Florida Gators spring football is not for the faint of heart.
It may have been that way the last few years, but Dan Mullen and his coaching staff are bringing accountability back to the University of Florida.
The first practices of the spring have given a glimpse of that. From players redoing a drill for making mistakes as small as a toe pointed in the wrong direction to extra conditioning for mental lapses like offside penalties. Nothing less than the best effort and attention to detail is acceptable.
Co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales gave a little more insight into the measures the new staff is taking following Tuesday’s practice.
It turns out grades aren’t just for the classroom anymore.
“They get graded on every snap that they rep,” Gonzales said. “Whether they did their job or didn’t, whether they had a big play or a missed assignment. At the end of the day, we want to have winning performances by the players. They get graded every day on that.”
This is not like any typical grade school report card. It’s more like you failed your math test, and now your teacher is holding it up for the entire class to see.
“We don’t have any secrets,” he said. “We have a grade sheet, hand it to everybody. Everybody sees each other’s grades. It’s kind of your worth to the program. We always talk about blocking, there’s blocking sheets on it, it’s a whole grade sheet. We do it every day and everybody sees each other’s grade. It holds everybody accountable.”
The grades aren’t all performance-based. After all, this team has only endured three full practices with its new coaches.
A lot of what is expected of players right now is based on learning how to practice the right way.
“Making sure these guys are pushing themselves to a little bit higher level than they’ve done in the past,” Gonzales said. “Hustling on and off the field, to do the little things right. I’m not worried about the big things. I can coach up a mistake, that’s not an issue. My big pet peeve in what we want to do is make sure they’re giving relentless effort, running on and off the field, giving great effort to the end of the whistle.”
Once the learning process is over, nothing below that level will do.
There are no participation trophies. Everything is a competition. And come fall, there are only a certain number of spots on the field for the taking.
Mullen has talked about the Florida standard countless times since he became head coach of the Gators, and this grading system, along with many other accountability methods, is a start towards bringing this program back to that.
It’s not going to rise from the ashes in a day, or even a year, but all good things take some time.
“My job as a coach is to pull the weakest up to the level and the standards I want to have,” Gonzales said. “We’ve got a lot of work to go. I think the guys are eager, but I think we’re a long way away from where we need to be right now.”