GAINESVILLE -- With 14 penalties in the season opener against Bowling Green, Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn had a simple message for his players this week: “If you continue to do it, you’re not going to play.”
The Gators coaching staff has reason for concern when it comes to penalties, as the team ranked 114th out of 120 FBS teams a season ago with 100 total flags. With Will Muschamp as the coach, UF has averaged more than nine penalties a game and has had just three contests with fewer than five. In the team’s first three games last season, Florida racked up 34 flags. Of the 117 FBS teams that have played a game this season, the Gators’ 14 penalties are the worst.
“We’ve exhausted every measure I know,” Muschamp said following Saturday’s game against the Falcons. He reiterated that point Monday, and Quinn drove it home Wednesday.
“The approach for us hasn’t changed in terms of trying to keep the players accountable for it,” Quinn said. “I think the big thing is we put them all on film so they know this has to leave our program. These penalties, they are no longer going to be part of it.”
Muschamp, Quinn and offensive coordinator Brent Pease have all said the issue lies with the undisciplined penalties, ones that occur outside the flow of the game and can easily be prevented such as false starts, jumping offside and personal fouls. Of the 14 flags the Gators had in the opener, 12 would fall under the distinction of undisciplined penalties.
“If there’s an aggressive penalty that happens [and] hey, we understand — that’s football,” Quinn said. “But the undisciplined ones we’re harping on the most. We’ve got to get that out of our system.”
Tight end Jordan Reed, who accounted for a false start flag Saturday, said the team has to do up-downs — think fast-paced pushups from a standing position — in practice when a penalty is committed. And it’s not just the offending player, Reed said. If one person or offense or defense is penalized during practice then the entire unit is punished.
“That’ll make you not want to do it no more,” he said.
Reed said he also owed pushups for his flag during the game; 11 to be exact, the number of players on offense affected by his mistake. Reed also said the measures now being taken in practice to prevent penalties are brand-new, unused during last year’s flag-filled campaign.
Although the 2012 season has just one game in the books, it seems coaches are becoming increasingly frustrated with the penalties. However, they have one key option this season that wasn’t available while the team struggled last year: Quinn’s promise to remove the player from the game. The Gators were more than 10 scholarship players under the 85-player limit at most points last season, sometimes creeping under 70. Now, that number is at 82, providing coaches the depth necessary to sit a guy down for making a mistake.
As Pease said, the responsibility is in the hands of the players.
“You’ve got to become more disciplined. It’s not just a football thing,” he said. “If you’re going to become more disciplined on penalties, you’re going to become more disciplined in how you run your life. Going to class on time, how you prepare, being here, pay your tickets, get your books in on time, whatever. That’s how you’ve got to become in life. You’ve got to compartmentalize yourself and be disciplined.”