either injury or a positive case. 

The pandemic has also changed Florida’s travel routines, which is important with the Gators starting the year on the road in a different time zone. Mullen said players will be assigned a seat on the buses to the airport with different groups leaving at different times. Seating arrangements on the plane will be different, as will the sleeping arrangements. 

“Some people won’t have roommates, and we’ll have to be able to have more single rooms,” Mullen said. “The bus on the way to the stadium will be different, pregame locker room setup will be different, so there’ll be a bunch (of differences).”

Mullen touched on wide receiver Justin Shorter’s waiver being granted last week and raved about his potential. Shorter had 12 catches for 137 yards with Penn State last season. 

“He works hard, very physical, talented, has size, has speed, can make explosive plays down the field,” Mullen said. “He’ll be an impact player for us this year.”

Contact Brendan Farrell at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Bfarrell727.